7 Diversity Professionals Who Are Changing the Game

Today's diversity intiatives involve much more than hiring or doing business with Afircan Americans. These diversity leaders explain how


Phyllis A. James, Sr. Vice President, Special Counsel & Chief Diversity Officer
Debra J. Nelson, Vice President Diversity and Community Affairs

MGM Resorts International
The diversity efforts at MGM Resorts International are managed by Phyllis James, senior vice president, special counsel-litigation, and chief diversity officer; and Debra Nelson, vice president of diversity and community affairs. Implementing diversity is an area where top down management is key, says James: “I don’t believe diversity can thrive in any organization if there is no true commitment from leadership at the very top.”

MGM’s Diversity Champion Training program immerses managers in experiential exercises and offers lecture-style teaching on best practices in diversity. The program’s goal is to improve manager performance by helping them ensure that people of all races, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, and backgrounds feel welcome at MGM Resorts hotels.


The MGM Diversity and Community Affairs Committee, chaired by former Labor Secretary Alexis Herman, monitors and tracks the progress of its diversity training program, throughout all properties, in the areas of supplier diversity, construction, and employment. “The Committee functions as the hub of diversity within the organization,” says James.

Minorities constitute 61% of MGM’s employees and represent 36% of its managers, and the company has spent more than $1 billion with minority- and women-owned enterprises. MGM has also spent more than $1.5 billion with minority- and women-owned construction firms, professional consultants, and contractors. Corporate giving to diverse organizations and individuals has increased to a little over 50%.

The company has newly implemented diversity roundtables that give employees face time with top leadership, and it holds quarterly forums at which leaders from every business unit share their best practices. “Another example of the means by which we enhance engagement and accountability within our company,” says Nelson who works closely with the Board’s Diversity Committee, senior executives, and the diversity councils to ensure diversity policies and practices are implemented. MGM was one of BE’s Best 40 Companies for Diversity in 2010.

For more on corporate leaders in diversity, pick up the May 2011 issue of BLACK ENTERPRISE magazine, on stands now.

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