It’s no secret that Americans are obsessed with reality television shows. Although castmates do little more than portray themselves, millions tune in to watch these ordinary people revel in their celebrity status and the rewards of high salaries, fabulous fashions and millions of adoring fans.
Not everyone who is deserving receives this level of recognition and rewards, which is why we are aiming our camera on 11 of diversity’s top influencers. Although these ladies are in Atlanta, their reach is global. They are some of the country’s most sought-after leaders in supplier diversity and diversity and inclusion. They are leaders of some of the most progressive and successful corporate programs, diversity advocacy organizations and diversity consultancies. Collectively, these diversity stars are credited with hundreds of millions of dollars in diverse supplier contracts and have impacted the work lives of thousands of diverse employees. They don’t have cameras following them daily, but they are well respected and celebrated by the many people who benefit from their professional work and passion for community. We introduce profiles of “The Real Diversity Stars of Atlanta.”
Veronica Maldonado-Torres, director of the Georgia Mentor–Protégé Connection (GMPC), is a visionary Latina leader. She manages the corporate-sponsored supplier development program to prepare diverse suppliers to compete in the marketplace and win. Since Maldonado-Torres took the lead, the GMPC has graduated hundreds of diverse suppliers, and many have successfully secured corporate contracts. Maldonado-Torres serves on a various community boards and in advisory roles. She is a passionate speaker, business coach and strategist. She is a champion for inclusive business practices and her work has left an indelible mark on local communities.
Stacey Key is the award-winning president and CEO of the Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council (GMSDC). Under Stacey’s leadership, the Council has experienced unprecedented growth, boasting over 700 MBEs and 400 corporate members. Key utilizes her background in entrepreneurship to communicate the value of certification to grow business to diverse firms and her experience in sales to help corporations understand the business case for supplier diversity and the value diverse suppliers bring to the table. The organization’s success is credited to her strategic planning and management acumen. Key is a highly sought-after speaker, panelist and supplier diversity thought leader. She is the quintessential model of what community and diversity leadership should be.
As President and CEO of the Greater Women’s Business Council (GWBC), Roz Lewis’s goal is to tell the supplier diversity story to all who will listen. Her work with women businesses spans across her corporate career with several corporations, including Delta Airlines. Lewis was one of the founding members of GWBC nearly 20 years ago and is responsible for the organization’s phenomenal growth and success. She leads a three-state region of 900 certified women and advocates for their utilization in corporate contracts. Her awards and accolades are too many to list, but she is very proud to have been recognized by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) as Partner of the Year, and most recently she was inducted into the WBE Hall of Fame by the American Institute of Diversity and Commerce. She has written and been featured in articles in Forbes Magazine, Minority Business Enterprise magazine, and The Atlanta Tribune. Lewis is a sought-after industry leader and has been invited to the White House on several occasions to provide input into diversity and small business issues.
Although she is relatively new to her role as director of Global Diversity and Inclusion at Cox Automotive, Kimberly Adams is already making strides to move the company forward by providing strategic direction in the development of processes, policies and programs that support an inclusive environment. Adams has always been an ambassador for inclusion and it shows in her community activism as well. She serves as vice chair of The White Dress Project, a non-profit dedicated to uterine fibroid awareness. Adams’s strategic planning and advocacy have helped The White Dress Project galvanize thousands of supporters, resulting in over 20 state and municipal proclamations declaring July as Fibroids Awareness Month, a collaboration with the United State of Women Summit hosted by Former First Lady Michelle Obama. Adams is committed to staying the course and continuing to advocate for equality and inclusion for all.
Vickie Irwin was recently promoted to supply chain manager after serving as supplier diversity lead at Georgia Power Company for many years. Being a woman in a male-dominated industry, Irwin learned the art of relationship building very early in her career. She credits her ability to collaborate and work with corporate leaders for her program’s sustainability and success. Irwin is a CPA and PMP and shares her experience in those disciplines to develop small and diverse firms. In addition to the supplier diversity team, she leads a team of contract administrators and procurement managers. Under Irwin’s leadership, Georgia Power has received numerous awards for their program successes. Irwin is a women’s advocate and the recipient of the 2017 MogulCon Award for her support of women in business.
Dr. Lissa Miller is the face of diversity for SunTrust Bank, Inc. As first vice president, she is the liaison between the financial institution and the diverse supplier communities. She is a strong and vocal advocate for the utilization and development of diverse suppliers, and ensures they have access to contracts by developing their capabilities and providing readiness coaching. In addition to her day job, Miller mentors small businesses and volunteers with community organizations, including Cool Girls, Inc., and Junior Achievement of Georgia. Miller is active on a number of diversity advocacy boards and has received many awards and accolades from Georgia-based organizations, including the National Black & Latino Council, Greater Women’s Business Council and Atlanta Women Magazine.
Watkins is a well-respected diversity thought leader and supplier diversity subject matter expert. After spending 15 years managing diversity programs at The Coca- Cola Company, she desired to share her talents and expertise with a broader base and formed IW Consulting Group (IWCG). As chief diversity strategist, Watkins leads a team of top diversity talent to provide diversity and inclusion and supplier diversity consulting to companies that seek to improve their existing programs or implement new initiatives. IWCG provides services to organizations across the U.S. and plans to expand globally. She is passionate about creating inclusive cultures for her corporate clients and their supplier partners. Watkins is a sought-after lecturer, training facilitator and panelist. She is a community activist and works diligently to improve the lives of at-risk women and children. She developed a micro-business seminar, and volunteers to train women in public housing to turn their passions into profits by starting micro-businesses.
Nedra Dickson is global supplier diversity and sustainability lead for Accenture. She is responsible for leading and promoting Accenture’s efforts to maximize procurement opportunities with diverse businesses as supplier partners in 17 countries. The Diverse Supplier Development Program that she manages operates in four regions: U.S., Canada, UK, and South Africa. Under her leadership, Accenture’s spend with diverse suppliers increased to over 30 percent. Dickson serves as a member of the Board of Directors at WBENC, GMSDC, the U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Aboriginal & Minority Supplier Council. She is a highly celebrated leader and was named to America’s Top 100 Leaders in Corporate Supplier Diversity by WE Magazine and received the Corporate Member of the Year Award by WBENC in 2017.
When Cherelle Cortez got an insider look at the challenges many minority-and women-owned businesses faced to compete in the construction industry, she was captured. Cortez was a Preconstruction/Estimating specialist in the Denver office of JE Dunn Construction when the company called on her to help with its minority and women business enterprises (MWBEs) training program. This experience was a revelation and a diversity advocate was born. Since 2013, she has worn the supplier diversity leader hat for one of the largest construction companies operating in Atlanta. In addition to the regular supplier diversity duties, outreach, and supplier engagements, Cortez developed a comprehensive Minority Contractor Development (MCD) program to build capabilities and leadership skills and to foster industry connections. Under her leadership, JE Dunn spend with MWBE firms reached $624M and the development program has graduated more than 109 diverse suppliers. Cortez’s program’s success has had a significant impact on the construction industry in the Atlanta area and beyond.
As head of diversity and inclusion at Mercedes- Benz USA, Smith is responsible for the formulation and implementation of the company’s diversity and inclusion strategy, which focuses on connecting the company to its diverse employees, customers, and communities. Smith understands the business case for diversity and inclusion and that it drives business results. Her programs produce results and she has been recognized internally and externally as a leader in her field, receiving numerous awards and accolades, including Network Journal’s 25 Influential Black Women in Business and the Chairman’s Award from the National Black MBA Association. Prior to joining Mercedes-Benz, Tamika was a business owner and provided human resources and diversity and inclusion solutions to corporate clients. She is active in her professional community and works to promote inclusive business practices, serving on the Atlanta Diversity Management Advocacy Council, the Georgia Diversity Council, and traveling the country serving as speaker and facilitator.
Nzinga Shaw is the senior vice president of community and chief diversity and inclusion officer (CDIO) in the Atlanta Hawks and Philips Arena organization. She is the first person to hold the CDIO position in the National Basketball Association and for all 122 North American professional sports teams. Shaw serves as a member of the executive committee and provides guidance to the leadership team to engender inclusion in every facet of the business. She created inclusivity strategies that encompasses fans, customers, community partners and every employee within the workforce. Prior to joining the Atlanta Hawks, Shaw was at the forefront of leading organizational change through diversity in roles at Edelman, Essence magazine, the Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network and the National Football League. Shaw is a recipient of several industry awards and was recently selected by President Jimmy Carter to serve a three-year term on the Board of Councilors of The Carter Center. Shaw is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and is an alumna of Spelman College.