UVA Darden Alumna Provides Leverage for Leaders on Diversity and Inclusion

By Jay Hodgkins

In her role as co-lead of the Diversity and Inclusion Practice at Egon Zehnder, a leadership advisory firm, University of Virginia Darden School of Business alumna Cynthia Soledad (MBA ’02) helps organizations identify and address the cultural norms that have hindered them.

Soledad explained in a profile on Darden’s Alumni Spotlight how her experiences at Procter & Gamble and Whirlpool after Darden helped her understand the value she could provide to help leaders and organizations leverage difference.

At Procter & Gamble in her first position after Darden, Soledad participated in a management training program the company instituted to correct a disproportionate rate of attrition among its Asian and Asian-American employees. After eight years, Soledad returned to her hometown in Michigan to join Whirlpool, where her father had made his career. There, she oversaw a major redesign of the KitchenAid brand.

However, it wasn’t an easy homecoming. Having experienced what was possible when corporations invested resources into recruiting and retaining diverse talent, she tried to influence the culture at Whirlpool — but she lacked leverage.

When Egon Zehnder approached her about consulting, she jumped on the opportunity to have a larger impact. Now, Soledad provides the leverage for others that she once wished she had. She says that advising executives on matters of employee recruitment, integration and development is the most rewarding work she’s done yet.

She advises executives to “run toward difference.” Comfort with difference is not a moral binary, she says; it’s a skill that can be improved with practice. To avoid being that black box from Freeman’s lecture, organizations should continue to embrace the human side of work as they return to the workplace.

“Attitudinally, the way to think about diversity and inclusion work is to come with really open ears,” Soledad says. “Sometimes we don’t realize the impact we have on each other.”

Read the full profile on Darden’s Alumni Spotlight.

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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