MGM Resorts International has announced that it will serve as founding sponsor of a newly formed nonprofit Foundation for Women’s Leadership & Empowerment, dedicated to women’s leadership education and empowerment.
The new foundation is expected to expand the footprint of the successful Annual Women’s Leadership Conference, historically presented by The MGM Resorts Foundation in Las Vegas to other cities around the country. These conferences will focus on developing women leaders in all industries.
MGM Resorts’ Phyllis A. James will leave her current post as Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity & Corporate Responsibility Officer this summer to assume presidency of the new foundation.
“Phyllis has had a stellar 17-year career with our Company in both the legal and CSR realms. I cannot applaud enough her contributions to the evolution of our systems, practices and most of all, our values and culture of inclusion,” said Jim Murren, MGM Resorts Chairman & CEO. “In light of the deep passion and commitment she has brought to the quest for equality – both in our Company and beyond – and her steadfast dedication to our Foundation’s Women’s Leadership Conference, I cannot think of anyone better positioned to lead the new Foundation for Women’s Leadership & Empowerment. MGM Resorts is proud to be Founding Sponsor for this new venture. I expect its conferences will inspire many, many women and other attendees to greater personal and professional achievements and help accelerate our society’s movement toward gender equity.”
The Annual Women’s Leadership Conference, presented by the MGM Resorts Foundation, has been a centerpiece of MGM Resorts’ diversity programs since 2006, hosting more than 1,000 women in recent years and featuring diverse and nationally recognized keynote speakers and accomplished women role models.
The mission of WLC is to provide women, and men who attend, the developmental tools they need to continuously advance their lives and careers. Through WLC, women from all community segments are offered a variety of ways to elevate their personal and professional lives, including networking opportunities, educational workshops and exposure to other women who can serve as role models, heroes or mentors. The conference also provides two days of career-oriented workshops that give attendees hands-on opportunities to develop skills based on their career needs.
Diversity and Corporate Social Responsibility Leadership
After successful careers as a partner in private law practice at the Pillsbury Madison & Sutro (now Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman) law firm and then as General Counsel (Corporation Counsel) for the City of Detroit, Phyllis James joined MGM Resorts in 2002 as senior counsel in the Company’s Corporate Legal Department – where she subsequently served as Chief Litigation Officer leading defense of major complex litigation against the Company.
For most of her MGM Resorts tenure she performed the dual functions of litigation counsel and development of the Company’s diversity and inclusion initiative – including serving as counsel and advisor to the Board of Director’s dedicated Diversity Committee. In 2009 she was appointed Chief Diversity Officer, where she played the seminal role of chief architect of the company’s enterprise-wide diversity and inclusion policy, strategy and programming.
In 2010 James’ role was expanded to include leadership of the company’s overarching Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) platform – encompassing both general CSR policy as well as all aspects of the company’s giving and community support. She also was charged with supporting the critical role of CSR in the Company’s resort expansion activities. In this regard she eventually took on the full-time appointment (without legal responsibilities) of Chief Diversity & Corporate Responsibility Officer.
James is credited with spearheading the organizational infrastructure, systems and cultural evolution that have resulted in MGM Resorts’ award-winning diversity and inclusion and CSR platform, from introducing Employee Resource Groups as affinity and professional development avenues ‒ to installing the Job Posting and Diverse Candidate Slate Policy and other talent pipeline initiatives ‒ to positioning the Company for successive year-after-year rankings on such national reputation surveys as DiversityInc (14 years), the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index (8 years), Black Enterprise’s Top Companies for Diversity (10 years+) and the Civic 50 (3 years as most community-minded companies determined by Points of Light) ‒ to establishing the company’s annual CSR Report ‒ to leading the growth of the MGM Resorts Foundation’s Annual Women’s Leadership Conference from a local gathering to a major national conference, among other contributions.
James herself has received many recognitions and awards, such as Most Powerful Women in Corporate Diversity (Black Enterprise Magazine 2019), the Equality Award for outstanding leadership and service to the LGBTA community (Human Rights Campaign Las Vegas 2017) and Lifetime Achievement Award (National Bar Association (2016).
“I have been privileged to dedicate myself to MGM Resorts as both legal counsel and Chief Diversity & Corporate Responsibility Officer – twin passions of my life. At this juncture I am extremely enthusiastic about serving as President of the new Foundation for Women’s Leadership & Empowerment,” said Phyllis James. “Gender equity is an unconquered realm of equality, and one of the most vital to achieve the full potential of human civilization. Whatever we can do to educate and equip women to better meet the challenges of leadership of our families, our communities, our institutions and our society is a noble endeavor that will serve us all.”