By Phyllis A. James

Chief Diversity Officer
MGM Resorts International

Amidst the shrinking budgets, workforce reductions and other adverse impacts of the recession, the halls of corporate America echo again the decades-old question of whether America can afford to continue diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives. Astute companies committed to D&I as a business imperative in our global economy—rather than a feel-good program for the prosperous times— answer that question with a resounding yes. Indeed, at MGM Resorts International we believe that the compelling business rationale for a well-managed D&I initiative only intensifies during harsh economic conditions.

“Being involved in diversity gives us a competitive advantage in recruiting and retaining talent as an employer of choice across racial, ethnicity, gender, cultural, and generational attributes.”

From the establishment of our voluntary D&I initiative at MGM Resorts in 2000—we aligned D&I with the core identity of our company, and embedded this paradigm into our major business operations. D&I has played a vital role in maximizing our ability to weather the economic turmoil and emerge as a stronger competitor, because the economy has not altered the drivers of D&I.

Being involved in diversity gives us a competitive advantage in recruiting and retaining talent as an employer of choice across racial, ethnicity, gender, cultural, and generational attributes. The ability to attract and retain top talent is a constant employer challenge, in tough and good economic times.

Perhaps most importantly, our initiative has fostered an inclusive work environment, anchored in the principles of integrity, mutual respect, recognition of the unique contribution of each and every team member to our mission, and excellence. These D&I values have united our pluralistic team members around a common cultural identity, and leveraged the diversity of thought, perspectives and experiences that are critical to collaborative problem solving, innovation, productivity and superior performance. Nowhere was the profound impact of our D&I investment more apparent than during the darkest days of the recession when our employees united to empower the company to overcome the many obstacles presented.

Furthermore, we have refused to retreat from our core diversity value in our procurement and construction programs. Practicing inclusion of diverse suppliers of goods and professional and construction services has promoted quality and price competition to our advantage.

As today’s consumers are increasingly making product and patronage choices based on their affinity with the perceived values of marketplace competitors, companies ignore at their peril the power of reputation among consumers in the marketplace. Our sales teams successfully leverage diversity to recruit and attract new customers. This targeted approach has resonated with diverse conventions and meeting groups that have selected our properties, not only for their superior accommodations and meeting spaces, but for our shared values related to D&I. Moreover, as we expand internationally in countries such as China, Vietnam, India and Dubai, our D&I competency better equips us to build new business alliances around the globe.

In conclusion, our diversity and inclusion initiatives remains a significant factor in our company’s success and going forward will be an important contributor to our competitive advantage in the new global economy.

Phyllis A. James is Executive Vice President, Special Counsel for Litigation and Chief Diversity Officer for MGM Resorts International. James is Chief Diversity Officer with responsibility for oversight of MGM Resorts’ Diversity and Inclusion Initiative, as well as the company’s philanthropy programs and Diversity and Community Affairs Department. She also serves as a board member and special advisor/counselor to MGM Grand Detroit, LLC. James joined MGM Resorts in March 2002 as Senior Vice President and Senior Counsel.