Meet Liliahn Majeed, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion for the NBA, in honor of National Girls and Women in Sports Day today, Majeed has shared her career journey, and most importantly, why she’s passionate about diversity and inclusion within the National Basketball Association. She’s responsible for providing best practices and leadership on inclusion to the league offices and teams, identifying minority and women suppliers for programs and events, creating coaching programs for people of color and women, and partnering with marketing, sponsorship, and social responsibility league and team leaders to ensure authentic engagement with the NBA’s communities.
Majeed recently joined the Diversity and Inclusion group after 12 years in the Team Marketing and Business Operations (TMBO) group. TMBO is an in-house consultancy focused on helping NBA, WNBA and NBA Development League teams strengthen employee and fan engagement and grow revenues. In her role in TMBO, Majeed led strategy for TMBO’s arena experience, season ticket membership, and premium consulting arm.
We recently spoke about what sparked her passion for diversity and inclusion within the male-dominated organization.
Dominique Fluker: Share your career journey. What attracted you to a career in sports?
Majeed: I was fortunate enough to have two loving parents and was raised in a household with little conflict or dysfunction. But I never took any of these blessings for granted, as I know this is not the story of many children. Rather than feel disconnected from struggle, it inspired me to help change the trajectory of others’ lives so more children could have many of the opportunities I did. This also gave me a sense of bravery to try things I’ve never done despite being a little afraid. One of the reasons I was attracted to the NBA is because we use our platform to bring attention to numerous social issues, particularly those that aim to level the playing field of kids and families of color.
My first 12 years at the NBA in Team Marketing and Business Operations as the first and only, but not the last as of 3 weeks ago, women of color in the most senior role, our team constituents viewed me as an advocate who took the time to understand the uniqueness of their business, empathize with their struggles and design solutions in collaboration with them versus coming in arrogantly and telling them what to do. I was also an advocate for my NBA colleagues and still am, standing up for people who feel voiceless.
My new role allows me to allocate a lot more of my time to helping other women and POC move into our most senior roles at teams. I’m also ecstatic that my new role is also providing me the platform to start a belonging movement at the NBA, and I hope to refine our D&I tools to spread the movement across the business world. I’ll pause there but what fuels me is the desire to change the trajectory of children’s lives, particularly young women, stand with the powerless, and be brave for self and others.”
Fluker: As Vice President in the Diversity and Inclusion Group of the NBA, share why you are passionate about D&I.
Majeed: As a woman of color, I have always felt it is my obligation to do whatever I can to help women and people of color realize their personal definition of success. However, it wasn’t until I went through a very difficult moment where I was consumed by self-doubt and constantly questioned if who I was, was enough, that I found a much broader purpose and passion for diversity and inclusion work. I believe all pain has a purpose. After going through that moment and emerging a survivor, I felt this urgent responsibility to make D&I a full-time role. This is more than a job for me, it’s very personal.
I agree with Brene Brown and many other researchers and scientists who believe we are in a crisis of disconnection. While the challenge of belonging affects all of us, there is research that shows that people in a minority spend 20-30% of each day worrying about trying to fit in and belong. At the NBA we believe equality, diversity, and inclusion at all levels is essential to the future success of our game and our business. We are laser-focused on ensuring ALL our colleagues are inspired and empowered to have that deep engagement that only comes from a true sense of belonging. Creating an environment where ALL employees at the NBA and our teams feel safe, seen, heard, and respected is something our entire league is passionate about, and that I purse every day in my work alongside our Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Oris Stuart.
Fluker: Talk to your role as Vice President in the Diversity and Inclusion Group. What does your day-to-day look like?
Majeed: I have always sought out roles where there is no typical day-to-day, and that is absolutely true in my current role. I will tell you about yesterday: one of our marquee events is coming up next week, NBA All-Star 2019 in Charlotte. During All-Star, we are hosting our second forum for women in basketball operations designed to accelerate the development of women at our teams, and others we can bring into the league. I spent the majority of yesterday finalizing the last few details with a powerhouse planning committee of both league and team women.
In the weeks after All-Star, we are visiting two teams to hold diversity and inclusion-related strategy sessions with their senior leadership teams and lead an inclusive recruiting learning session to help us proactively eliminate bias from all aspects of the recruiting process. Yesterday we had calls with leaders from those teams to customize the experience to that team’s unique needs.
As I mentioned earlier, the league, its teams, and players have a long history of using our game to bring people together and speak out on important social issues. We also realize the critical importance of open-mindedness, diversity in thought and continuous learning. One of the ways we prioritize this is by hosting conversations at various events and conferences across many industries to share our work and learn from our peers.
Fluker: Share how the NBA champions diversity and inclusion activations and initiatives within their organization.
Majeed: There are a large number of initiatives we’re driving within the NBA Diversity Inclusion group, but let’s focus on the 4 key areas of focus at both the team and league office level:
- Employing innovative recruiting and retention strategies to grow representation and engagement of people of difference in business and basketball.
- Shifting mindsets and making a daily practice of effective bias interrupting techniques, so that being a successful leader and teammate is synonymous with championing diversity, inclusion, and belonging.
- Strengthening cultural competence at across all levels of our organization to engage authentically and meaningfully with diverse customers and the community.
- Leveraging diversity of thought to inspire continuous innovation.
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