Machen Family Backs Coalition for Equity and Opportunity to Unlock ‘Untapped Potential’

Wharton - University of Pennsylvania Coalition for Equity and Opportunity

Ayana Machen, WG’99, said it’s important to her that there’s a Wharton initiative examining barriers related to race, gender, and socioeconomic factors in education and business.

She said it’s vital in ensuring that companies “have diverse viewpoints and produce better outcomes.”

That’s why she and her husband, Ron Machen, made a gift to Wharton’s Coalition for Equity and Opportunity (CEO), which provides companies with data-driven guidance on redefining leadership standards in a way that prioritizes inclusion and access.

Ron said he hates to see unused talent and untapped potential due to a lack of diversity in spaces where decision-making happens.

Ayana Machen, WG’99, Kadari Machen, W’26
While the Machens — Ayana, WG’99, and Ron — show their support for members of Wharton’s community, they’re also raising one: Kadari Machen, W’26

“There’s a tremendous downside to that, not only from a social justice standpoint, but from an economic standpoint as well,” Ron said. “Diverse organizations perform better financially.”

Ron said the Machens are gifting support to CEO, because the initiative addresses this “business case for diversity” in a research-driven way.

CEO leverages Wharton’s corporate relationships and business insights, by offering evidence-based solutions to disproportionate opportunities and wealth gaps. Led by Kenneth Shropshire, senior advisor to Dean Erika James and David W. Hauck Professor Emeritus, the coalition equips current and future leaders with critical skills and encourages them to drive change in their industries.

Aside from its research database and downloadable toolkits, CEO hosts events like roundtable discussions about healthcare disparities and conversations about the implications of the recent Supreme Court ruling on higher education admissions.

Besides believing in the mission of CEO, giving back to Wharton is personal to the Machen family for a few reasons.

For Ayana, Wharton connected her with inspiring classmates from around the globe and opened the doors to career opportunities she “didn’t even know existed.” In addition to that, the School offered financial aid that made her graduate education possible.

“The Howard Mitchell Fellowship and other financial aid I received from Wharton allowed me to focus on learning,” Ayana said, “instead of how I was going to pay my bills.”

Ayana said she feels fortunate to be in a position where she can give her “time, talent, and treasure” to the school that was so foundational in her life.

For Ron, Wharton has had an incredible impact on two of the people he cares about the most: Ayana and their son, Kadari Machen, W’26.

“Wharton has helped in their development,” Ron said. “It’s important.”

Ayana said witnessing Kadari’s Wharton journey has made her even more eager to give back to the School.

“It’s been really exciting and gratifying to see the Wharton experience through his eyes,” Ayana said, “and to watch him fall in love with the school too.”

In the future, the Machens said they hope CEO extends its reach to Wharton’s classrooms, so Wharton graduates embark on their careers already knowing that diversity should be championed.

“I’d love to see whatever research is accumulated be put into some kind of curriculum,” Ron said, “so the next generation of leaders can see the value in creating opportunities for others.”