Do You Belong At Work? By Debra Nelson President, Elevate

– PIVOT Magazine


A white store manager’s 9-1-1 call to police about two black men sitting in a Starbucks coffee shop implied that they did not belong. The subsequent arrest of the pair set off a nationwide discussion about implicit bias, giving the world a birds-eye view of what many people of color experience in the U.S.


While many corporations focus on creating workplaces that attract and promote diverse people and talents, others are still slow to recognize that people with different perspectives and experiences expand the wealth of ideas and problem-solving capabilities available to them. In addition, studies show that companies with diverse leadership at the board and executive levels outperform those that don’t. But still, corporate diversity and inclusion practices alone might not be enough to retain the most talented and skilled employees, especially if workers feel as though they don’t belong.



Jump! Overcoming the Three Primary Fears that Keep You Grounded By Debra Nelson President, Elevate

– PIVOT Magazine


Many of us sit in our offices or cubicles and dreaming about a future we are too afraid to pursue. We choose to live with our dreams rather than chasing them. But it doesn’t have to be that way.


According to theologian George Addair, “Everything that you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.” Imagine that. Addair’s quote reminds me of the time in Raleigh, North Carolina, when I stood on a platform about forty feet above the ground waiting on my turn to zip among the treetops during a team building exercise. My team-mates had gone ahead of me and I could hear their shrieks of glee or fright in the distance.


In that moment, fear paralyzed me as I tried to talk myself into taking a step off the platform and into thin air. I was familiar with that type fear. I had experienced it before. Several years ago, I chose to leave a ‘dream’ corporate job because it was no longer my dream. I packed my house and practically moved across the country to pursue new opportunities. Whether in your career or in relationships, jumping off that platform can be difficult.



The Links selects prominent Birmingham businesswomen as officers

– Birmingham Business Journal


Several of Birmingham's highly accomplished professional women have been appointed to serve as officers for the international The Links organization.


Birmingham's chapter of The Links has been promoting the social, political and economic well-being of African-Americans since 1956. Officers of the Birmingham chapter include: >>READ MORE

Brasfield & Gorrie exec named to health company board

– Birmingham Business Journal


Debra Nelson, a Birmingham resident and executive with the construction management company Brasfield & Gorrie, will serve on the board of a local nonprofit health care company.


Nelson will serve a five year term on the board of the Birmingham-based Noland Health Services, an organization specializing in long-term acute care hospitals and full-service senior living communities.

Birmingham's Bizwomen mentors on the role men can play in helping women succeed

– Birmingham Business Journal


There is a movement gaining momentum in both Birmingham and beyond: getting more women into C-suite and leadership positions.


Results have shown an improved bottom line when men and women come together to improve a company. That message of both sexes coming together for the greater good was echoed by the BBJ's slate of mentors in its upcoming April 3 Bizwomen Mentoring Monday event.


Today we asked our slate of mentors: "How can men play a role in Birmingham in helping women succeed?"


Read their answers below and see Tuesday's installment, which answered the question of how a mentor impacted their lives. >>READ MORE

People Who Make a Difference

– Global Gaming Business Magazine


Ten years ago, MGM Mirage announced its commitment to increasing diversity in the workplace. In 2005, the company wooed diversity expert Debra Nelson to lead MGM’s efforts. Nelson’s appointment solidified MGM Mirage’s reputation as a corporation concerned about diversity.


Nelson did not set out to become one of the country’s leading  diversity professionals. The Alabama native began her career as a journalist before discovering her passion for diversity awareness. She rose through the diversity management ranks in the automobile industry, working for brands like DaimlerChrysler and Mercedes-Benz USA and becoming a founding a member of Cornell University’s Chief Diversity Officers’ Roundtable before joining the team at MGM Mirage.


As the vice president of corporate diversity and community affairs, Nelson has worked tirelessly to increase diversity awareness within MGM Mirage, educating employees in the best practices of diversity execution and implementing an annual diversity meeting. Nelson has also elevated MGM Mirage’s external diversity profile through advertising efforts, with the national “Diversity Has a Mascot” campaign, and through the company’s partnerships with outside organizations.


“I am pleased to have forged partnerships with individuals and organizations throughout the U.S. to help expand understanding of the business relevance for diversity at MGM Mirage,” Nelson says. “This work has been broad and varied-from helping our teams recruit potential employees, to meeting with diverse groups and organizations in an effort to secure convention and meeting business, to helping our purchasing teams develop a diverse portfolio of suppliers and contractors, and to providing service to non-profit groups and organizations to help improve the quality of life in the locations where MGM Mirage has operations.”


Nelson’s laundry list of achievements also includes her success in encouraging diversity in Las Vegas as a whole. Upon moving to Southern Nevada in 2005, Nelson promptly established the Diversity Professionals Network and the Women of Color Conference, both of which serve to connect entrepreneurs in the community. Nelson says she expects the conference to boost the profiles of both MGM Mirage and Southern Nevada.


“I am privileged to work with a company that inspires entrepreneurialism to serve the greater community,” Nelson says. “In a way, the Women of Color Conference is the perfect example of that. As an idea, it represented a historic collaboration of Las Vegas’ ethnic chambers of commerce and private industry, and was a platform to support the personal and professional leadership development of women. Since its inception, it has been marketed and reported throughout the U.S. and has the potential to truly grow into a national conference, thereby enhancing tourism and generating revenue for our company and Southern Nevada.”


In the new year, Nelson says she plans to continue her work to increase diversity awareness within MGM Mirage, throughout Las Vegas and on a national scale, and making diversity a central tenet to a successful business’ practices.


“I’m optimistic that diversity will evolve into a sustainable profession,” she says. “I’ve seen it grow from a response to political pressure and legal mandates to a competitive business asset. However, it is incumbent upon those of us who are serious about the work, and who have the opportunity to influence what it will be, to dialogue with each other to revolutionize the work. As diversity practitioners, I believe we are evolved enough to define the future of diversity.”

-Caitlin McGarry

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