One of the most powerful and well-regarded African American women in the US, Johnnetta B. Cole has a way with making history. She was the first female African American president of Spelman College, the first woman ever elected to the board of Coca-Cola Enterprises, and the first African American woman to serve as chair of the board of United Way of America. In over 30 years in education, she has also served two US Presidents in leadership roles.
Cole currently serves as the director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, overseeing a collection of over 12,000 objects which represent nearly every area of the continent of Africa and contains a variety of media and art forms. Since the mid-1980’s, Cole has worked with a number of Smithsonian programs. She currently serves on the Scholarly Advisory Board for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, the construction of which will be completed on the National Mall by 2016. As a scholar, author, and activist for social and economic justice, Cole has spearheaded breakthrough thinking about diversity, leadership, and women's issues. As the chair of the Johnnetta B. Cole Global Diversity & Inclusion Institute at Bennett College, she infused diversity into academic institutions, businesses, corporations, civic and community organizations, and government and global thought leaders.
An inspiring force, Cole rallies everyone to embrace diversity as not only a moral and social value, but as a compelling case for business. She encourages audiences to move beyond the status quo to fully take advantage of the innovative and profitable ideas that stem from a more diverse workforce, membership, and student body. As she notes, "How much better our world would be if each of us respected difference until difference doesn't make any more difference?"
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