Sola Winley, the Executive VP/Chief DEI Officer of kg (MLS), has been at the forefront of MLS’s commitment to fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion within the organization. With a passion for creating an inclusive environment that embraces individuals from all backgrounds, Winley’s leadership has propelled MLS towards new heights of inclusivity. With The Kaleidoscope Group as their partner of choice, Major League Soccer is poised to continue their journey.
A League of Choice
Winley believes that MLS should be a league that attracts the best players and talent from around the world. He emphasizes the importance of diversity in the player pool, stating, “We have players from 86 different nations. 86 different cultures.” He adds, “The majority of [minutes played] were by African American and-or Black players.” Furthermore, Winley highlights the young and diverse fan base of MLS, making it stand out among other sports leagues.
Partnering with The Kaleidoscope Group
Reflecting on MLS’s partnership with The Kaleidoscope Group, Winley notes the significance of finding a partner with experience in the sports industry. He explains, “To walk into a club, to walk into an executive office, you have to understand some of the cultural resonance that’s there in the industry.” Winley appreciates The Kaleidoscope Group’s empathetic approach, stating, “It was important because we’re in the business of making human connection that can only come from a relationship model and not a transactional model.” With executive consultants Brian Johnson and Aarin Henry involved in the effort from The Kaleidoscope Group, this experience and approach was paramount in the partnership.
Driving the DEI Strategy
Winley emphasizes the role of The Kaleidoscope Group in formulating MLS’s DEI strategy, praising our active listening and understanding of MLS’s culture. “The Kaleidoscope Group were good listeners. That you don’t come in with a pre-baked formula. That you come in and you really try to understand the culture,” he reflects. Winley believes that difficult discussions are necessary for progress, saying, “The Kaleidoscope Group does a very good job of raising topics and raising issues and discussion points that typically are very challenging for people to talk about.”
Inclusive Vision for MLS
Winley envisions an inclusive future for MLS, where DEI is integrated into every aspect of the organization. He shares, “DEI is not viewed as a standalone group… looking at the makeup of their staff, looking at the makeup of the partners that we have, the vendors that we use.” Winley believes in the power of inclusivity to attract a broader audience, too. “We want as many people in our stadiums as possible, we want as many people watching our product as possible.”
Future Plans and Opportunities
Looking ahead, Winley sees tremendous opportunities for MLS. He aspires to see MLS continue integrating DEI into its business operations, with inclusivity being a core aspect of the league’s functioning. For Winley, his vision for MLS as a league of choice, partnered with The Kaleidoscope Group, has paved the way for inclusive strategies and initiatives. As MLS continues to embrace diversity, Winley’s leadership and the partnership forged between MLS adn The Kaleidoscope Group will undoubtedly drive the league toward a more inclusive and welcoming future.