When it comes to big corporate goals, small businesses are uniformly getting behind their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts. According to reporting published in Harvard Business Review, a full six out of 10 companies report having DEI strategies. Yet it can be hard to sustain DEI initiatives for the long term.
What makes it so challenging to keep DEI afloat? For one, changing the culture of any organization can be tough. People are naturally resistant to change — including change that benefits them. As Gallup points out, cultures don’t transform in a day. They transform over time and with constant effort and championing. That can be exhausting and difficult, especially for leaders new to taking up the DEI cause.
Another challenge inherent in embracing widespread DEI efforts is a misunderstanding of what DEI means. Many people assume that DEI involves demonizing one group to favor another. True DEI acknowledges past errors but avoids judgment in favor of improved, sustainable modeling and approaches. In other words, no one has to “lose” for everyone to gain.
Both these challenges are substantive. However, they’re not impossible to overcome. One method that works for many organizations is to bring in well-respected DEI speakers. DEI thought leaders with proven track records can break down barriers and open doors. They can motivate audiences through education and understanding, making it much easier to transform cultures and mindsets.
If you’ve never considered hiring a DEI presenter to help cement or kickoff your DEI strategy, now is a good time to start. Plenty of top-notch DEI-focused keynote speakers have hit the in-person and virtual event scene. Below is a smattering of DEI stars to book for your next annual meeting, conference, or employee appreciation gala.
1. Marissa Andrada
Billing herself as a “culture master and kindness catalyst”, Marissa Andrada brings a fresh perspective to the corporate DEI discussion. After helping more than five large businesses build cultures their employees loved including Chipotle, Andrada has now moved into the speaking and C-suite consulting space.
Andrada focuses heavily on the people aspects of all cultural movements. Her goal is to teach others how to support each other emotionally, socially, and professionally. As a speaker, she reminds attendees of their shared humanity as well as the asset of treating others with respect.
To get a taste of Andrada’s style, listen to her CultureCast podcast. Recent episodes include a variety of intriguing guests who echo her sentiments. You’ll learn quite a bit about Andrada and her positive viewpoint toward gender pay gaps, sustainability, equality, and more.
2. Becky Curran Kekula
DEI isn’t just an acronym for Becky Curran Kekula. It’s something that comes naturally to her, especially after being overlooked and dismissed as a little person. Now a vocal advocate for disability inclusion and equality, she opens audience members’ eyes to their biases toward the physically disabled. Often, those biases are unconscious. Bringing them into the light negates their influence.
Most recently, Kekula worked in the Equity & Inclusion department at the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA). Leveraging her background in entertainment industry marketing, she decided to found DisABILITY In Media. The company concentrates on providing authentic and uplifting social media portrayals and stories of differently-abled people.
Remember: DEI isn’t just about race or gender. DEI spans across all underrepresented and underserved populations, including people with visible and hidden disabilities. If you feel that many of your employees or other stakeholders aren’t comprehending DEI fully, invite Kekula to your next event.
3. Tarika Barrett
Want a heavy hitter as your next DEI speaker? Get on the calendar of Tarika Barrett. She’s the much-heralded founder of Girls Who Code and is well-known on the keynote circuit. Given her entrepreneurial endeavors, she’s a perfect match to enlighten your crowd about all things gender-inclusive.
Barrett is well-versed at highlighting paths to bring more women and minorities into STEM and other fields. However, your company doesn’t need to be underrepresented in STEM departments to benefit from her visionary ideas. Barrett is just as competent to talk about ways to redesign cultural and workflow frameworks to attract, onboard, and retain underrepresented performers.
It’s worth noting that Barrett is especially beloved by nonprofits. After all, Girls Who Code is a successful nonprofit. Consequently, if you’re looking for inspiration to start a corporate fund program or you’re running a nonprofit, Barrett could be a good fit.
4. Omar Johnson
Your marketing department will likely play a huge role in making your DEI expectations come to life. In fact, the content and messaging created by marketing can influence not just the way you’re seen by insiders but by outsiders. To help you grow your brand reputation toward becoming a known, genuine DEI powerhouse, bring in Omar Johnson.
Formerly the Beats by Dr. Dre CMO, Johnson can speak to DEI from a marketing perspective. He’s spoken about the need to understand individuals “where they are” before embarking on DEI campaigns. Johnson’s ability to explain diversity based on his past diversity successes might just be the motivator your executives and directors need.
If you’re just feeling stuck in your DEI journey, Johnson is available to get you unstuck. Be prepared to start moving forward after inviting him to be the motivational, memorable keynote at your 2023 or 2024 event.
5. Charlie Martin
Round out your preferred DEI speakers list with LGBTQ+ advocate and first transgender racing professional Charlie Martin. Born in the United Kingdom, Martin has taken the motorsports world by storm. Not only has Martin broken records, but she’s made her personal struggle with gender identity a platform for a DEI revolution.
Martin weaves both trans and LGBTQ+ issues into her guest appearances. Her talks are known for leaving audiences inspired as well as more understanding of gender, difficulties, and biases.
Though Martin is popular during June, which is Pride Month, she’s available year-round. She’ll assist your DEI team in getting your whole workforce to take a new look at LGBTQ+ allyship and advocacy.
Don’t give up hope just because your DEI program isn’t where you think it should be. Improving your DEI momentum is possible, particularly with a jumpstart from one of the many riveting DEI speakers.