Economic Empowerment through Enterprise Development

Debra J. Nelson



Debra Nelson, 2017 Moderator for A. G. Gaston Conference, Birmingham Alabama



Debra Nelson leads corporate communications for Brasfield & Gorrie, one of the nation’s largest privately held construction firms. She also is a member of the company’s Diversity & Inclusion Steering Committee.      

 Previously, Debra was Vice President Diversity & Inclusion at MGM Resorts International, in Las Vegas, Nevada, where she was responsible for the strategic development and management of the company’s diversity and community affairs initiatives. In this role, she supported the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Committee of the board and worked with company executives to implement diversity-related policies and practices.   

Debra’s ability to strategically leverage the attributes of diversity and inclusion helped influence the company’s culture and solidify its reputation as a diversity leader in the U.S. Also, her contributions supported business development, helping earn millions of dollars in new revenue for the company. Additionally, within three years of joining MGM Resorts, her efforts garnered over $250 million in diversity-related (earned) editorial coverage for the company’s initiatives, further deepening its reputation in this field.   

She has held management positions at DaimlerChrysler, Chrysler Group, Mercedes-Benz USA and Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, where she designed strategies to reach diverse audiences, helped recruit and prepare the workforce to manufacture products for the global market, established and managed government affairs and corporate social responsibility programs, and developed diversity and inclusion initiatives. She has also held leadership positions in higher education and broadcast media.

Debra is the founder of the Women’s Leadership Conference, an annual professional development and leadership event in Las Vegas, Nevada. As a founding board member of the Chief Diversity Officers Roundtable established at Cornell University, she sought to promote the practice of diversity among America’s Fortune 500 companies. In Nevada, she founded the Diversity Professionals Network for networking and best practices sharing.   

Professional Honors and Recognition

Global Gaming Business magazine named Debra as one of the “25 People to Watch” for impacting diversity in the gaming industry. Black Enterprise and Savoy magazines recognized her as one of the nation’s leading diversity practitioners, and Urban Professional magazine named her as one of the top women executives in corporate America. Also, an independent national panel of automotive journalists named her “Woman of the Year” for impacting diversity within the automotive industry.     

Debra is recipient of numerous awards, including the “Woman to Watch” award from In Business Las Vegas; “Rising Star” award from Casino Enterprise Management magazine; the “Woman of Distinction” award from the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) of Southern Nevada; and the “Professional Services” award from the Latin Chamber of Commerce. The Women’s Chamber of Commerce of Nevada presented her with its highest honor, the Athena Award for leadership, and inducted her into the Hall of Fame in 2010.    

Community and Volunteer Service

During her tenure as Board President of the Urban Chamber of Commerce in Las Vegas, Debra led negotiations that helped secure the operations for a multimillion incubator in partnership with the City of Las Vegas. The facility is now a hub for the development of small and minority businesses.  

Debra’s board service has included the College of Southern Nevada Foundation, William Patterson University Foundation in New Jersey, Boys and Girls Club of Las Vegas, Nevada HAND, Las Vegas-Clark County Urban League, and KB Home Community Advisory Board.

In 2016, Debra was elected to the corporate board of Noland Health Services, a system of hospitals and senior living facilities. She also serves on the Advisory Board of the Center for Urban Education at The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and on the Board of Visitors for the College of Communication and Information Sciences at The University of Alabama (UA), where she was elected Secretary-Treasurer.  


Brasfield Gorrie

Office: 205.328.4000
Email | Web

Birmingham (Corporate HQ)
3021 7th Avenue South
Birmingham, AL 35233