Michelle Gadsden-Williams leads Accenture’s (No. 14 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list) inclusion and diversity initiatives in North America.

Responsible for further strengthening and accelerating the company’s efforts to foster an inclusive culture, she talked with DiversityInc about her career and offered valuable advice.

All Paths Led to Diversity and Inclusion

“Diversity and inclusion is important to me. I am a woman. I am a person of color,” Gadsden-Williams explained.

“Both of my parents were born and raised in South Carolina during Jim Crow and segregation, and it was always a topic that was discussed in our household – and not just diversity necessarily, it was more about inclusion – how are you going to immerse yourself in a society that may not accept you for who you are? So, naturally, it’s work that I gravitated toward.”

Gadsden-Williams joined Accenture in June, bringing more than 25 years of experience as an advocate for equality within corporate America and as a thought leader on diversity and inclusion. In 2006, Gadsden-Williams moved to Basel, Switzerland, to become the chief diversity officer at Novartis. In 2010, she then became the global head of diversity and inclusion at Credit Suisse.

“I started my career in marketing, then I transitioned into strategic planning, organizational development and finally diversity,” she said.

It was “happenstance” or maybe even destiny that brought Gadsden-Williams and her focus on diversity and inclusion together.

“I was given an assignment by the VP of HR for a company I worked for at the time to create a diversity strategy, and I just fell in love with the work,” she said. “It represented change and innovation — all the wonderful things that we know this work is — and the effect that it can have on people in an organization.

“I’ve been doing this close to three decades across four industries, in the United States and around the world. I’m a lifer.”

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