Executive Vice President
Chief Diversity Officer Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
An unfortunate event early in her career helped Edna Kane-Williams to understand the importance of responding to crises with equanimity. She declines to describe the event, but sums up its guidance: “‘This, too, shall pass’ is my motto,” she says.
A graduate of Yale University and George Washington University, Kane-Williams is the chief diversity officer and executive vice president of the new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) unit within AARP, the country’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization focused on issues affecting those over 50 years old. DEI aligns with AARP’s long involvement in social justice issues. “We’re not new to this game. We have always been on the front lines — fighting for health, fighting for financial security, fighting for the rights of caregivers,” Kane-Williams asserts. “My team tries to ensure that all of AARP’s resources are available to multicultural audiences. We want these communities to feel embraced and welcomed into our organization.”
Her career spans more than 25 years in senior positions in nonprofit and for-profit sectors, with special emphasis on strategic planning, targeted marketing, community outreach, media campaigns, partnership development, and program development. She previously served as senior vice president of Multicultural Leadership at AARP, responsible for growing the association’s multicultural audiences, including Hispanic/ Latino, African American/Black and Asian American/Pacific Islander, American Indian/ Alaskan Native, and LGBTQ audiences.
Her greatest challenge now is the “polarization” she sees in America. “It sometimes makes it very difficult to talk about race, the needs of communities of color, or how to bring people together to move forward,” she muses. “We often encounter resistance—even anger. But I think our work is key to helping our country prosper.”
With enough time and money, Kane-Williams would start a family foundation to focus on the financial education of underserved communities. “It has long been a keen interest of mine,” she admits.