Thought leaders in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion you should know
I can’t think of any company, country, or industry that has diversity, equity and inclusion all figured out — it’s an emergent space where we’re all learning how to do better. We can always learn from the people leading the work and from the research. I am sharing this list of nine thought leaders who I admire. I admire that they center their values in their work, drive results and are generous in sharing their thoughts and ideas. It is weighted towards women of colour and queers in the tech sector. I think these people’s work experience, formal credentials and lived experience, makes what they have to say extremely valuable.
This year when we started having conversations about anti-racism, and specifically anti-Black racism, at work I would gut check my strategies and tactics against the detailed Sunday Twitter threads posted by Dr. Thomas. Dr Erin Thomas is the Heads of Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging and Talent Acquisition at Upwork and was named in Fortune Magazine’s 40 under 40. With a doctorate in social psychology Dr. Thomas pulls in relevant research and skillfully bridges it to action in a corporate setting. Her most recent Sunday thread is about how Kamala Harris’ win connects to the future of women leaders with a bonus of awesome illustrated and animated gifs.
Candice is one of the few DEI leaders working in the venture capital space. She describes her job as creating inclusive strategies for Google Ventures and its portfolio companies, and helping the firm expand diversity across the entrepreneurs it funds. She’s my mentor and I’ve been able to level up my strategy and execution from our conversations.
When she was at Pinterest she led impressive increases in diversity internally on their teams and shared some of what they learned in HBR. Externally she made an impact in the Pinterest product too. The skin tone filter allows users to find makeup that is relevant for them and was featured in Wired. Personally I’m delighted by this — a blue-red lipstick looks really good with my skin tone but an orange-red makes me look ill. I love citing this example of product inclusion.
She’s not a prolific social media poster but when she posts it’s useful and thoughtful. Candice recently shared a conversation with UK-based Dr. Jonathan Ashong-Lamptey on anti-racism in the workplace across cultures. In September she wrote a piece for Fast Company titled How to build a race-conscious equity, diversity, and inclusion strategy outlining four not-so-easy steps companies must make to move from recognition to integration.
I admire the boldness, honesty and integrity that Michelle Kim brings to the DEI space. She is the co-founder and CEO of Awaken and says: “I dream big and get sh*t done.”
I’ve shared these posts many times this year:
- How to Manage Your Team in Times of Political Trauma: Here’s what to do and say to boost psychological safety
- How to Lead When You’re Afraid
- A Love Letter to “the Onlys”: Underrepresented People Experiencing Tokenism and Isolation at Work
As someone who is mixed race and Asian, I appreciate her writing on how Asian people can show up as allies for Black communities and how Asians perpetuate anti-Black racism has helped me deepen my anti-racism work. 5 months ago, when there was a huge surge of interest in unconscious bias training, she put together a spreadsheet of Black Owned DEI Companies + Consultants Currently Accepting New Corporate Clients.
I can’t wait to read the book that she is currently writing.
I’ve been a fan of Aubrey’s for awhile. She shares a lot of her corporate DEI work. While at Atlassian she shared the Balanced Teams Diversity Assessment tool and Atlassian’s Team Playbook which has several DEI plays, including How To Run Inclusive Meetings. I’m a huge fan of Culture Amp and as their Director of Equitable Design & Impact at Culture Amp she shares a lot of useful information like, how they’re preparing managers to support employees during the US election week.
I love that she’s unapologetic about her politics and very human on Twitter.
Steven Huang (LinkedIn)
His posts on LinkedIn are thoughtful and invite interesting conversations. A couple of months ago he posted a real life scenario on cancel culture and invited people to “collectively broaden our nuanced understanding of this topic seeking to understand other POVs”.
Lily regularly writes several times a week on LinkedIn. They clearly articulate things that are still half baked in my mind or say them in a way that shifts my thinking to include different perspectives. Here’s one example:
I no longer ask clients to pick company values or describe their own company #culture. Every time, leaders come up with generic, cookie-cutter terms drawn from the same pool of 50 words. “Excellence.” “Integrity.” “Quality.”
Overwhelmingly generic. Nobody knows what they mean, not your employees, not your lawyers, not your leaders. They’re not really culture, or values — just words.
Now, I flip the question on its head: “what AREN’T your values?” “What ISN’T your culture?” “What are the ANTITHESES to the identity of your company?”
They are the author of The Ethical Sellout. Lily’s article in HBR Do Your Employees Feel Safe Reporting Abuse and Discrimination? clearly outlines four practices that you can adopt to rebuild employee trust in reporting. They were also on the HBR Women at Work podcast talking about how the gender binary restricts people at work and how to be respectful and supportive of gender-diverse colleagues.
Dr. Gassam Asare has a PhD in Applied Organizational Psychology and is prolific writer. She is Senior Contributing Writer for Forbes and has published hundreds of articles on topics from anti-racism, hiring practices, inclusive leadership and examining various case studies of companies through the lens of DEI. I’m grateful that one of those case studies profiled the work I led at Mozilla on trans and non-binary inclusion.
Here’s a few of her articles about anti-Black racism and system change that are all Forbes editors’ picks:
- Dear Companies: Your BLM Posts Are Cute But We Want To See Policy Change
- Misogynoir: The Unique Discrimination That Black Women Face
- If Black Lives Matter, Pay Your Black Women Equitably
She is also the author of Dirty Diversity: A Practical Guide to Foster an Equitable and Inclusive Workplace for All.
Dr. Saska is the Co-Founder & CEO Feminuity, a DEI consultancy based in Toronto that works with a lot of US technology companies. Her PhD is in Equity Studies and Technology and Innovation Studies. She is a frequent speaker and shares useful content including some of the practical guides her team has written including:
- A Guide to LGBTQ2S+ Inclusion for HR, People and DEI Leaders — a super comprehensive guide that includes leading policy practices, benefits and inclusive culture. There’s an excellent glossary and really cute illustrations.
- The Future is Inclusive, Accessible and Digital: A Guide to Accessible and Inclusive Social Media Practices
I learned about Namedrop, a service where you can record how you pronounce your name, from Sarah’s email signature. (BTW — My name is Tah-rah, not Terra)
Joelle is the Founder and CEO of Paradigm, a strategy firm that partners with companies to build more inclusive organizations. She leads an amazing team of DEI practitioners.She’s written for HBR Fortune and signal boosts articles people on her team write. Recently she coauthored a post with Dr. Evelyn Carter and Y-Vonne Hutchinson In Fortune magazine asking Why is President Trump trying to kill off diversity training programs? I really enjoyed her tweets during last week’s US election.