Ezinne KWUBIRI is a black woman, diversity leader, innovator, and ally. She is an Alumni of Howard University’s School of Business where she majored in Accounting and Business strategy. She started her career in Diversity and Inclusion at Viacom Media; Kwubiri earned a newly created position as the Head of Diversity and Inclusion for H&M North America.
1. Please tell us about your Nigerian roots.
Born in Lagos, Nigeria, my roots are from Umuahia in Abia State (Nigeria) part of the Igbo tribe. My new Nigerian legacy will be from Imo State, where my husband is from.
2. Tell us about your profession and how you got into your line of work?
My career has transitioned over the years. I began my career as a consultant (auditing roles) at a (then) Big 4 accounting firm. I soon transitioned to the entertainment/ media industry in another auditing role. During my time there, I started my career in people management – specifically Change Management & Diversity & Inclusion. Now I lead D&I at one of the largest fashion retail companies in the world.
3. What is the most challenging part of your job ?
Every role has its challenges & successes. The size & global footprint of my current role creates various nuances on how you communicate, create, & resonate with various persons.
4. Tell us about your vision for H&M’s diversity and inclusion initiatives?
My vision as the Head of Inclusion & Diversity is to provide an intentional space that promotes, embraces and highlights the diversity of people & thought, where people feel they have equal opportunity to be seen and heard, where customers feel they can see themselves represented in our campaigns; attracting and retaining top diverse professionals.
5. What is the most common mistake in an organization’s thinking about diversity?
Companies should recognize that fostering a workplace of diversity requires intentional actions. It is not an overnight process. You have to be honest with where you are, what the people want, & how you will get there. It’s a true commitment that requires full buy-in from key decision-makers.
6. Your appointment means a lot to people of color, especially women of color. Any top tips for women trying to get into your line of work who wants to use her voice to change the narrative ?
Regardless of your title, line of work, or level of experience, you can use your voice to change the narrative. The way you show up in those spaces is how you begin that change. Always speak up, initiate, challenge, & provide solutions to areas that you see have gaps. It doesn’t always have to be a formal process.
7. As more women of color enter and thrive in the workforce, how will that impact the future of diversity and inclusion ?
Women of color, really all women, have been forces in the workforce for decades. Now their voices are louder & stronger. We are starting to be seen for what we’ve always been: leaders, resilient, empathic & visionaries. The future is keeping that integrity & strength and demanding equal pay & rights from our male counterparts.
8. H&M recently announced its first-ever collaboration with a South African Designer. Should we expect more collaboration with African brands in the nearest future?
We hope to continue to provide collaborations that will resonate with our customers & align with the brand’s aesthetics. I am excited about the future potential collaborations.
9. Do you have a philosophy that you apply to your personal life and your career?
What are your career commandments?
Staying true to who I am and living in purpose & integrity. Own your true & use your voice.
10. What do you see as the greatest Leadership Strength?
The ability to motivate others & make everyone feel heard & important. If your team is not rallying behind you, it’ll be challenging for you to lead them.
11. For those who work in the diversity and inclusion space, are there any tips you would recommend?
Be kind to yourself. Change is not going to happen overnight – it might take months or even years for you to see any progress. Be true to yourself & the work. Be sure there is a budget & resources to support your efforts. You cannot, and should not do this alone.
12. To what extent do you believe there are significant differences in how one should work with diverse cultures within the US/US minorities and diverse cultures from other nations? Are different strategies appropriate, and if so, what are they?
Even within the same continent, your strategy for diversity & inclusion should not the same. Everyone works, hears, & listens differently. We have to understand the complexities of the audience, the current culture, what you are trying to achieve. There is no “one size fits all”.
Also, understanding as much as we are different, there are still similarities, things that unite us as humans. Find that connector & go from there.
13. How does it feel being an African representing in the West at a time like this where the world is becoming more and more aware of the African continent and its POWER?
Africa to the WORLD! I am proud to be Nigerian. There is so much beauty & talent on the continent and it’s exciting to see the world recognizing that. There are many Africans that are the “first black” in their fields, that are trailblazers & representing well. I remember growing up, being from somewhere else was not the “cool” thing. Now our styles, foods, names, music, etc. are influencing the nations.
We’ve been here & been great… I’ll tell the rest of the world…WELCOME !