Cynthia Owyoung is committed to shattering a particular glass ceiling: that of diversity in the business world. She established Breaking Glass Forums in 2016, a consultancy that offers companies leadership development support and diversity and inclusion strategies. She recently started a new position as vice president of diversity and inclusion at Charles Schwab.
“My passion comes from the fact that my own family is very diverse,” Owyoung says. “One of my brothers is gay, another is developmentally challenged, my father is a veteran, and my parents are immigrants. My family reality has prompted me to help all kinds of people gain access to opportunities.”
Before founding Breaking Glass, Owyoung helped build more inclusive work environments at Yahoo and Github. But soon she was itching to find ways to expand her impact.
“I’d been thinking about the lack of conversations on the rich resource women of color are in business,” she says. So she convened the first Women of Color Leadership Conference in June 2016 and has since hosted eight more forums across a variety of diversity topics. “People tell me the events have really helped them grow,” she says.
Owyoung is also a pioneering supporter of the new Haas Center for Gender, Equity & Leadership. She credits her time at Haas with helping her develop the ability to motivate others toward a worthy goal. “At Haas I learned how important it is to really think about your actions and the message you’re putting out there,” she says.
Diversity work isn’t always comfortable. But it’s worth it, Owyoung says. “The lack of diversity in business affects all of us, and we need to collaborate to address it.”