10 Diversity & Inclusion Thought Leaders Who Are Transforming The Workplace and Beyond

June 19, 2020
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Diversity is so much more than a buzzword but we’re going to let the stats do the talking. According to a recent study, diverse companies produce 19% more revenue than companies that don’t value diversity. In fact, the study found that “increasing the diversity of leadership teams leads to more and better innovation and improved financial performance.” And yet, a disheartening study found that white men account for 72% of corporate leadership at 16 of the Fortune 500 Companies.

If we know that diversity increases the bottom line, then why aren’t we seeing more of it from the top down? Unfortunately, women of color still face more obstacles and a steeper path to leadership, from receiving less support from managers to getting promoted more slowly. Because of these workplace challenges, Black women are also more inclined to go out on their own. In fact, Black female-owned businesses make up 21% of all women-owned businesses, making it the largest segment of women-owned businesses after non-minority women.

So, why is progress on diversity so slow? Well, it’s as Juliette Austin, Senior Diversity Equity & Inclusion Strategist at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation says, it’s going to take more than investing in human capital, progressive hiring practices, or HR policies to achieve true diversity and inclusion. “Inclusion is what makes diversity stick,” says Austin. “Inclusion makes diversity meaningful.” Because diversity isn’t just a “nice to have” it’s integral to our personal and professional development, innovation, and financial performance.

So, today, in honor of Juneteenth— the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States—we are sharing 10 diversity and inclusion thought leaders who are transforming the workplace and beyond. Please follow their lead, do the work, and take anti-racist actions so we can achieve equity and true inclusion for all.

Dr. Akilah Cadet, MPH, Coach, Consultant, Founder, Change Cadet, and Host, Change Cadet Podcast

After experiencing judgment, “isms,” and barriers in the workplace, Dr. Akilah Cadet decided to break down those walls and dismantle the bias that contributed to the inequality that exists for Black women and women of color. So, she launched Change Cadet where she prepares individuals and companies to be “soldiers of change in the workforce” so there can be more women and people of color at the top. This includes services that support diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging (DEIB) including executive coaching, strategic planning, workshops, and problem-solving.

Cadet is changing the face of the stereotypical leader so that no one will feel how she felt most of her career. Her latest podcast episode title “For White Women” with Adrienne Kimball of The Melanated Soul and Chief Talent Officer at Rubicon Programs will help you gain a “better understanding of the work it will take to undo deep-rooted systems of discrimination and white supremacy and how you can participate.”


Candice Morgan, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Partner, GV (Google Ventures)

With over a decade of experience in diversity strategy and practice, Candice Morgan has been at the forefront of inclusive initiatives that are shaking up Silicon Valley and fixing tech’s major diversity issue. Before her role at GV, Candice Morgan was the Head of Inclusion and Diversity at Pinterest where she led strategy and programs to enhance a diverse and inclusive company including how to bring diversity to tech products. She curated impactful D&I programs such as Pinterest Apprenticeship, Knit Con—candidates from non-traditional tech backgrounds can experience engineering at Pinterest with the opportunity to become a full-time employee—and worked with their product teams to develop features like skin tone ranges to make Pinterest’s search more inclusive. She also headed up the research, advisory, and practices for Catalyst—the leading nonprofit for women in business.

Randi Bryant, Sista-intendent of Inclusivity

After years as a diversity and inclusion strategist, Randi B. was tired of helping corporations simply “check the diversity and inclusion box” or be seen as “doing the right thing without addressing the often-uncomfortable topics of unequal pay, monocultural executive team, survey results, employee conflicts, microaggressions, and more. This is why she went out on her own.

Now, Bryant is focused on spearheading real change. As an author, speaker, and Sista•intendent of Inclusivity she’s cultivating conversations to tackle tough racial, gender, and cultural issues by equipping them with the right tools and resources to foster a real, open dialogue and to create spaces where everyone feels as if they belong.

Minda Harts, Founder, and CEO, The Memo and Best-Selling Author, The Memo: What Women of Color Need To Know To Secure A Seat At The Table

 Minda Harts is a popular thought-leader and speaker on leadership, equity, and entrepreneurship that advance women of color. She is also an assistant professor of public service of NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and the founder of The Memo LLC—a career development company providing the tools, access, and community for women of color and the companies they work. She wrote a best-selling book by the same name, The Memo: What Women of Color Need To Know To Secure A Seat At The Table, and she speaks in-depth on these topics in her weekly career podcast Secure the Seat.

Juliette Austin, Senior Diversity Equity & Inclusion Strategist, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Founder, Orisa Tii

As an experienced diversity and inclusion (D&I) consultant, Juliette Austin has one mission: To be a “conscientious change agent and disruptor in increasing representation and belonging in the workplace.” And she’s doing just that by managing and leading D&I initiatives across major global organizations including Ernst & Young, Canon USA, Buzzfeed, and currently at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. A huge part of her role is moving companies from diversity to inclusion.

”Oftentimes organizations treat diversity as a hiring blitz to bring in as many women and black and brown faces as possible,” she told Forbes. “And they may do a really great job at bringing people into the building, but if they are not addressing inclusion, it becomes this revolving door—bringing them in, then spinning them out just as quickly. That’s a huge cost for any company, the hiring and rehiring cycle is not cheap. Nor do you create really good brand ambassadors in the end. Inclusion is what makes diversity stick. Inclusion makes diversity meaningful.”

Ellen McGirt, Senior Editor, Fortune Magazine, Co-Chair, The CEO Initiative


Award-winning journalist, Ellen McGirt has been diversifying the media landscape with her in-depth reporting on race, culture, and leadership. Her Fortune column, raceAhead focuses on racism and allyship. McGirt was formerly a senior writer at Fast Company and Editor at Large for Time Inc. She’s also a regular on TV shows such as Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, CNN, and others.


Myisha T. Hill, Author, Speaker, Coach, Founder, Check Your Privilege, and Brown Sisters Speak


Myisha is passionate about the mental wellness and empowerment of women. As a mental health activist, speaker, coach, author, and entrepreneur, she works closely with organizations and community groups to take “white people on a self-reflective journey exploring their relationship with power, privilege, and racism.” Her Check Your Privilege platform seeks to move white people beyond passive ally-ship to action-driven co-conspirators. This guided journey (and best-selling book, Check Your Privilege: Live into the Work) aims to deepen awareness around your actions and how they affect the mental health of Black, Brown, Indigenous, People of Color ( BBIPoC).


Avery Francis, CEO and Founder, Build With Bloom and Sunday Showers, Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity Champion

While she is not an anti-racism educator, she is an HR leader, entrepreneur, and diversity, inclusion, and equity champion. Avery has spent her career working with leading startups to navigate the challenging world of talent, hiring and building creative cultures worth being a part of. She is the founder of the Bridge Program, A free code school for women-identified and non-binary people on tech. Formerly the Head of Talent at League and Director of Talent at Rangle.io, Avery specializes in helping the world’s best startups and most talented people grow their teams and their careers. She also shares mini-guides on Instagram on topics such as “9 Ways White People Can Spend Their Privilege” and “Things Not to Say to a Bi-Racial Woman” which “is a reflection of my learning and lived experiences as a Black woman.”


Dr. Sarah Saska, Co-Founder, and CEO, Feminuity

Dr. Sarah Saska is the co-founder and CEO of Feminuity, a global strategy firm that partners with leading technology startups through to Fortune 500 companies to build diverse teams, develop equitable systems, design inclusive products, and company cultures. She has a Ph.D in Equitable and Ethical Tech from Western University and led pioneering doctoral research at the intersection of diversity, inclusion, and innovation which highlighted the need for companies, namely those in the technology and innovation sector, to embed diversity, equity, and inclusion into the core of their business. In 2018, she spoke on the TEDx stage about why “We’re On the Verge of a Diversity Debt Crisis.”

Mini Timmaraju, Executive Director, Diversity & Inclusion, Comcast NBCUniversal

With over 20 years as a professional leader and executive in the government, policy, political campaign, and advocacy space, Mini Timmaraju has an extensive background amplifying diversity and inclusion, gender issues, and community outreach strategies. As the Executive Director on the Diversity and Inclusion team for Comcast NBCUniversal, Timmaraju oversees corporate strategy and key initiatives supporting company-wide goals on diversity and inclusion.



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