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Volume 22 No. 35
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Forty Under 40: Nzinga Shaw

Photo: kat godocu photography

Workplace diversity is an ongoing challenge in sports, and few have been on the forefront of the issue more than Nzinga Shaw, who has worked as chief diversity and inclusion officer for the Atlanta Hawks since December 2014.

 

Shaw was the first in the 30-team NBA to hold such a title, and given her influence and ability to deepen community relations, other teams are now adopting their own diversity strategy.

 

“Things have changed dramatically in the past year based on the political climate and a lot of things have happened socially in this country,” Shaw said of the growing importance of inclusion efforts. “We are committed to provide a safe and enjoyable environment to all our employees.”

 

Shaw has helped develop a number of related programs that have an impact not only on the Hawks organization but also the team’s relationship with the community. The team is an active participant in the Atlanta Pride parade and is aligning itself to the local LGBT and Hispanic communities as it continues to deepen engagement in those areas.

 

The Hawks also have developed an annual symposium that addresses diversity and inclusion issues. The team has created the Courageous Conversations speaker series to address a multitude of inclusion issues.

 

Today, more than three years into her role, the team’s commitment to diversity efforts has quieted much of the skepticism from when Shaw came to the team after previously working as diversity and inclusion officer at Edelman. She also worked in human resources at Essence Magazine, YES Network and the NFL.

 

“Our work has evolved,” Shaw said. “People have embraced me in a positive way. There were a lot of skeptics, but we have had so many wins. People see it infused into everything we do. We want to be sustainable and work on ways to make it better for the entire industry.”

 

— John Lombardo

Nzinga Shaw

Senior Vice President, Community, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer | Atlanta Hawks and Philips Arena

Age: 38

 

Where born: Brooklyn

 

Education: Spelman College, Bachelor of Arts, English; University of Pennsylvania, Master of Liberal Arts, communications

 

Family: Husband, Keith Washington; child, Lacy Faith Washington (17 months) 

 

What gets you fired up? Watching the Patriots lose the SB!!!!!

 

What do you wish you could tell yourself 10 years ago? Let your haters be your motivators.

 

Profession other than your own you’d most like to attempt: A medical physician.

 

Guilty pleasure: Taco Bell

 

Something that your friends would consider “so you”: Funny jokes.

 

Charity supported: youthSpark.

 

Person in the industry you’d most like to meet: Serena Williams.

 

I am one of the best I know at … :  Making people feel good about themselves.

 

Ideal day off: At the spa with a 4-hour massage.

 

Most thrilling/adventurous thing I’ve done: Zip lining in Belize over a huge waterfall and not letting them know that I was pregnant.