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Good leadership is always important at an organization, but this rings especially true in this moment. Companies and their leaders are now facing the opportunity to step up to the plate and show that they care not just about the bottom line, but also about all stakeholders, including employees and the communities they operate in.

There are many examples of positive leadership providing hope during these scary and uncertain times. That’s why we have decided to bring some positive news to the table by highlighting these examples of positive leadership in our #LeadersForGood campaign.

Recently, we spoke with Nzinga Shaw, the Global Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer at Starbucks. She leads the inclusion and diversity team where she provides strategic guidance across the enterprise to promote inclusive practices in every facet of the business. The strategy she is building is focused on embedding equity in all aspects of the organization, extending to external customers, community partners, and the entire workforce.

Nzinga has played a critical role advancing diversity and inclusion at Starbucks, and she shared some insights on how she is continuing to push for even more diversity and inclusion as we grapple with our current reality.

About Nzinga

Nzinga “Zing” Shaw is currently the Global Chief Inclusion & Diversity Officer for Starbucks Coffee Company. She leads the inclusion, diversity, equity & accessibility (IDEA) team, and concurrently serves as a member of the partner resources leadership team. Zing provides strategic guidance across the enterprise to promote inclusive practices in every facet of the business.

Prior to joining Starbucks, Zing has been at the forefront of leading organizational change through diversity. She was the first person to hold the chief diversity & inclusion officer position in the National Basketball Association, serving in that capacity for the Atlanta Hawks & State Farm Arena franchise for 5 years. She also served as senior vice president of diversity & inclusion at Edelman, the world’s largest and most profitable public relations/integrated marketing agency

What do you think global companies like Starbucks can learn in a time like this?

Since our founding, Starbucks has a long legacy of putting our partners (employees) first and creating a culture where everyone is welcome; we have the inherent belief that driving an inclusive culture allows our organization to be nimbler and more innovative. As a company, we have been navigating through this crisis of COVID-19 by staying grounded in our Mission and Values and making decisions that are guided by three principles: 

  • Prioritizing the health and well-being of our partners and customers; 
  • Playing a constructive role in supporting health and government officials as they work to mitigate the spread of this virus; and, 
  • Showing up in a positive and responsible way to serve our communities.

Now more than ever, companies can learn how to lean into our shared humanity and put differences aside. At Starbucks, our partners include working parents, military spouses, students and even those young people for whom putting on the green apron represents their first job – all working to achieve their own personal and career goals. 

Tell us about the measures you’re taking to further your work in diversity and inclusion during this pandemic.

More than 400,000 partners around the world represent the diverse communities we serve, and it is as important as ever that we constantly listen and learn from our partners and seek ways to make sure they feel we are an inclusive and inspiring place to work. We are very pleased to have just launched a feel-good storytelling platform on Starbucks Stories- Good Things Are Happening. Each week, we feature stories about how our partners and customers around the globe are exercising daily acts of resilience, kindness, courage, creativity, and joy and making good things happen amid COVID-19.  

Why is focusing on diversity and inclusion especially critical amidst the challenges posed by COVID-19?

Around the world, we are all facing the health impacts and economic uncertainties that have emerged as a result of the global pandemic, COVID-19. During this time, we have quickly learned that no one is immune to the virus, but everyone can play a role in social responsibility to stop the deadly spread. Focusing on diversity and inclusion is especially critical now for a couple reasons. 

First, it has become increasingly apparent that companies will need to be malleable and have innovative business models in order to maintain success. Inclusion + diversity = innovation and the more diverse voices being brought in the conversation will increase the odds of having varying POVs to push the business forward. Having a culture that encourages different points of view among leaders is an important characteristic for future success. 

Secondly, this work reinforces the importance of our shared humanity and the need to demonstrate empathy as we help one another rebuild our brands and communities. The way I was raised, in a multicultural, lower-middle-class neighborhood, makes it easier for me to be an advocate for diversity and inclusion. I have been surrounded by it all my life. I also am convinced that homogenized business environments are dull and fragile. They will not thrive in the future. 

What is an issue surrounding diversity and inclusion that you don’t think people are talking about enough? 

Right now, I think that accessibility and promoting access to people with disabilities is a major issue that L&D leaders should discuss more. 

What, if any, internal or external partners do you need to help actualize your vision and strategy?

It is critically important to have both internal and external partners to make any L&D strategy come to life and remain sustainable over time. Internally, I rely on a cross-functional cohort of partners to help actualize my vision. Some departments include (but are not limited to) public affairs, partner resources, marketing, operations, store development, partner networks and global transformation. Additionally, I am a firm believer that external community-based organizations and I&D subject-matter experts must be at the table to help develop a holistic, long-term strategy.

Thank you to Nzinga for being a shining example of good leadership during this time, and for sharing her expertise, experiences, and insights with us.

Want to nominate someone for #LeadersForGood? Pick a leader you think is great, share what makes them great on LinkedIn, and use the hashtag #LeadersForGood for a chance to be featured!