Felicia Mayo, who became Nike’s chief talent, diversity and culture officer last summer, said that companies must constantly check themselves when it come gender and racial diversity.
“Where is your representation? Is it at all levels or does it stop?” said the executive, who joined Nike in 2019 from Tesla.
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After that, she explained, make sure you’re actually being inclusive, and understand where you stack up on promotions. “Everything for talent comes through me. I am always looking at all of our programs and policies through the lens of diversity,” said Mayo, who noted that transparency, both internally and externally, is critical.
Nike’s 2020 Impact Report, unveiled in March, showed that women now make up 49.5% of the Swoosh’s total employee base.
According to Mayo, the past year has been a time of self reflection for everyone, with many team members examining their career goals.
The exec said she’s made sure to be available to connect with women — and women of color specifically — when they need counsel or advice.
“If a woman wants to speak, they can call me and I’ll drop everything. I will talk to women individually, I will speak to the groups. I also talk to our athletes to make sure we hear their voices,” said the executive, who hails from Rocky Mount, N.C. and regularly returns to her small town to share her experiences with students.
Listening has been critical for Mayo, who knows first-hand how difficult the past year has been for employees, as well as her own family.
“The pandemic, layered with the racial and social injustice in the U.S., has been challenging for me professionally and personally,” she said.
The executive also understands the importance of staying agile during a moment of intense change and challenge.
“While I have set schedules, I am always very open to cancel out all of those things because that’s not the priority today. The priority has just come 30 minutes before I started my schedule,” she said.
Here, Mayo reflects on lessons learned during the pandemic and opens up about why action is much more important than it talk when it comes to advocating for women in the C-suite.
What is one big lesson you learned during the pandemic?
“Self care is real is very important, and it is key. If you don’t have self care baked in, you won’t be able to fare [well]. This is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s very important that you pace yourself and take care of yourself — I equate it to the airline stewardess saying to put your oxygen mask on before you help others. I love to meditate. I try to work out, take walks to clear my head. And sometimes you just need to have some loud music on and dance and go for it.”
Is there one pre-pandemic habit you don’t want to return to?
“That may be something as easy as grocery shopping, now it is straight Instacart for me.”
What is the one question you always ask in an interview?
“I try to make it conversational, and get to those personal storytelling moments. You know, ‘I got my first pair of Nike shoes when I was X years old.’ I remember getting my first pair, and they were linked to an incentive from my dad. He said, ‘You make great grades, and I’m going to buy you your Nikes.’ You start to hear stories like that. And you hear the passion that people have for footwear for sneakers, and specifically for Nike.”
There’s been renewed debate over the use of preppy phrases and gender modifiers to identify female execs. What’s your take?
“I’m not focused in on the preppy phrases. I think they’re cool but at the same time, they’re trendy, and trends tend to move on. What I am really focused on is making the female CEO a norm, making sure that women are in the C-suite. I really focus on the action. It’s not how we identify the executives or the headlines, it’s really the actions that we are taking to ensure that we have diversity [in all of its dimensions] represented at the table.”