On my first day as the Head of Diversity and Inclusion, Jo Cranford, our Director of Engineering, sent me a message: “What are we going to do about the t-shirts?” I had no idea what she was talking about – I thought our unisex t-shirts fit great! Jo told me that was not the case and that many women at Culture Amp were uncomfortable wearing them.
I learned an important lesson – every person has areas they understand or notice less than others. As a DEI practitioner, I must cover as many of these areas as possible to create a diverse workplace and equitable employee experience, particularly for people on the margins. Every DEI function should follow a diverse group of influencers to ensure they can account for as many of these differences in experiences as possible.
So, as the Culture Amp team worked to put together our Diversity, Inclusion, and Intersectionality report in 2018 and 2019, we reflected upon the work of great people who have come before us. Whether it’s running a thought-provoking workshop, leading the charge for inclusion internally, championing diversity in venture capital firms, or many other worthy initiatives, these workplace DEI influencers have inspired us.
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The group that we’re highlighting is in no way an exhaustive list. We’re looking forward to hearing who has inspired you. Thank you to those who have recommended influencers to be featured. We're proud to present our updated list for 2019, and we hope to continue recognizing more changemakers.
Lenora Billings-Harris is a diversity strategist, author, and Hall of Fame speaker. Through her company, UbuntuGlobal, she partners with clients to leverage diversity to increase inclusion and reduce the impact of unconscious bias - ultimately leading to improved bottom-line results.
What she teaches us: How to respect and value differences
“Diversity, inclusion, respect, and fairness are concepts that make some people reluctant to discuss them. I work hard to create a safe, nonjudgmental, and uplifting environment that makes exploring sensitive topics a positive journey for all. Most importantly our participants leave our sessions with the knowledge to activate easy-to-apply actions, and a deeper understanding of the concepts discussed. All programs, processes, and resources reflect my belief that we are all more effective, productive, and innovative when we honor and value our own uniqueness while at the same time valuing and respecting the differences of others."
Torin Perez is a diversity, equity, and inclusion consultant on a mission to inspire authenticity and inclusive leadership in the workplace. He is also a sought-after speaker and the author of the book Who Am I to Lead? The World Is Waiting for You.
In the above talk, Torin weaves together stories, psychology, and actionable ideas to inspire people to become more inclusive leaders. He also offers a fresh perspective on recognizing bias and encourages individuals to lead from where they are, regardless of their rank, title, or role.
Carin Taylor has global responsibility for the development and execution of Workday’s inclusion and diversity strategy. She brings over two decades of experience at Cisco Systems and Genentech. She specialized in building and leading highly effective teams and create strategies to enable large organizations to leverage diversity and inclusion to drive innovation.
“Diversity and inclusion is less about a program, and more about helping people become comfortable enough to have a dialog about their experiences - including times when we have felt like an outsider."
Ryan Carson currently oversees Treehouse, an online technology school. Treehouse is presently in a partnership with AnitaB.org, The Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and Aminé for Project: Unlock the American Dream. The program's mission is to place 100k Apprentices, raise incomes by $40k, cover 100% of families with healthcare, and create $200b of generational wealth and $0 student debt.
“[If] we only build products for white people, then we limit our market. And so there’s no way that I as a white guy understand what a black woman needs and wants. And so if I don’t have any black women on my development team and my engineering team, how are we going to build products to actually meet those needs? So diversity and equity and inclusion are really important from a business perspective."
Arlan Hamilton is the founder and Managing Partner of Backstage Capital, a venture capital dedicated to minimizing funding disparities in tech by investing in high-potential founders who are people of color, women, and/or LGBTQ+. She built the firm from the ground up while homeless. Backstage has invested nearly $7 million into 125+ startup companies led by underestimated founders.
“It was crazy to me that 90% of venture funding was going to white men when that is not how innovation, intelligence, and drive are dispersed in the real world. I had no background in finance, but I just saw it as a problem. Maybe it’s because I was coming from such a different place that I could recognize it."
Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Snap
Oona King is Snap’s first Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion and was most recently Google’s Director of Diversity Strategy. She’s also a former member of the British Parliament with the Labour Party and a former Senior Policy Advisor and speechwriter to the Prime Minister.
In 2016, Oona introduced an amendment to Parliament that requires all companies in the United Kingdom with over 250 employees to publish their gender pay gap. As a result, the law she helped pass has had far-reaching influences across the UK, Silicon Valley, and beyond.
Michelle has been a social justice activist and community organizer serving on organizations like the San Francisco LGBTQ Speakers Bureau, UC LGBTIQ Association Steering Committee, San Francisco Human Rights Commission’s Advisory Committee, and LYRIC youth nonprofit’s Board of Directors. Awaken offers interactive, thought-provoking workshops that enable today's workforce to address tough diversity and inclusion, leadership, and culture questions head-on. They aim to create a compassionate space for uncomfortable conversations to develop inclusive leaders and teams.
Professor and author, Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
Iris Bohnet, the Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government, is the Academic Dean of Harvard Kennedy School. As a behavioral economist, she combines insights from economics and psychology to improve decision-making in organizations and society, often with a gender or cross-cultural perspective.
Candice Morgan leads strategy and programs at Pinterest to enhance a diverse and inclusive company. She has over a decade of experience in diversity strategy and practice from her time at Catalyst, the leading nonprofit for research, advisory, and practices on women in business. She is a frequent speaker and advisor at conferences and events worldwide.
As part of her role, Candice thinks of initiatives to bring more diversity to the Pinterest product. One of the initiatives she’s currently working on with the engineering, product, and design teams is developing features like skin tone ranges, making the Pinterest search more inclusive.
Minda Harts is a seasoned speaker and thought leader on advancing women of color, leadership, equity, and entrepreneurship. She’s an assistant professor of public service at NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and the founder of The Memo LLC, a career development company for women of color.
What she teaches us: Closing the racial and gender pay gap
Before founding Paradigm, Joelle was a women’s rights employment lawyer. As a Skadden Fellow at Equal Rights Advocates, she represented women in gender discrimination and sexual harassment litigation and advocated that local, state, and federal policies ensure equal pay and other workplace protections for women. Joelle’s legal background highlighted the consequences that can result from companies failing to consider diversity and inclusion early and inspired her to create Paradigm.
“Is this an organization where people feel like they can speak up and their ideas are going to be heard and valued? And you can imagine why in an organization where that's the case, harassment is less likely to happen because you're going to have a culture where people are speaking up when they see things that are potentially problematic."
Cynthia Owyoung is an integrated Talent Management and Diversity Leader who has built great talent and the best places to work for over twenty years. Throughout her career, she's been passionate about developing diverse leaders at all levels. She is an expert in applying qualitative and quantitative research to gain unique employee insights and create innovative employee engagement strategies.
“A lot of companies treat Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) as volunteer organizations with a focus on building a community of support around a particular affinity. This perspective needs to shift. ERGs should be seen as business-related resources aligned to strategic goals––one of which is to develop the next generation of leaders inside the company."
Dr. Sarah Saska is an academic turned entrepreneur. Using an evidence-based research approach, Feminuity supports innovative companies to embed diversity and inclusion into the core of their business. While pursuing her Ph.D. at Western University, Sarah developed research on the importance of diversity in innovation. She then became a fellow at MaRS Discovery District to get the support needed to implement her research.
“Diversity debt begins with a few co-founders, bootstrapping in the early days, with a ‘get shit done' mindset. Such a mindset doesn’t typically include a focus on diversity, and when it does the focus is viewed as ‘nice to have."
Katelin is passionate about building scalable, inclusive institutional cultures. She started her career alongside the storytellers at Pixar Animation Studios, where she was first introduced to the idea of intentional cultural development. One thread binds everything together throughout her career: enabling people through belonging to create beautiful, innovative products.
What she teaches us: Cognitive diversity matters, and diversity goes hand in hand with inclusion
“Your demographic diversity informs your experiential diversity, but there is a third bucket that people don't talk about frequently, and that's cognitive diversity. The part that is critical to support the diversity that you're bringing in through your recruiting processes is actually the inclusion part. When people talk about diversity and inclusion initiatives, they go hand in hand. You can't have one without the other."
Head of D&I, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
At the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Aiko introduced the first campus-wide conversations on racial equity. Her leadership and launch of ERGs catalyzed the organization's visible presence and engagement in racial equity and D&I matters. Now at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, she leads the charge by creating and implementing the first organization-wide diversity & inclusion strategic plan, including developing internal education, metrics, and a dashboard.
“Learning is ongoing. The D&I field, taxonomy, approaches, and high stakes consequences of faux pas statements and actions are happening every moment and every day. The D&I leader should be all up in the mix with their finger on the pulse."
Melinda works in the tech industry, solving diversity and inclusion challenges. With a storytelling background and experience with large-scale culture evolution initiatives, she is a capable strategic advisor for global tech companies, tech hubs, and governments. Her work includes the full tech ecosystem, from education to workplace, entrepreneurship, policy, and media.
“Don’t tolerate people and actions that keep other people from thriving. Don’t allow anyone to make women, people of color, and people with disabilities feel unwelcome and inadequate. (The data says diversity and inclusion makes teams better, but your motivation should be to do the right - aka human - thing)."
Global Head of Belonging, Inclusion & Experience, Coinbase
Tariq advocates that individuals should not be defined by their life circumstances but empowered to defy them. He has experience in community organizing, coalition, and relationship building in political and personal spheres. He is well known for his work as Head of Inclusion and Diversity at Lyft.
Diversity & Inclusion Trainer and Consultant; Culture Design Expert
Aaron is a diversity and inclusion consultant who creates cultures where people of all identities thrive. He has a decade of experience in diversity & inclusion, facilitating culture design programs everywhere, from elite consulting firms to start-ups to large government agencies. As a white, gay, transgender man, he specializes in LGBTQ inclusion, gender equality, healthy masculinity, and white allyship.
Co-founder and Principal Analyst at RedThread Research
Stacia helps companies learn how to enable their people by providing insights on talent, technology, and a better way to work. She is an analyst, researcher, speaker, thought leader, and writer on talent management, leadership, diversity and inclusion, and HR technology.
Leslie has a wealth of experience building, motivating, and managing globally distributed teams with different cultural backgrounds. He is an expert at designing and implementing development best practices to support geographically distributed teams.
“Help leaders get comfortable with being uncomfortable. It doesn't matter if you don't have an answer. It doesn't matter if you don't have a solution. If you share the data people will come to you with solutions. It helps everyone learn, it helps everyone get better."
Diversity and Disability Integration Specialist Managing Member at Bradshaw LeRoux Consulting
Lesa is a leading specialist in creating disability-inclusive organizational, governmental, and societal cultures. She combines her professional experience with her personal journey as a person with a disability to deliver an impactful message of the value of diversity in today’s world. Lesa and her business partner, Nicky Le Roux, started Bradshaw Le Roux Consulting in 1998 and are considered leading specialists in sourcing, placing, and integrating people with a disability into the world of work.
“We see the disability, and we judge people’s abilities based on that. The problem in the workplace is if you have low benchmarks, then you don’t see the value that the person can actually add to your organization."
Jay is a nonbinary inclusion strategist and facilitator specializing in workplace and product inclusion for innovative communities. With a Master’s degree in Gender Politics and Education from NYU, Jay founded Argo Collective to help teams innovate their products so they’re more inclusive and successful. Argo works with companies of all sizes to build a tactical plan to improve their products and innovate new ways to serve a more diverse (bigger) market, increasing their revenue, all while having a net positive impact on the world.
“We know “Hey, guys” is a common default greeting. While it may seem harmless, you might be misgendering* someone and not even know it. Try using y’all, friends, folks, people, team, everybody, or everyone. Challenge yourself by omitting “guys” for an entire day.”
Currently: Global Head of Equitable Design & Impact, Culture Amp
Aubrey works cross-functionally to provide opportunities for everyone to join Atlassian and have the chance to do their best work. Her influence covers the talent lifecycle from increasing access to technical education for underrepresented minorities through recruiting, retention, and advancement of all Atlassians. She relies heavily on empirical social science and has developed a new team-level paradigm for external diversity reporting. She believes that leading with empathy is critical to creating meaningful, sustainable change and highly effective teams.
“People are tired of talking about diversity and inclusion, frustrated by talks not turning into impactful actions, and overwhelmed by the number of issues to address and the scope of what must change. While respondents continue to say that they care about diversity and inclusion, action declined across the board."
Max is a trans-masculine workplace inclusion strategist and co-founder of Argo Collective. Drawing on their extensive background in design, they train organizations to use creativity, empathy, and collaboration to tackle workplace inclusion challenges. For the past 12 years, they worked as a User Experience and Service Designer, guiding Design Thinking workshops for various organizations, from startups to Fortune 50 companies.
“For a cisgender person (a person whose gender is in alignment with the sex they were assigned at birth- more on that another time!) there is little to no risk in sharing your pronouns. For a person who is transgender or nonbinary, sharing pronouns can be a bit riskier. That’s why we ask cisgender people to lead the charge by sharing pronouns. It normalizes the process, has little risk, and actually makes for a safer environment for everyone.”
Lauren is a scientific expert on diversity and inclusion, specializing in belonging. After 20 years of doing social science research, she now transforms data-driven insights from science into easy-to-use “small wins” strategies to create diverse and inclusive workplaces. Her passion is using data, design thinking, and empathy to design inclusive workplaces where people feel a sense of belonging and can work at their highest level.
Laura is a proud immigrant raised in Silicon Valley who has worked in tech since her first internship with Hewlett-Packard at 17. She has since joined teams at Google, YouTube, Jawbone, and Twitter, where she was a founding member of the International team. Her passion for diversity in tech inspired her to start Atipica.
“The metrics and the algorithms can help us push for equality, and we should strive for equity. It’s not just about having data and setting it aside, we need actionable items to create a workforce that’s equitable for everyone."
Founder at Level Playing Field Institute and Partner at Kapor Capital
Freada is a Founding Partner of Kapor Capital, which invests in seed-stage tech startups that create positive social impact by closing gaps of access, opportunity, or outcome for low-income communities and communities of color. She is also a founding member at Project Include, a community of women in Silicon Valley working to provide practical, effective diversity and inclusion recommendations for tech companies.
“Without a commitment to diversity and inclusion starting from the top levels of leadership within the VC community, within individual firms, and within startups, VC will continue to replicate biases in their hiring and promotion of investors and, in turn, replicate biases in the founders they invest in and the amount of capital invested."
Director of Diversity and Inclusion Programs, Women 2.0
Matthew’s background includes work as COO at Jurispect – in regulatory FinTech compliance – and FWD.us – working towards intelligent immigration reform. He was on the Global Ethics and Compliance founding team at Google, where he had responsibility for training and investigations, metrics, and compliance technology procurement.
A serial entrepreneur, Wayne has experience building partnerships with both small and large companies. His advice on diversity and inclusion in tech has been featured in TechCrunch, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal. His life goal is to educate entrepreneurs passionate about using technology to change the world. Through Change Catalyst and Tech Inclusion, he helps to build inclusive tech ecosystems through strategic advising, startup programs, and resources.
“Discussing mental health has always been a taboo in America, in tech, and especially in the black community. Historically, conversations around mental health are seen as a weakness. I’ve started the process to learn more about my emotional state. First, I had to take responsibility for my mindset and then take action to work on my depression daily."
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