Foster DEI Faculty Spotlight – Stacia Jones

Get to know Stacia Marie Jones, Esq., Vice President, Global Head of IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Action), Employee Relations, Employee Policy & Compliance, lululemon, and Dean’s Impact Scholar Emeritus at the Foster School of Business of the University of Washington. She teaches the MBA elective course titled Accelerating Equity Through Corporate Action.


Please tell us a bit about your background.

I am a Black woman born in the Midwest in the decade following the Civil Rights Movement, at the initiation of the War on Drugs, the start of the new Jim Crow version of enslavement through the penal system, and at the beginning of the fight to reverse Civil Rights. I am the first in my family to graduate from university with a B.A. and law school with a J.D.

Growing up, I was optimistic about all that life had to offer, but also understood that I had to work twice as hard, or more, than others who were from different gender/racial backgrounds, to reap the fullness of life’s benefits.

I won awards and honors for writing and general academics through high school and college. I graduated magna cum laude from undergraduate school in Journalism and Political Science, and with honors from law school. I won many scholarships and awards throughout my university experience, including recognition for being a top post-graduate student.

I began practicing law at a major Midwest law firm in 2000, went in-house as an employment lawyer for a major retail company, where I rose to Vice President, Associate General Counsel, then to a major technology company where I was Partner and led the Workplace Investigations team, and now to my current role at lululemon.

Over the past more than 22 years of my professional career, I have been awarded 22 honors from organizations around the U.S. and Europe for Best Lawyer, Best DEI Professional, and Most Influential.


What excites you about your subject area and what are some of your research interests?

From the earliest days I can remember, I have been an advocate, arguing for fairness, fighting against injustices small and large alike, and pursuing equity in everyday life. The work I am able to do at the Foster School allows me to further my natural inclination towards justice and equity.


Which factors influenced your decision to join UW Foster?

For Foster, I am the inaugural Dean’s Impact Scholar, Dean’s Impact Scholar emeritus, and affiliate instructor of the MBA course Accelerating Equity Through Corporate Action. I came to the University of Washington at a time when the Foster School sought to expand its DEI efforts through external DEI professionals who could add to Foster’s DEI commitments.

I was excited about the opportunity the UW relationship gives me to expand my research and knowledge in matters of DEI, to focus on employment discrimination law and its impact on social justice and civil rights matters, and to have a part in influencing the next generation of managers and corporate leaders to lead inclusively.

It is my hope that sharing my more than 20 years of global legal and DEI work with business students will accelerate our collective journey towards equity.


What do you find meaningful about your time thus far at Foster?

I find most meaningful the opportunity to expand my understanding of the intricacies of the workplace and employee experience, alongside issues of equity and cognitive dissonance, and of stereotypes and systemic discrimination. 

I also find meaningful witnessing students, over the course of the class, becoming increasingly open to the possibility that corporate action can accelerate our collective journey to equity.


How does your work align with Foster’s purpose? Purpose statement: Together…We Foster Leaders; We Foster Insights; We Foster Progress…To Better Humanity

Through the classes I teach, we are promoting Foster’s purpose by helping students discover, through a historical lens, how to be inclusive leaders who take everyday actions that foster equity and justice work in the workplace and beyond.


Any favorite memories from your experience with Full-Time MBAs/Evening MBAs? 

I have been fortunate to work with the Undergraduate and Graduate Women in Business (WiB) groups at Foster. I have spoken at different Women in Business events, had the opportunity to interview my lululemon Chief Information Officer (an alum of the Foster School) during a WiB event, and have hosted Diversity and Dine events with undergraduate, graduate, and WiB MBA members. I have also had the pleasure to judge several competitions.


How have you supported students outside the classroom? 

I have counseled several Foster students interested in pursuing a legal career. I acted as a professional mentor to a group of MBA students preparing for a DEI competition and participated in a negotiation exercise with an MBA student. I hired an undergraduate and graduate student to my team at lululemon.


How do you maximize learning and keep students engaged?

My style of maximizing learning and keeping students engaged is through interactive teaching, using a range of methods, including case studies, group discussion, team projects, and role playing. I use current-day, live examples of happenings around the world that increase engagement and facilitate sticky learning. We grow together through an engaging educational environment while developing and enhancing research, collaboration, critical thinking, analysis, and presentation skills. 


Are you doing work outside of Foster that influences what happens in the classroom?

I am Vice President, Global Head of IDEA, Employee Relations, and Employee Policy & Compliance at lululemon. Through that work I am in a constant state of real-life research and learning that I share in the classroom. My global legal and DEI work, over the past more than 20 years, impacts every part of our classroom experience.

I began my career working for a national law firm giving labor and employment advice, litigating employment and labor matters, and representing clients in labor arbitration. 

I then went in-house with Abercrombie & Fitch, where I advised, trained and partnered with all facets of the business to create and implement policy globally on labor, employment and other matters, including general compliance, health and safety, public accessibility, diversity and inclusion, store construction and design, and loss prevention. I was instrumental in a new country set up during global expansion throughout Asia, Europe, Australia and South America. I also managed dispute resolution, conflict management and compliance on employment matters globally, partnered to create a global labor-relations strategy, and both trained and partnered with Human Resources on creating and implementing global complaint processing and investigations.  

I also led Abercrombie’s global Office of Diversity & Inclusion. I led the creation of strategies, programs and initiatives that impacted Abercrombie’s associates, consumers and vendors in 22+ countries.  We received consistently high employment satisfaction scores and experienced significant increases in U.S. workplace diversity. 

I then led a global team of lawyers and support professionals who train, investigate and process workplace complaints for 130,000+ employees in 100+ countries for technology giant, Microsoft. And followed that with an exhilarating experience handling big employment, HR and ED&I issues for significant clients of the amazing MFR Law Group PLLC. 

I am now excited to lead the innovative IDEA team for retail giant, lululemon athletica inc., an inspiring healthy lifestyle inspired athletic apparel company. I also lead the global compliance, employee policies, employee relations, and workplace investigations teams to reinforce our inclusive culture where employees can thrive in an ethical and empowering environment.


How will students apply the knowledge and skills they gain in your classroom in their careers?

Though we fight for social justice, as a society, we continue to lag in our progression towards equity and justice. The goal of this course is for students to understand their roles as humans and as businesspersons to act in a way that promotes equity and justice, and to ensure the institutions for which they work (or will work) dismantle oppressive systems and act in the pursuit of equity and justice. Specifically, students can: 

  •   Understand the importance of knowledge and the role history has in moving society forward;
  •   Identify, evaluate, criticize, defend, and be prepared to act on the various liberatory tools that we as individuals and businesses must adapt to accelerate change;
  •   Analyze the impact and limitation of civil rights laws, customer influence, and employee activism on corporate action; and
  •   Be prepared to be a changemaker through business.   


Any tips for incoming MBAs on how they can brush up on skills/knowledge over the summer? 

Stay engaged in learning by reading (or listening to podcasts) about current events that impact the workplace, and reading books that interest you, based on the real-life experiences and research of the authors. Also, internships and work for charitable organizations.


Please tell us briefly about the structure of your elective course – what can students expect to master by the end of it?

We explore the role corporate America can have in our radical transformation towards a more equitable society. We explore its role in redesigning oppressive systems into liberatory structures that have greater beneficial impact and shifting hearts and minds that are inculcated by harmful stereotypes and cognitive dissonance. 

We take a historical view of the impact privilege, dominant society, and immutable characteristics (mainly race and gender) have on the shape of current society (mainly the work and marketplace). Through inclusive design principles, we challenge traditional notions of success in business and how we are accustomed to accomplishing work and life. We use those principles to unlock the courage to rebuild systems that adversely impact marginalized people for the betterment of society as a whole.


What advice do you have for students to ace your course? 

Be open and curious. Show interest and participate.