Ezinne (Kwubiri) Okoro is an inclusive leader, change agent, thought partner, and corporate executive. H&M’s first North America Head of Inclusion & Diversity, she’s now the first Global Chief Diversity Officer for the billion-dollar advertising agency, Wunderman Thompson.
Ezinne has made an impact on addressing inequality in the fashion and retail industry. She has designed strategic frameworks to drive inclusion, equity, and diversity; facilitated thought-provoking conversations about corporate culture; and has led innovative corporate change and community activism.
Her life’s mission is to lead with excellence, drive innovative results, champion for progressive change, and use her space to advocate for those that feel muted and unseen.
MONARCH MAGAZINE: What made you choose a career that focuses on diversity & inclusion? Was there an experience of some sort that sparked or created your passion?
EZINNE Kwubiri OKORO: After working for a consulting company in the early years of my career, I moved on to another role in media & entertainment that provided me with new opportunities to travel the world and explore cultures, experiences, and persons that I hadn’t before. I realized that I wanted…I needed…to do something more impactful with my career that advocated for the underrepresented in a more intentional way. I didn’t have a title, industry, or company for this, but I knew it needed to be bold with purpose and be people oriented.
MONARCH MAGAZINE: From the outside looking in, it really appears that the world of fashion is slowly realizing the lack of color in powerful places. Is this simply they don’t know, or possibly do not believe there is a need to include people of color?
EZINNE Kwubiri OKORO: Unfortunately, various industries are not uniquely aware of the lack of representation in their worlds. That’s because they are excelling, profiting, and exceeding in their roles. Over the recent years, there’s been an increased awareness of the lack of people of color and the progression of people of color in organizations. This comes from the increased demands from consumers and alike, in incorporating diverse perspectives. The rise of social media, raw non-traditional talent, and social injustices etc., have created an interesting interaction between corporate, media, technology, and politics, more than I’ve seen in my career. People undoubtedly know better so now they are required (want) to do better.
MONARCH MAGAZINE: Diversity in the workplace seems to be a big topic that agencies and corporations have adopted. Do you believe the needle is moving towards real inclusion, or are companies solely checking boxes?
EZINNE Kwubiri OKORO: The journey ahead of full equity, inclusion, and diverse representation in the workplace is just that, a journey — organizations have a long way to go! What we’ve seen over the past few years are more tangible commitments, public pledges, and pivotal actions that close the gap further. Passive approaches to diversity have proven to not be effective, and key stakeholders are calling companies out when they see that. These are the forces that will continue to push the needle. We have to keep the pressure on.
MONARCH MAGAZINE: Your career has taken you all over the world. Can you share how the UK or Asia may have a different approach to diversity & inclusion, than the US?
EZINNE Kwubiri OKORO: Diversity & inclusion is a universal concept but the definition and the way it appears in countries differ. Cultural nuisances, traditions, government regulations, demographic makeup etc., impact your approach and commitments in D&I. There is no one size fits all. But all must be committed to the same thing…equity.
MONARCH MAGAZINE: Do you believe America will get to a space where diversity & inclusion is no longer needed?
EZINNE Kwubiri OKORO: The question of equality, equity, and fair representation will and should always be a dialogue for us. Year after year, the world continues to change and evolve so we need to always keep in mind what laws and practices are aligning with those changes. My hope is that this conversation is not so shocking or divisive, but instead it’s a community conversation to always progress and do better for all.
MONARCH MAGAZINE: What does the future hold for you, tell us what’s next?
EZINNE Kwubiri OKORO: For me, it’s important to live, experience, celebrate, and learn from the present. The future for me is now. I am committed to working and living purposefully – advocating for those that feel unseen or unheard. I will push the envelope and utilize my expertise to build pathways for others that look like me and challenge my allies to move with intentional action. That’s my legacy. To be remembered as the girl from next door, that believed in doing what’s right, not for herself but for humanity.
MONARCH MAGAZINE: If God forbid, everything stopped now, what would you want loved ones and colleagues to say about you?
EZINNE Kwubiri OKORO: She’s a real one! Selfless, compassionate, and a change agent for the people.