Meet Donna Johnson chief diversity officer for Mastercard


Donna Alligood Johnson is Chief Diversity Officer for Mastercard. Based in Purchase, New York at Mastercard’s global headquarters, Donna is responsible for developing and implementing the company’s integrated global diversity and inclusion strategy. In her role as Chief Diversity Officer, Donna is focused on creating and executing programs that leverage diversity to create a work environment that fosters inclusion and innovation; increases employee productivity and engagement; develops the company’s talent pipeline; and ultimately drives business results.

Since joining Mastercard in 1995, Donna has held positions of increasing responsibilities in the B2B Marketing Group and the Commerce Development Group. In 2008, she launched the Mastercard Business Resource Group (BRG) for employees of African descent, known as “LEAD” and served as the BRG co-chair; the BRG program has since grown to include eight distinct employee cohorts representing a variety of diversity dimensions. Donna is also a member of the Mastercard Global Diversity and Inclusion Council, 27 senior executives from various business units and regions who guide the diversity strategy, hold the organization accountable for success, and champion diversity within all business units.

Prior to Mastercard, Donna held positions at Citicorp, Inc., in the Information Services Division where she was responsible for the retail acquisition and sales efforts in support of the bank’s proprietary database marketing products. She started her career as an account manager at the New York advertising agency BBDO.

Donna was the first recipient of the Mastercard Harlem YMCA Black Achiever Award which recognizes African American professionals for their outstanding contributions as a member of the corporate community. Diversity Journal has named her a Woman Worth Watching in 2013 and she is one of The Network Journal’s 25 Influential Black Women in Business.

Donna Alligood Johnson shares how she champions a global culture of inclusion and her advice for anyone who would love to work for Mastercard.

I started my career in advertising after I graduated from college. From there I joined Mastercard and our President and Chief Diversity Officer at the time were looking to refresh our diversity strategy. They wanted to implement best practices around a strong diversity program. So, in 2008 I was asked to create business resource groups to help solve business opportunities and create an environment where all employees could drive value to the bottom line. Our leadership knew it was important for our employees to be engaged around business.

I partnered with others within the organization to design something that had never really been created before to help solve a problem. Within a year we created the first business resource group called LEAD, Leveraging Employees of African Descent, and quickly followed that with the launch of four other business resources. Today we have eight business resource groups with 64 chapters in 40 plus locations around the world.

I’m really proud of the work we are doing to develop our program for people with disabilities. We recognize it is important to engage employees at every level to understand the value and the impact that people with disabilities have on the value of our organization, as well as the impact for employees who have relatives with disabilities.

We are building a holistic plan that incorporates those employees, as well as the outreach to the community for recruitment, hiring and retention. We are looking at ways we can engage our employees to give back to the community and ensure that we build benefits that are aligned with serving the needs of the families and employees who are dealing with disabilities.

I’m very proud of this as it’s not just an initiative that the diversity office singularly owns. We’ve engaged the organization holistically, it’s being embraced around the world and will continue to grow. We launched our first business resource group for people with disabilities in November. We know there will be chapters in other regions and this will be one of the most successful launches due to the breadth and reach across the globe. We’re very, very excited about that.


Relaunch your Career is Mastercard’s first return-to-work program. As an organization we look at our leaders around the world to help us drive initiatives that are important to our region and to employees wherever they may work. Our UK office led a pledge on gender balance in financial services. We recognize globally that companies are struggling with how to bring women back into the workforce after taking a leave for having children, to provide elder care or pursue their education. There’s a need to bridge that gap.

As a result, Mastercard’s London office created Relaunch your Career, at this time it’s a pilot program and we will be evaluating how we drive mentoring and other support. If it’s successful we will roll it out globally and customize it based on a region’s needs. The model could not only focus on women but embrace other demographic groups who are looking to relaunch their career and need to bridge a gap in terms of their work history.

There are so many moments over the course of my career that I’ve been proud. But one moment that stands out began a few years ago. Our President and CEO of Mastercard, Ajay Banga, challenged us to be more inclusive and drive more awareness of what Mastercard does as an organization. We were growing very quickly and we had a variety of different levels of experience in the organization. We wanted to make people feel more included in our business every day.

So, we created a program called EDGE, which stands for Employees Driving the Global Enterprise. It’s an online game designed to help our employees understand what Mastercard is, what we do, how we do it and why we do it. EDGE is an interactive learning tool that is open to anyone at Mastercard.

Because it was driven through the diversity office it showed we were trying to level the playing field for all employees. We provided equal access to information that allows you to do your job in the best possible way. We raised the awareness around why diversity and inclusion matters, and why people should be proud about what Mastercard does. It allowed people to understand how they help to meet our vision and how to make Mastercard a fantastic place to work. We had over 4,000 employees take the EDGE training voluntarily. Now all new employees take part in this learning program to understand how Mastercard operates.


One of the reasons why I joined Mastercard 21 years ago was because of the opportunity I had to grow. Anyone interested in working at Mastercard needs to know we are about innovation and change. We are about growing the economy so everyone can participate and we are about including everyone as much as possible.

Having the ability to think outside of the box and to be innovative is important. You need to have a global mindset and to be able to anticipate the next opportunity through insight and understanding. It’s an environment where you cannot hide. We are a technology company and it’s an energetic environment. We are looking for people who really will help us change the world and include others in the global economy. I became part of the drive for diversity because Mastercard was evolving and they were looking for people to help make that change. I’m a perfect example of not being comfortable, taking a chance and continuing to grow in the role I have now as Chief Diversity Officer.


Mastercard’s commitment to global diversity and inclusion

One of Mastercard’s proudest success stories is the growth of eight Business Resource Groups (BRGs), which now number more than 4,000 employees worldwide. “The purpose of the BRGs is to encourage employees to express their diverse opinions and ideas,” explains Ajay Banga, Mastercard President and CEO. “We want them to feel empowered and to recognize that their contributions make a difference.”


Chief Diversity Officer Donna Alligood Johnson was the founding member of Mastercard’s first BRG, called LEAD. Meet the Mastercard BRGs:

EAST – Exploring Asian Societies and Trends
EAST aims to enhance the understanding among employees of the overall trends in Asia and how key dynamics impact Mastercard’s business in the region.

Latin Network – Employees of Latin Descent
The BRG brings together employees of Latin descent for professional development and networking, while offering insights to the Hispanic consumer segment and organizations.

LEAD – Leveraging Employees of African Descent
LEAD’s mission is to facilitate an environment that attracts, promotes and retains employees of African descent, including providing opportunities for professional growth.

PRIDE – Fostering an environment of inclusiveness and respect for LGBT employees
Fosters an environment of inclusiveness and respect so employees feel comfortable being open about their lives, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

SALUTE – Active and veteran military personnel and their families
Provides support for active and veteran military personnel by supporting the transition into Mastercard’s corporate culture and providing opportunities for professional growth.

WLN – Women’s Leadership Network
Seeks to advance women’s careers and performance through a culture of mentoring and coaching.

WWAVE – Workers with Accumulated Valued Experience
Focuses on diversity of background and experience, regardless of age or seniority.

YoPros – Young Professionals
Focuses on developing and utilizing the innovative skills of Mastercard’s young professionals.

Mastercard is committed to providing opportunities for employees to grow and get more out of the careers. The BRGs provide Mastercard employees with an opportunity to get involved in things that might not otherwise be a part of their day-to-day job functions. Members are able to enhance their own cultural awareness, develop leadership skills and network across business units and levels. As Chief Diversity Officer Donna Alligood Johnson asserts, “diversity and inclusion have become key components of Mastercard’s vision, business strategy and corporate culture – and we’re a stronger company for it.”

To learn more, visit


Post by Octavia Goredema @OctaviaGoredema

Leave a Reply