Johnita P. Due

Senior Vice President Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer,

CNN Turner Sports

In your opinion, what qualities make a “Moves Mentor”?

I consider Moves Mentors to be women who uplift, build bridges, champion and forge new paths for others. 

How does mentoring benefit the mentor? Career-wise? Intellectually? Spiritually? Socially? Any other “-allys”? .

Any successful mentoring program should include a reverse mentoring component whether it is a formal part of the program or not. I think we’ve all learned that often it is our junior or less experienced colleagues who can inspire us and teach us how to approach our jobs or lives differently. This adds a degree of fulfillment and evolution that goes beyond the enrichment of helping someone else reach their full potential. 

Should mentorship be a company requirement or a personal give-back?

I don’t think that mandating mentoring is ideal because part of what makes mentoring successful is the desire of the participants to want to make a difference. I do believe incentivizing  participation is something that should always be considered, and mentoring should be taken into account as part of any evaluation of leadership or performance and as a demonstration of commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. 

What is your mentorship method? Do you prefer a more hands-on or laidback approach? 

People that I mentor understand that I expect them to be pro-active in sustaining the relationship, not because the relationship isn’t as important to me as it is to them, but because it helps them grow. 

What would you say to yourself if you could go back in time 15 years? 

I have witnessed so much change in the country and the media industry over the past 15 years that going back in time I would encourage myself to be prepared psychologically for the inevitability of change. I would also encourage myself to take better care of myself as I try to help others — as my mother used to say (along with every airline), you’ve got to put on your own oxygen mask first before you can help others. 

Given the evidence that successful mentoring increases the bottom line, should any responsible five year corporate strategy includes a detailed plan and budget for mentoring complete with an official position for a mentoring director and regular progress reports to the board.

If every company followed this best practice it would be transformational. 

“In the nineteenth century, the central moral challenge was slavery. In the twentieth century, it was the battle against totalitarianism… in the 21st is century the paramount moral challenge will be the struggle for fairness and gender equality around the world.” Why is gender equality even a challenge, especially in the ‘enlightened’ western world?

We’ve seen all too clearly that with each century the challenges have become compounded. The challenge of slavery and race-based systemic injustice did not begin and end in the 19th century. The challenge of totalitarianism did not begin and end in the 20th century. And the challenge for gender equality did not begin and will not end in the 21st century. Humankind is wired to be motivated by power and privilege and that is why all of these challenges will remain throughout society unless our efforts to combat them are as pervasive as the challenges themselves. 

“Legislators, priests, philosophers, writers, and scientists have striven to show that the subordinate position of woman is willed in heaven and advantageous on earth.” Simone de Beauvoir. Is this still a major stumbling block on the 21st century road to equality?

As someone who has studied social psychology, I do believe it is intrinsic in human nature to try to justify disparate treatment by denigrating and assigning inferiority to those who are the subject of the disparate treatment. This will always be a major stumbling block but one that we can overcome with intentionality and a refusal to concede to it. 

Do you think discrimination against women comes from the bottom or the top?

Discrimination against women can be found at all levels, just as allies can be found at all levels. It is important to ensure that all hiring managers, and not just senior leadership, are held accountable to ensure gender equity. 

What do you want the next generation of power women to know? 

I want my daughter and the next generation of women to know that they can define their own success and power and don’t need to follow the path of what is expected of them by society. I also encourage them to incorporate practicing self-care into their measure of success. 

Was there a defining moment or experience in your life that led you to where you are today? What was it?

I can’t think of a particular moment or experience that has led me to my success, but I strongly believe that my parents’ decision to enroll me in school early has had a cascading effect throughout my life. Because the public school system wouldn’t allow them to enroll me at 4 years old, some community members sponsored me to attend a private Montessori school for a few years before attending public elementary, middle, and high schools. Early access to education is key for all students and determinative of future success. 

How does diversity play into mentorship? 

Diversity permeates every aspect of mentoring. Each mentor and mentee brings a different professional status, gender or gender non-conforming identity, race, age, ideology, religion, geographic location, etc. and/or experience to the table. That is how we all learn and grow. 

What do you think is the number one action we as a society can take for women’s power and equality? (e.g. affirmative action?)

The main way to advance women’s power is to call out and have zero tolerance when we see inequality. We must support multi-pronged efforts to advance equality in all aspects of society, not just via legislation, education and grassroots community efforts, but also through the media. The civil rights movement demonstrated the crucial role the media can play in effecting change in society. That’s what we try to do today with programming initiatives like CNN’s “As Equals,” a series that sheds light on gender inequality with a particular focus on the world’s least-developed countries and increased programming about the adversities women and girls around the world endure every day, and Bleacher Report’s “HighlightHER,” a platform to amplify and elevate women in sports.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Advice that I’ve been given that I often convey to mentees or colleagues seeking advice about whether to make a career change is that you should always try to ensure that you are running towards something instead of running away from something. In other words, make sure that as you decide to take on a new opportunity that it is because you will find growth and fulfillment and not because you are escaping a bad situation or boss. There may be other or better ways to handle the bad situation or boss. 

If it is true that whenever women are involved in any one aspect of life – domestic, business, recreation – the

empirical evidence shows that activity is enhanced in a real and tangible way, why is there such fierce resistance to this female influence?

Socializing empirical evidence to prove the counter narrative to certain ingrained barriers is a necessity to overcoming those barriers and to sustain lasting impact. 

Who do you most admire? Why?

There are so many women that I most admire but on the top of my list is my mother, the late Patricia Stephens Due. She led the first jail-in of the nation as a 20 year-old college student during the civil rights movement so clearly had a fierce sense of courage and moral conviction, but she was also as fierce and courageous in raising my sisters and me to believe in ourselves and the difference we could make for others.

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