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By Leah D. Stone

For a woman who says she never uses an alarm clock, Nzinga Shaw always seems to be right on time. From her self-described serendipitous break into the human resources field, to her recent appointment as the first chief diversity and inclusion officer in the NBA and for the Atlanta Hawks and Philips Arena, Shaw has hit the mark time and again.

Hailing from Freeport, N.Y., Shaw earned degrees from Spelman College and the University of Pennsylvania before studying abroad at Oxford University in the United Kingdom. While there, she had a life-altering interaction that would unknowingly play into her future.

“I was having a conversation with two locals regarding race, a white male and black female, and I told the man that she and I are black and you’re white,” Shaw remembers. “The woman replied, ‘I don’t understand. I’m British, he’s British and you’re American.’ It was an eye opening moment.”

That moment began to shape Shaw’s perspective on what true diversity meant outside of the racially tinged perspective often encountered in the United States. She carried this viewpoint alongside her career path which took her from the halls of ESSENCE Magazine, to work in major league sports including the NFL, to the senior vice president of Human Resources and Diversity at Edelman, a leading global communications firm.

While at Edelman, Shaw began to notice there was a deficit in the business model because of a lack of diversity and inclusion, specifically in client-facing roles.

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