Rio Center Stories: Cindy Pace, Professor at The School of Professional Studies

Dr. Cindy Pace a lecturer and inaugural faculty member in the Human Capital Management Master’s program at Columbia University and the Global Chief Diversity & Inclusion officer at MetLife. Cindy is  expert on multicultural identities, purpose and inclusiveness in organizational leadership. As a scholar practitioner, Cindy integrates academic research and theory into practical application that helps solve complex diversity and leadership challenges resulting in an empowered and thriving workplace and marketplace.

Leticia Katz
October 02, 2019

Dr. Cindy Pace is Vice President, Global Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at MetLife.  In this role, Pace leads the global D&I strategy for an enterprise wide employee base of 49,000 in nearly 40 countries. Aligned to the company’s business imperative, the strategy drives and promotes D&I as critical success factors to fuel innovation, cross-cultural collaboration and business success. By emboldening and activating more accountable leaders and ownership across the enterprise, Pace seeks to empower and partner with inclusive leaders. She will also continue engaging with strategic partners, industry peers, and external professional organizations to exchange ideas and next practices.


Pace joined MetLife in 2013 to lead the company’s first global women’s initiative to advance women in leadership roles and strengthen the readiness and capabilities of women in the talent pipeline. Under her leadership, these efforts resulted in an increase of merited promotions into vice president-level roles. In addition, Pace also led U.S. Diverse Talent and Purpose at Work initiatives. Through her work, Cindy partnered with employees and leaders across the organization to build a strong culture of inclusion that fosters a sense of purpose, collaboration and values the diverse attributes each employee brings to the company. Recently, Pace also spearheaded the new partnership with the United Nations’ Women and Global Innovation Coalition for Change and serves as an advisor and company representative.


In addition to leadership MetLife’s Global Center for Inclusion, Cindy is and inaugural faculty member and lecturer in the Human Capital Management Master’s program at Columbia University School of Professional Studies.


Prior to MetLife, Cindy worked in various corporate management and global leadership roles in clinical research, diversity and inclusion, organizational change, executive leadership development, talent strategy integration, and innovation at Pfizer. She began her corporate career in clinical research in Women’s Health at Solvay Pharmaceuticals (now part of AbbVie) after transitioning as a Center for Disease Control-trained molecular and clinical microbiologist.


Cindy frequently provides thought leadership at global conferences and academic institutions where she presents on global diversity, inclusive leadership, purpose and women’s leadership. Her insights have been featured in Forbes, Harvard Business Review, Fortune Magazine and the book Women’s Leadership Journeys: Stories, Research, and Novel Perspectives. Cindy was appointed to serve on the Board of Directors for the International Leadership Association, and services on the Executive Leadership Team for the ILA Women and Leadership Affinity Group (WLAG).


Cindy holds a doctorate degree in Organizational Learning and Leadership from Teachers College-Columbia University, a master’s in Business Education from New York University, and a B.S. in Biology from Morris Brown College, where she was Biomedical Research Fellow in Microbiology and Neuropsychology. She is a passionate advocate of personal leadership development, STEM education for girls, and women’s financial empowerment.


We had the pleasure of having Professor Cindy Pace here at the Columbia Global Centers in Rio de Janeiro for the 6th module of our Columbia Women’s Leadership Network program, and we talked a little bit after the class was over.

Q. How did you like the class you taught here at the Global Center in Rio de Janeiro?

I enjoyed guest lecturing about leadership and diversity. I especially liked facilitating A discussion of how to build greater influence to make an impact and drive change in your organization.

Q. Why do you think Columbia Women's Leadership Network program is so important?

Women's networks are very important in building a cohesive mission and collective focus on a specific purpose. Columbia Women's Leadership network is important because it is focused on developing a critical mass of leaders whose sole purpose is to make a positive impact and drive the necessary change needed in the public sector.

Q. What strategies can women use towards their career goals?

In my research featured in Harvard Business Review (HBR),   I identified four primary ways that women can excel and advance in their careers. :

1.     They wanted power and influence. The women had high ambitions to hold executive leadership roles with high status, power, and influence. This aspiration served as a motivator for them in making trade-offs to progress into top leadership, including making lateral moves and working long hours.

2.     They confidently seized opportunities. Transitioning from first-line leaders to mid-level leaders required women to believe in their ability to perform across a variety of situations, identify and seize opportunities, and promote their capabilities and interests.

3.     They pursued management challenges. To advance, the women needed access to managing people, critical negotiations, new business ventures, and external client relations. These situations involved complex assignments focusing on strategy, product development, business operations, and financial management. While the women may have started small, their responsibilities and the scope of their work increased in complexity over time.

4.     They cultivated influential mentors. Having influential senior leaders—including men and women of color—serve as mentors, advisers, and role models provided emerging women managers with the tacit knowledge needed to navigate their company’s leadership structure. Mentors also advised on some of the less-talked-about necessities for staying on a desired career path, such as boosting resilience, coping with difficult emotions, and managing hypervisibility.


This is an excerpt from the article published by Columbia to read the full report at Harvard Business Review and learn more about the Master of Science in Human Capital Management program at Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies.


Q. If you could give women advice about achieving career success, what would that be?

The best piece of advice that I can give to women about achieving career success on their own terms is “to pursue purpose, which is different from passion. Passion is about your personal interests, while purpose is about what you can do for others – no matter how big or small the act.” This is a direct quote to read the full article go to Profiles in Diversity Journal.

Q. How is it possible to find our purpose in life?

Purpose is an expression of your authentic self and values independent of a specific role or job title. Purpose is about being motivated and committed to contributing   to something beyond your personal goals and ambitions; it is moving from “it is all about me” to “we”. Purpose is important because it is the way we find meaning and fulfillment in life and work. We all have purpose – its just a matter of identifying what that is and how you can activate it daily.