Skip to content Skip to footer
Search

Loading Results

Meet our alumni

We are proud of the successes of our Alumni and their contributions to a diverse range of businesses.

Erica J. Bolden

Erica Bolden

Head of Diversity, Inclusion & Equity Engagement, Mercedes-Benz USA

Acknowledging how personal and professional lives intersect

As the world starts to recover from the pandemic, what’s on your mind?
Everyone talks about how horrible 2020 was, and it was. But I try to focus on the positive side. We’ve seen how quickly companies can flex, and that tells us there are other things we can learn to embrace and change quickly as well, especially as we’re thinking about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

How so?
Things that were once deemed to be personal became professional, and we saw increased flexibility to meet personal needs. I think we grew to have greater empathy for different home-life situations. So I just hope we can continue to have a trajectory of acknowledging how personal and professional lives intersect, and maintain that feeling of inclusion.

How have you been this past year?
Everything happening in the outside world obviously impacts what’s happening in my work day, on both an organizational and a personal level. And as a person of color, we don’t always have the privilege of separating our professional lives from social societal advocacy. Of course, I don’t think any of us would argue the fact that DEI has always been important to address in the workplace. But now, there’s this heightened urgency to address the issues, unlike ever before.

What motivates you to keep going when things feel particularly challenging?
I don’t take my responsibility to make this world better for future generations lightly. I will keep at this work until corporations no longer have a need for the role of a chief diversity officer. Especially this past year, that’s what keeps me up at night. I’m constantly thinking about the fact that such a role still remains in high demand, and with it, the pressures to address racial inequities and improve inclusion in the workplace. So in addition to the work I do at Mercedes-Benz, I’m also on the board of the Georgia Diversity Council, the National Coalition for Racial Justice and Equity, Meals on Wheels Atlanta, and the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Atlanta. I learn so much from engaging with the greater community in my city and from engaging with my peer network.

What led you to focus your career on diversity?
I’m from Cincinnati, Ohio, with a multicultural heritage and background, and I’ve always been interested in learning about different ethnicities, religions, and languages. I remember teaching Spanish to my stuffed animals when I was younger! I identify as Black, but I’m also a quarter Asian. My background is African-American, Irish, and American Indian, as well as East Indian. When I was growing up, I’d go to a Catholic Mass one day, then a Baptist church another day. I’d do puja in a Hindu temple one day, and attend a Native American ceremony another day. I think that helped me to have a true appreciation for a lot of different cultures and perspectives, and it’s what pushed me to do what I do today, because I have a deep level of empathy and can relate to all different walks of life.

What drew you to PwC?
In my first year of college, I stayed in a diversity dorm. I participated in a campaign to bring more diversity to the university. Then I learned about a consulting firm that was focusing on diversity, so I did my internship there, and I coupled that with my senior project. I really enjoyed it. When I graduated from the university, I became a full time consultant at that firm, helping with diversity trainings and PwC was one of my clients. Then, somewhat coincidentally, I was approached by a recruiter to join PwC in a marketing and sales capacity. While doing that, because of my previous experience, I helped to form PwC’s affinity network in the Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana market. Organically, I began to cultivate more projects in the diversity and inclusion space, and eventually I joined the office of diversity.

What do you love most about your work now?
Being able to teach others how to have compassion, and just breaking down barriers. Most times, the things we think are really difficult to talk about, they’re not. It’s just a matter of finding a way to engage in these conversations.

How do you encourage those conversations?
Especially when we’re talking about race, if we pretend it doesn’t exist, then it erases the experiences of Black people, of Asian people, of Indigenous people. So we need to keep pushing beyond a mentality of color blindness, because that does not acknowledge the real ways in which racism has existed and continues to exist, both on an individual as well as a systematic societal level. I’m pleased to see how more companies are now intentionally creating a space for people to freely, respectfully, and bravely engage in conversations of understanding — both of our own perspectives, as well as of others’ experiences, so we can make better decisions.

What’s the best advice you can offer to others working on DEI initiatives?
When thinking about how to create an inclusive culture, it’s important to focus on who is at the table. But it’s not good enough for people to have a seat. They have to also have a voice.

If you could go back in time and tell your younger self something, what would it be?
To be present-minded, and to embrace the journey. To have patience with yourself. To give yourself more credit. And to remain objective, to depersonalize attacks. Everyone is fighting an internal battle, one they themselves may not even be aware of.

Do you have a personal motto?
Don’t tiptoe through life. Let people hear every step you take, especially as a woman who wants to be in a leadership role. Don’t diminish yourself or make yourself smaller.

This interview was conducted, edited, and condensed by Jen Swetzoff, founder and creative director of CLOSEUP. Jen was formerly the deputy managing editor at strategy+business magazine.

Contact us

Amy Paquette

Amy Paquette

US Alumni Network team, PwC US

Sallie Hinson

Sallie Hinson

US Alumni Network team, PwC US

Kerri Murphy

Kerri Murphy

US/MX Alumni Network Leader, PwC US

Katy Nash

Katy Nash

US Alumni Network team, PwC US

Follow us