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100 DEI Leaders To Follow

It’s no secret that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) roles have grown tremendously in the past decade. 

According to Indeed, there has been quite an increase in recent years, stating, “Between September 2019 and September 2020, Indeed job postings in diversity, inclusion, and belonging have risen 56.3%—from 140 jobs per million to 219.” Looking further back, LinkedIn data suggests, “the number of people globally with the head of diversity title more than doubled (107% growth) over the last five years. The number with the director of diversity title grew 75% and chief diversity officer, 68%.” 

It’s clear we are beyond explaining the business case for DEI. That case has been made. And DEI has become a top priority for companies and talent teams (rightfully so). Organizations are evaluating their internal DEI data, developing DEI recruitment and sourcing strategies, creating ambitious diversity goals, and building out impressive strategies to increase diversity efforts. 

But how are these companies going from A to Z? It starts with exceptional DEI leaders. 

DEI professionals challenge the status quo and flawed thinking. They build practices not for the center, but for the margins. They are always examining who is not in the room and aren’t afraid to ask the tough questions. All of the progress we have made cannot be accomplished without DEI professionals leading the charge. And with that, we want to recognize and highlight notable individuals championing diversity, equity, and inclusion in their organizations. 

We value all of the hard work these individuals are doing to create a more equitable world. 

100 DEI Leaders to Follow 

We’ve spoken with some of these DEI leaders and asked them to share more about what motivated them to get into DEI as a career path, ways in which they drive D&I at their organization and the biggest challenges they have encountered thus far. 

Let’s learn from these experts. 

Anika Balkan

Head of Diversity and Inclusion at OpenTable and KAYAK

Anika Balkan leads Diversity and Inclusion for OpenTable and KAYAK. Previously, she led external and C-Suite equality engagements for Salesforce, and has held numerous roles within the Diversity, Inclusion, and Culture development space at Walmart and the Department of Defense. Anika graduated with a BA in Political Science from Sonoma State University and in 2018, was awarded the Advocate of the Year Award by Information Age and Women in IT. Anika Lives in Oakland CA.

What motivated you to make DE&I your career path? 

Anika explains, “I’ve always been interested in social justice, but one experience that really motivated me to do this work professionally was the experience of seeing a close friend and former colleague come out. Their experience was a very hard one because initially, their family was not supportive. During that time I saw firsthand how important having a support network at work and a culture of Allyship was for my friend.  When this work gets challenging, I often think back to my friends' experience and am reinspired by their story. “ 

What are some of the ways you champion diversity and inclusion at your organization? 

Anika reveals, “Since joining KAYAK and OpenTable, my proudest accomplishment so far has been the work we have done to apply a D&I mindset to some of our core processes and systems. As a result, we’ve made steps toward building a stronger feedback culture, improved our recruiting efforts and the way we approach inclusive marketing.  We are still at the beginning of our journey in many ways, but these changes have been tangible and felt throughout the organization and that is very exciting.”

In the D&I space, what have been the biggest challenges you have encountered so far? 

“This work is always evolving, never done and there isn’t a set “playbook.”  Even the best in this field are still learning every day. For me personally, the self-work never stops. There are many perspectives and experiences I’m not yet aware of or don’t yet understand so I regularly challenge myself to stay in a learning mindset,  practice deep listening and building empathy so I can make the best and most objective decisions to support progress within the team,” explains Anika. 

Aryeh Lehrer 

Vice President – Talent Management & Acquisition and DEI at Comcast.

Aryeh Lehrer currently serves as Vice President – Talent Management & Acquisition and DEI at Comcast. He additionally sits on the Advisory Board for the National Diversity Council’s Coalition for Racial Justice & Equity and Alumni Board of Directors for Florida Atlantic University, where he completed his undergraduate studies. Currently an MBA Student at Barry University, Aryeh resides in Palm Beach County, FL with his wife and two children.

What motivated you to make DEI your career path? 

Aryeh shares, “DEI, at its core, is about making an impact; which has always been my strongest professional motivation. An intent focus on success in DEI strategy gives us the ability to make a positive impact in so many ways - on our communities, the experience of our customers and employees, and our overall success as a company.”

Beric Alleyne

Global Head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at eBay

Beric is eBay’s Global Head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) and is a board member of eBay’s Foundation. Beric is a people-centric transformational change agent with experience in the public sector as well as the finance and technology industries. Beric is responsible for the formation and delivery of eBay’s comprehensive DEI strategy. Recently, Beric was named a 2020 40 Under 40 honoree by the Silicon Valley Business Journal.

Prior to eBay, Beric was a Vice President at Goldman Sachs responsible for several strategic initiatives that brought transparency to clients’ trading relationships, delivered proprietary technology, reduced operating expenditure, and launched new lines of businesses. Prior to Goldman Sachs, Beric led a team of engineers responsible for building and maintaining a public utility’s customer relationship management system and he founded several entrepreneurial endeavors dealing in cross-border trade and real estate development. Beric graduated with a B.Sc. in Computing & Information Systems (Hons) from The University of London and an M.B.A. from Howard University. He currently resides in San Jose, California. 

What are some of the ways you champion diversity and inclusion at your organization?

Beric notes, “Through designing and delivering eBay’s global diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy I’ve been focused on injecting DEI best practices into everything we do across the company. From our people policies and products to our incredible community of buyers and sellers, my goal is to ensure our workforce, workplace and marketplace are diverse, inclusive, and equitable spaces for everyone.” 

Christopher Mitchell

Chief Diversity Officer at Crowe

In 2020, Crowe LLP recently named Christopher Mitchell as the firm’s first chief diversity officer. Crowe is a public accounting, consulting and technology firm with offices around the world. Mitchell has been with Crowe for six years, serving as a consulting principal within the technology, media and telecommunications services group prior to this appointment. In his new officer role, Mitchell is responsible for driving an innovative and programmatic agenda to support a culture of inclusion in line with the firm’s vision and strategy. He has an MBA in IT management from Touro University and a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Texas at San Antonio.

What motivated you to make DEI your career path? 

“I did not target DEI as a profession.  All of the contributions that I have made since joining Crowe and before; allowed me to be a logical fit as we continue our DEI journey.  I believe that inclusivity is necessary for any organization to achieve its strategic goals; together much can be accomplished,” says Christopher. 

What are some of the ways you champion diversity and inclusion at your organization? 

Christopher shares, “We champion DEI at Crowe by listening to our “Crowe Family.”  Needs can vary from person to person regarding how they feel about inclusion.  We have developed mentor and sponsorship programs, organized affinity groups, structured a DEI Council comprised of executive leadership, and expanded our DEI library and training programs to cater to the specific needs of our family members.  We routinely survey and hold group and individual focus sessions with our “Crowe Family” to ensure that we have not missed the mark.”

In the D&I space, what have been the biggest challenges you have encountered so far? 

He states, “The biggest challenge is solving for inclusion and belonging.  It is a different formula for each person at the Firm.  Active listening and pivoting on our DEI Strategy has proven to aid in our success with the ‘Crowe Family.’”

Colin Jansen

Manager Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging - Internationalat Kraft Heinz Company

Bringing cross-functional experience, Colin Jansen is currently managing Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging at the Kraft Heinz Company. Within this role he is responsible for the DI&B programs for all +17k employees across the international locations (LATAM / EMEA / APAC). Having studied innovation management and through previous experience on internal business development and program management, both at Scotch & Soda and the Kraft Heinz Company, he is combining a design thinking approach with his program management skills to ensure continuous improvement of employee engagement and experience. He truly supports the company value ‘We Demand Diversity’, with a drive for people development and a passion for inclusive culture.

What motivated you to make DEI your career path?

Colin explains, “One word: fairness. I've grown to learn that there's still a lot to improve about how to think and approach fairness, and this is also where equity comes in as part of DEI. I think it was during my time volunteering in Laos where this really culminated - those bright young kids not having the same opportunities in life as I did, that really broke my heart.” 

In the D&I space, what have been the biggest challenges you have encountered so far?

“I started this role during the first months of the pandemic, so it's safe to say that that has been a challenge! At KraftHeinz we explicitly include belonging as part of D&I, and fostering belonging when everyone was in lockdown has been a challenge. I can't imagine how it must have been to start at a new company, not having met any colleagues in real life!” shares Colin.  

Cornell Verdeja-Woodson

Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Headspace

Cornell Verdeja-Woodson has worked in the DEI space for over 10 years beginning his career in education working at NYU and Cornell University leading DEI initiatives. Cornell has worked at tech companies like Looker, Google, and now Headspace.He lives in the Bay Area with his husband and their two dogs London and Rome. 

What motivated you to make DEI your career path? 

Cornell shares, “For me, a career in DEI is not only about making the world better for people who share my identities, but about advocating for marginalized communities I am not a part of. It's about the opportunity to improve society and build safer spaces where people can be authentically themselves.”  

What are some of the ways you champion diversity and inclusion at your organization?

Cornell reveals, “I am unapologetic and relentless in my pursuit to ensure that everything we create is done so with an inclusive and intersectional lens. I challenge leaders, especially the C-Suite, to think about how what we create and how the decisions we make impact the lives of the most marginalized. Every meeting and All Hands I sit in, I remind people of the opportunity to embed inclusion into our thinking. I do this until, even when I am not in the room, they can hear my voice in their head.”

In the D&I space, what have been the biggest challenges you have encountered so far? 

“Some of the biggest challenges have been a lack of resources (financial and people) to accomplish the work I have been hired to do. There is so much expected of a DEI leader, but rarely are adequate resources provided to do the job. An additional challenge is the lack of authentic action from senior leaders. Verbal commitment has become easy to do, but consistent and intentional action is one of the most critical resources needed,” shares Cornell. 

Daphney Etienne

Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Persado

Daphney Etienne is the Head of DEI at Persado, a marketing technology software that is reinventing how businesses communicate and engage their customers by applying mathematical certainty to words. She takes pride in approaching DEI through a social justice lens.

In addition to her primary job functions, she runs the Joumou Fund, an organization that aims to help in alleviating poverty in her native Haiti.

What motivated you to make DEI your career path? 

Daphney explains, “I didn't start out in DEI, and I'm very thankful to my advocates at Persado who saw me fit for the role. When the opportunity came up, it was a no-brainer. I'd face my own injustices at previous jobs and saw this role at a global company that really is doing its best to get it right as an opportunity to be the change that I want to see.”

What are some of the ways you champion diversity and inclusion at your organization? 

She reveals, “At Persado, our DEI initiatives are new - I've only been in my role officially for a year. I'm proud of all the work that our team has achieved. From establishing ERGs to providing training opportunities and ensuring an inclusive recruiting system.

One initiative I'm most proud of starting is our Diverse Voices guest series to bring in outside professionals to the company for a fireside chat conversation with our CPO on topics related to DEI. So far, we've had guests discuss the BLM movement and anti-Blackness, Stop Asian Hate, Pride Month, and more. Having dialogue and difficult conversations is so important for change.”

In the D&I space, what have been the biggest challenges you have encountered so far? 

Daryl Graves

Director of Equity, Balance, and Belonging (EBB) at Dialpad

Daryl currently leads DEI at Dialpad branded as Equity, Balance, and Belonging (EBB). Additionally, he sits on the Board of Directors for Project Avary, a national leader focused on supporting children of incarcerated parents. Daryl has held technical roles over a two decade span with Silicon Graphics (SGI), Verizon, and most recently Workday where he made his mid-career pivot to DEI. He lives in the Bay Area with his wife and their seven year old boy/girl twins.

What motivated you to make DE&I your career path?

Daryl shares, "I was motivated in large part by my children. As an engineer I loved my job, the challenge and sense of accomplishment gained from writing or debugging code. I was fulfilled by contributing to DEI efforts via ERGs and actually co-founded/co-led the first ERG at Workday. Shout out to my [email protected] fam (previously The Talented Tenth)! However, after the birth of my children I wondered what else I could do to help impact the world they’ll be inheriting. The thoughts led to conversations which led to my mid-career pivot."

What are some of the ways you champion diversity and inclusion at your organization?

Daryl reveals, "One way is by supporting and amplifying the Tech for Black Founders initiative. It is a multi-company effort focused on providing low or no cost services and products to Black entrepreneurs. We have had great success with this program and are always seeking ways to improve upon the engagement. I encourage any company reading to check it out! Other ways include my hosted office hours, creating our first ERGs, and crafting partnerships with community organizations. The latter aids in supporting our Dialers while providing an opportunity for us to give back intentionally.

He also explains, "I would like to share that I strive to lead with empathy in my work (and personal) life while encouraging others to do the same. The Nguni Bantu term “ubuntu” comes to mind frequently for me. It loosely translates to “I am because we are” or “humanity towards others”. It’s beautiful and a principle I wish we could all embrace collectively."  

Gabrielle Royal

Senior Director of Global Inclusion & Diversity at Abercrombie & Fitch Co.

Gabby Royal (she/her) is a diversity, equity, and belonging strategist. She currently serves as the Senior Director of Global Inclusion & Diversity for Abercrombie & Fitch Co., leading the strategic vision for diversity for the portfolio of lifestyle brands. Prior to her time in the fashion industry, she has spent the last ten years as a D&I practitioner and educator in New York City. Before joining A&F Co., Gabby served as the Vice President of Campus Diversity Recruiting at Citigroup, working to push boundaries on Wall Street to bridge opportunity gaps for diverse candidates entering the financial services industry.

What motivated you to make DE&I your career path?

Gabrielle shares, "Plain and simple, I did not see myself reflected authentically in our industries. As a Black, queer, masculine-presenting, tattooed, lesbian-woman, I colored outside of so many corporate lines. The playbook didn’t fit, and I didn’t want my social identities feel crunched inside of it. I always tell my students, look for organizations that value you as a culture add, not culture fit. No matter the organization, my desire as a diversity practitioner and strategist was deeply rooted in unlocking pathways for others. To me that meant removing barriers for individuals to thrive in more equitable work environments, to create new pathways for those who have also been historically marginalized, and to pay it forward by supporting organizations along their diversity journeys to reimagine a new playbook, a more inclusive and equitable one. I feel compelled to address inequity in all its forms. Diversity, equity, and inclusion work to me as a career path was about identifying opportunity gaps and reverse-engineering our way thinking about our social identities and to solve for those inequities that are still so deeply embedded in many organizations. I wanted to lean into the discomfort, to look it in the mirror, observe it, and create actionable and measurable accountability measures for organizations to ignite true social change."

What are some of the ways you champion diversity and inclusion at your organization?

Gabrielle explains, "Championing diversity and inclusion should always be in view, but creating a greater sense of belonging and eliminating opportunity gaps so equity can exist are just as critical considerations when developing a corporate diversity roadmap. I look for opportunities to bring people together, to create brave and safe spaces for people to feel seen, feel valued, to feel heard. I love this quote from Shirley Chisholm, “If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” That quote has stuck with me through my career. There’s nothing more liberating than creating radical and healthy disruption to the status quo. Take up space, bring yourself authentically through the door each and every day boldly, and unapologetically."

"I champion DEI by advocating for change, and staying curious about the “why” behind all that we do as organizations. I use my voice as a vehicle to educate others and to build up their cultural competencies. Silence is the greatest enabler for injustices to continue. I champion DEI at an organizational level by empowering associates to take up space, to feel a greater sense of belonging in whatever way that takes shape for them, and coloring outside of the lines to reimagine new approaches to DEI practices," reveals Gabrielle.

Jen Casimiro

Global Talent Director of Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion at IDEO

What motivated you to make DEI your career path? 

Jen shares, “I actually never thought my career would be in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the corporate/for-profit space. My career started in the social sector in leadership development with a focus on equity working with nonprofits and community organizations. When I entered the for-profit space and specifically places who weren't doing much around equity and justice, I felt it was my responsibility to start those conversations and processes in service of those who are most marginalized in society and at workplaces.”

She states, “What motivates me to do this work and what continues to be why is two parts. First and foremost, I engage with capitalism to keep a roof over my and family's head and if I'm going to engage with capitalism, I want to do what's in my power and influence to design a better society for my son and future generations to thrive in while honoring the work of my ancestors and folx before me who have done so much to make this world a better place - and my workplace is my vehicle to do that - shifting people thoughts, behaviors, and minds. The second part of my motivation, which is connected to the first, is that I believe in the society that we all are engaging with and have been socialized to operate in - we need cross-sector collaboration. And in order to have that, we need folx from marginalized communities, folx that look like me, in places that were not designed for us to be in. I see my role in creating more access for folx from marginalized communities to not just enter into these spaces, but to thrive.”

What are some of the ways you champion diversity and inclusion at your organization? 

Jen reveals, “In all my work in DEI, I always try to make sure I am centering the most marginalized. The ways I do that are to design/support efforts that directly are for our most marginalized folx - like designing leadership development programs specifically for BIPOC employees, supporting the work and our folx in ERGs and affinity groups, and sponsoring external partnerships that are focused on creating access to my field for those historically marginalized. On the other hand, I also recognize a part of this work I need to support our white cis-gendered straight folx learn and lean into this work, especially as those who hold the most privilege and therefore sometimes cause the most harm. In order to create the truly safe and equitable spaces for the most marginalized, we need allies to not only understand at a surface level DEI, but we need them to deeply learn it - so other ways I champion DEI efforts are through designing programs for allies to learn and do better, in order to create a truly equitable company. And then at a high level, I'm designing our people processes and systems to not be biased - really thinking about the ways in which, as John Powell says, can be harder on the structure and softer on the people.”

In the D&I space, what have been the biggest challenges you have encountered so far?

Jen explains, “With George Floyd's murder (may he and his ancestors rest in peace) and many folx racial awakening, organization and many folx have been leaning into this work - which is great. I'm not sure this is the biggest challenge but more so the most recent challenge with this is that folx equate passion with competency or they feel after reading a few articles here and there that means they understand this work. Additionally, folx start to misuse, or at its worst, weaponize words like equity, inclusion, intersectionality, and diversity and they will try to separate these things as if it's all not in service of creating more equitable systems and process to get to equitable outcomes to serve people.”

Khalil Smith

VP, Inclusion, Diversity, and Engagement at Akamai Technologies

Khalil Smith is the Vice President of Inclusion, Diversity, and Engagement at Akamai.  Before joining Akamai, Khalil worked with NeuroLeadership Institute, a cognitive science consultancy, as VP of Consulting, Practices, and Research.  Prior to that, Khalil spent over 14 years in senior leader roles with Apple Inc., including leading a global Retail Training team of over 40 learning professionals who were responsible for critical training priorities, such as employee onboarding, technical skills, and product launches. Khalil holds an M.B.A with dual concentrations in Leadership and Strategy from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

What motivated you to make DEI your career path? 

Khalil reveals, “In many ways, I’d say that my path has been more about leadership, strategy, and delivering the best possible output using the best available people.  To do that, you have to understand, embrace, and deliver on DEI.  Striving to be the best leader I could be meant learning more about myself, which required me to understand the nature of things like why I may have been more drawn to one employee over another, or whether my assessments were fair and impartial.  As my career progressed and I was asked to lead leaders, it became critically important that I build systems and processes that were scalable and equitable, while helping my leaders and teams understand what we were doing, why, and how they fit in.”  

“To me, being a DEI professional is simply the highest possible form of leadership and management; going from making personal changes, to making team changes, to making organizational changes. DEI is not a separate body of work, it is a discipline through which one is able to get better and more adept ignoring the factors that don’t matter but seem so salient—like how much someone talks, or what school they went to—and instead providing great opportunities and engagement for as many as possible, in ways that support the people, the business, and society.”, states Khalil. 

Lady Idos

Chief DEI Officer at Berkeley Lab

Lady Idos, MPA is the Chief DEI Officer at Berkeley Lab, a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratory managed by the University of California (UC). Idos is responsible for designing and executing the Lab's IDEA strategy for inclusion, diversity, equity, and accountability.

What made you decide to make DEI your career path?

Lady says, “ In many ways, DEI is part of my DNA. As a queer woman of color immigrant, I was taught at an early age to take pride in my identity, culture, and heritage. At the same time, I've seen the systemic and personal impacts of exclusion and marginalization: from legislation and policies, to behaviors and treatment. I am motivated to advance DEI as part of my life's work and values, and am honored to partner alongside colleagues who are deeply committed to driving positive change.”

Lambert Odeh Jr. 

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Manager at Olo

Lambert is a former finance professional with a technology background. After working at technology companies for some years, he realized that he had a passion for diversity, equity, and inclusion. After receiving his diversity, equity, and inclusion certificate from Cornell, Lambert pursued roles that would allow him to be a voice in the shift of demographic trends in the global workforce. As a current DEI Manager, Lambert works to bridge the gap from awareness, accountability, to action as DEI work is everyone's responsibility. Lambert comes from Houston, Texas but has an obsession with New Orleans, Louisiana after attending Tulane University. He is the only son from a family with seven children. Lambert enjoys running, reading, and learning about other cultures because travel is very important. 

What motivated you to get into the field of DEI? 

Lambert reveals, “My motivation for working in the DEI field came while I worked in the finance industry specifically with hedge funds. Not only did I barely see anyone who looked like me at my own office but it was even worse when I would visit clients. I felt for people who are underrepresented across different industries because I know the first-hand experience of what it feels like to work in spaces and not see anyone who looks like you. I constantly would find myself in positions where I would be able to showcase the talents, work accomplishments, and need for increased efforts to cultivate employees from different backgrounds, and eventually that work became the work that I enjoyed doing the most.  I knew then that it was time for a change. I wanted to be a part of the change and since I was coming from the business side of things I wanted to work in diversity equity and inclusion to really share my experience as different from someone who had a traditional career in human resources.”

In your organization, how do you foster diversity and inclusion? 

Lambert shares, “One way I champion diversity, equity, and inclusion at my job is through a talk series I created called Everybody Eats. Everybody Eats is a talk series that I host with a chef of a different demographic and we talk about their background and how their intersectionality plays into their everyday/professional life. While we have this discussion we prepare one of the chef's favorite dishes right in their kitchen. We are a restaurant technology company so food is very important to us as it aligns with the work that our team is completing for our customers. Diversity, equity, and inclusion is represented in the title using the word "Everybody." When creating training or initiatives, I specifically look for experiences that everybody can relate to so we can create a baseline for awareness, empathy, and growth. Food is that baseline for Everybody Eats. The series has really touched our team as it highlights some of their personal experiences. We host these events surrounding different heritage months and awareness days. I believe it's important to see how DEI permeates all industries to grow the awareness of our own team, and give people the tools needed to be better allies.” 

Leo Cortez

Head of University and Diversity Talent at Airbnb

Leo Cortez has over 20 years of University and Diversity Programs experience at some of the top companies in Silicon Valley.  He has dedicated his career to build and relaunch programs with a focus on early career and DEI as the cornerstone of his experience.  His background in education and high tech gives him a unique perspective on the impact early career programs have in infusing diverse talent into the tech sector.  Cortez has a Master's Degree in Administration and Supervision from San Jose State University and has lived in the Bay Area for over 30 years.

What motivated you to make DEI your career path? 

Leo explains, “Over my career, the world of DEI has evolved and has brought positive changes to high tech and the community of Silicon Valley.  I am energized by bold and lofty goals that seem impossible to achieve because it sparks innovation to look at things differently and this pushes us to achieve them.  The work of DEI is rewarding when you make progress and it feels overwhelming when the world around you takes a step back, but I push forward to create a world where everyone can be their best self at home, work and in our community.”

Marina Peixoto

Diversity & Inclusion Director at Coca-Cola

Production Engineer with a master's degree in administration, Marina has worked for Coca-Cola Brasil for almost 19 years, in many different areas, from finance to marketing, innovation, communication, and HR. In every different area, Since 2011 she has been a volunteer of the I&D committee, having participated or leading several initiatives, and last year she was invited to take a new role I&D director for Coca-Cola Brasil. She is now in transition to be the executive leader of Mover (somosmover.org), a coalition between Coca-Cola Brasil and other 45 companies that wants to fight for racial equality.

What motivated you to make DEI your career path?

Marina shares, “As a woman and a feminist, I have always fight for gender equality. I was the first woman in my family to get a bachelor’s degree in engineering. I've participated in several female forums or groups since the beginning of my career, sharing experiences, learning, or mentoring. In 2013 I got pregnant and found out that my daughter had Down syndrome and she has taught me a lot since then. In 2019 I did a Tedx where I shared some of that story and since then I have participated in other mothers or PWD groups. When I look back in my career I have always brought the D&I lens in the different areas of the business I’ve worked for and recently I’ve decided that I wanted to focus my career on that because it connects some of my strengths and a strong passion point with something that the companies and the world needs. I strongly believe that everyone is unique and if we, not only respect but value the differences, we can grow as individuals, as businesses, or as a society. I&D is part of my life and purpose and now also my career.”

What are some of the ways you champion diversity and inclusion at your organization?

Marina explains, “I believe everyone should have a role in championing D&I at the organization. We can change the way we operate, the way we create value for consumers, the way we transform our culture, and the way we invest to create impact in our communities. As an I&D director, I am responsible for the coordination of the diversity committee, composed of 4 fronts (women, race, PwD, and LGBT +) and we work close to other functional areas to develop and implement different initiatives, from internal awareness campaigns or I&D literacy to reviewing HR policies, influencing marketing campaigns or prioritizing some community investments. Even before having the D&I role, I have always championed D&I in the different areas I’ve worked for. As Communication director in 2017, for instance, I’ve led the initiative “This Coca is Fanta” in honor of LGBT + pride day and in the following years I have conducted a series of internal D&I actions, such as racial literacy content, inspirational talks with external guests and so on.”

In the D&I space, what have been the biggest challenges you have encountered so far?

Marina reveals, “I think one of the biggest challenges is the mindset change, from both sides. From a business perspective, we need to start seeing D&I as a vector of growth, not just philanthropy or reputation. There are several pieces of research that prove how D&I brings innovation, collaboration, and business growth but breaking historical patterns or unconscious bias is not easy so we need to work on a cultural change, put a new process in place to help accelerate the agenda and be more intentional. On the other side as D&I professionals, we should learn how to have a business mindset and apply the same principles when we have a business challenge, starting with understanding the current status, setting goals, defining strategies and plans, and tracking evolution. It will help use the same language, be more effective, and evolve in a much faster way.”

Mike Barber 

Chief Diversity Officer at GE

Mike is the Chief Diversity Officer for GE and, in this role, leads GE’s diversity strategy to drive sustainable change with an added focus on driving leadership accountability and metrics, building an inclusive culture, and reinvigorating inclusion and diversity learning and mentoring. Mike joined GE in 1981 and, prior to his role as GE CDO, he served as GE Officer and President and CEO of GE’s Molecular Imaging and Computed Tomography (MICT) business. Throughout his career, Mike has also held a variety of senior leadership roles in engineering, operations, and product management.

What motivated you to pursue a career in DEI?

Mike reveals, “The prospect of being the Chief Diversity Officer wasn't something that was on my radar. After spending over 39 years at GE, in engineering, in operations, and leading a business for the last several years, I had decided it was time to retire. Then, two things occurred. First, GE was ‘rewiring’ its operating style in a number of areas, becoming more decentralized to better meet our customers’ needs. Then, the reckoning for equality and justice, which was energized by the terrible murder of George Floyd, began gaining momentum.”

He goes on to share, “I was intrigued when Larry Culp, GE Chairman & CEO, was clear that he wanted someone who had an operational background for the CDO role. Larry wanted inclusion and diversity to be embraced, understood, and driven in the same way business leaders approached their other priorities.”

“When he reached out to see if I would be interested in helping him make that transformation in the Company, I understood the real opportunity this was to make GE better. I want to make sure that everyone can reach their full potential in the company. If everyone in the room has the same backgrounds and experiences, you won’t get the benefit of complementary ideas that build on each other and lead to better answers. It’s only when you have people with different experiences, who can work together, be transparent, and be themselves, that we can truly build a world that works. It's something worthwhile that I wanted to be a part of and decided to postpone my retirement,” Mike reveals.

Can you describe some of the ways you champion diversity and inclusion at your organization?

Mike explains, “In business, if you want to make something better and have lasting change, there's likely somebody in the organization who is responsible for overseeing that it is happening and progressing in a consistent way. And so, for me, that's how I look at the role of the Chief Diversity Officer. I don't have all the answers and there's a number of different things required. There are some that can be addressed in the short term and some that will be part of the longer journey, but I see my role as being the quarterback on the field to get people moving in the same direction to make progress.”

He goes on to share, “Driving meaningful change starts with focused leadership. Beyond my company-wide role, we also named a CDO for each GE business and worked hard to find operating leaders who know how to drive accountability and achieve results while also coming from a variety of functions and backgrounds to enhance our collective perspectives. Each CDO, including myself, reports directly to their CEO and is responsible for working with their CEO and leadership team to create, own, and drive diversity KPIs.”

Sonja Gittens Ottley

Head, Diversity & Inclusion at Asana

Sonja Gittens Ottley is Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Asana, a leading work management platform for teams. She's responsible for crafting and directing Asana's inclusion strategy, creating an environment that allows everyone to thrive. Prior to her roles in diversity & inclusion at Asana and at Facebook, she was global policy counsel for Yahoo’s Business & Human Rights Program. She is a native of Trinidad & Tobago.

What motivated you to make DEI your career path?

Sonja explains, “I’ve always been interested and focused on the dynamics of power, access to opportunity, issues of equity and justice. I started off my career as a lawyer in Trinidad and Tobago, and later moved to the US, where I worked on Yahoo!’s Business & Human Rights Program, the first of its kind in the tech sector. As part of our work, we evaluated our business decisions through a human rights lens to ensure that the company made responsible business decisions that protect and promote the principles of free expression and privacy. It became clear to me that tech tools were being used in ways that had not been envisioned by those creating the products - and that those tools could be improved if those in the room creating them actually reflected the users. Being able to pivot into this career and create an environment that does just that, while contributing to building products that have an immense impact on the world, was something that I couldn’t pass up.” 

She also adds, “On a personal note, I also want to ensure that the country that my son grows up in is a place where he has the same opportunities as anyone else, and his right to exist isn’t seen as a threat. It’s why I’m focused on contributing to creating an environment where folks understand and can identify the inequities that exist, and learn how they need to show up as effective allies and advocates in order for us all to build a just and equitable society.”

Stefanie Fackrell

Inclusion, Equity & Belonging Business Partner at Samsung Research America

Stefanie Fackrell has worked in University Recruiting for the last 10 years at some of the top tech companies (Genentech, Google, Apple, NVIDIA). Most recently she led University Recruiting efforts and Intern Programs at Samsung Research America, and will be moving into a new role as a Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Business Partner. Stefanie is a voracious reader, travel junky and wannabe ultrarunner!”

What motivated you to make DEI your career path? 

Stefanie shares, “DEI has always felt like a natural fit for me. My empathy, curiosity, and love of people have always compelled me to have a nagging urgency to make sure people feel seen, included, and psychologically safe. I wrote my college admissions essay on allyship and inclusion. As a sociologist, I have spent my time studying the systems and structures that marginalize people or leave them out altogether. Professionally, this has fueled my purpose to ensure no matter what, I am going to use my voice to promote and foster a culture that is safe for all voices and inclusive for all people, from all backgrounds.”

Susi Collins

Susi Collins is a Senior Director of Equality Strategy at Salesforce, a cloud-based software global company. She previously held Diversity, Inclusion and Equity roles at Amazon Web Services, Nordstrom and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Susi received a Master of Nonprofit Administration from University of San Francisco (USF) and serves as a board of director at USF's Women in Leadership and Philanthropy Advisory Board. She is originally from Lima, Peru and lives in Los Angeles with her multicultural family.

What motivated you to make DEI your career path?

Susi explains, "As a Latinx immigrant living in the US, I am motivated to create the conditions for historically underrepresented folks and those with intersectional identities to thrive in the workplace. One of the things I love about working in DEI is witnessing the results of building inclusive and equitable workplace cultures where everyone finds a sense of belonging. Having the opportunity to lead in the DEI space is a huge privilege and my hope is not only to impact those in corporations but also amplify and support folks in the communities I serve."  

T. Tara Turk-Haynes

VP, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) and Talent Management at Leaf Group

T. Tara Turk-Haynes is VP of DEI and Talent Management at Leaf Group where she oversees Leaf Group’s diversity, equity, and inclusion as well as hiring efforts. She joined Leaf Group in 2016 as Director, People, where she led the company’s employee engagement, talent acquisition, and learning and development programs. Prior to joining Leaf Group, she was Director of Administration of Operations for Metacloud, a Cisco Company. T. Tara has worked in Editorial at Variety Magazine, serving as a Project Lead for the Rizzoli book, "Variety: An Illustrated History of the World from The Most Important Magazine in Hollywood" by Tim Gray. She has also worked at Ticketmaster, NBC Universal, Sundance Channel, and Penguin Putnam. She is a first-generation graduate from Eugene Lang College  The New School where she studied Social, Cultural and Urban Studies and Sarah Lawrence College where she studied theatre. Her work has appeared in Tamara Winfrey Harris’s “Dear Black Girl” - a letter to young Black girls from Black Women along with Tarana Burke and others.  She is also a playwright and serves as co-founder of a theatre collective in Los Angeles and a member of the Geffen Writers Room for 2020. 

What drew you to this line of work? 

Tara explains, “I've always been passionate about representation. When you are from a group that isn't amplified, you notice who and who isn't in the room regularly. I didn't want to be "the only" and I also want to make sure inclusion is possible across the board. I love the word "disruption" because that's really what I do - I focus on how we can reexamine the routines we have to make sure they are opportunities for people who have historically been excluded.” 

What’s your biggest piece of advice for aspiring DEI professionals? 

Tara advises, “Start with your why. Why do you want to be a DEI worker? What are you willing to unlearn so that you can do more and learn more often? You have to understand that your work is large but it's also in the minutiae - it's projects and events but it's also having a really challenging interaction when you are explaining a term or a phrase that triggers. It's knowing when to leverage your resources and understanding when you are burned out and have to recharge. It's understanding the agility of the environments you are in so you can push them towards the best course of action. It's a journey and not a destination.”

Travis Robinson 

Global Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging at Spotify

Travis L. Robinson is a people and brand evangelist, specializing in curating connections and experiences for diversity, equity, and belonging. 

What motivated you to make DEI your career path? 

Travis reveals, “DEI was not something I went to college for.  However, it was the intersection of multiple lived experiences that led me down this path to help give life and power of being seen and heard to those who consistently were left out of the masterpiece. I realized there was an avenue to take that gave voice to those historically excluded and I knew I needed to play a part in making that a reality.  That passion and calling led me to a 15+ year experience of creating runways where those voices have a chance to get center stage and be shared with the world, while helping brands create the infrastructure to support those voices.”

What are some of the ways you champion diversity and inclusion at your organization?

Travis explains, “Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging (DIB) has been a long-term focus for us at Spotify.  What I love the most about our efforts is that we focus on the full spectrum  across this space - we go beyond thinking about workforce diversity, and consider the true meaningful work required to create inclusion, belonging and equity.  As part of the larger Equity & Impact organization [recently created, led by the amazing leadership of Elizabeth Nieto, who recently joined Spotify], we truly think about ‘how we show up as a company in this world’. Not only for our employees but also for our creators and listeners across the world. Some examples of ways we champion: 

  1. A dedicated team of Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging strategy advisors aligned to each of our business areas and the senior leadership team
  2. Our company has demonstrated commitment by expanding and giving resources across the organization
  3. Accelerating diversity through our inclusive hiring practices and workforce development resources - which includes aspirations towards greater diverse representation in our hiring and retention
  4. Advocating for positive mental health through our robust Heart & Soul initiative - which has been around for 4 years now and has 50+ mental health first aiders across the globe
  5. A robust racial equity coalition strategy for increased focus on the Black community - internal to Spotify and external on-platform.  

These are a few areas where we are championing.  This is truly a collaborative effort across all Spotifers when it comes to our commitment to DIB. All of us, in this together!”

In the D&I space, what have been the biggest challenges you have encountered so far? 

Travis explains, “Relying on reaction as a strategy and sustaining the momentum for real impact are two of the biggest challenges I’ve seen.”  

He states, “While many organizations have made great strides in Diversity & Inclusion throughout recent years (most notably in 2020 as a result of the heightened focus globally towards social justice), I do hope for all of us to lean into the fact that this is a journey that needs a proactive long-term strategy in order to make real change.”  

“There will be evolving twists and turns and key moments too. We understand there will be distractions (some worthy of our attention to respond); however, being reactive as a strategy is not sustainable. We need to dig deep and put in the work to understand the data on representation and experience for those historically excluded, and identify key avenues to work towards real systemic change. It won’t be easy and it will require a tailored approach to the certain situation,“ shares Travis. 

Dr. Vijay Pendakur

Vice President and inaugural Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer at Zynga, Inc

Dr. Vijay Pendakur serves as Vice President and inaugural Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer at Zynga, Inc. Vijay provides vision and strategic guidance to Zynga’s global operations, across 3 continents, to maximize opportunities for meaningful inclusion and equity. In addition to leading the diversity function, Vijay also leads University Relations, Corporate Social Responsibility, and Learning and Development at Zynga.

What motivated you to make DE&I your career path?

Dr. Vijay Pendakur shares, "Being the child of immigrant parents, and growing up in a lower-income community in the Chicago-metro area, I was keenly aware of inequity and marginalization from a young age. My initial entry into professional DE&I work came from self-interest: how can I affect the systems that made my family’s life so difficult? Over time, my commitment to this work expanded. I now see my personal mission statement as: how can I help organizations optimize conditions so that all of their people can thrive, while they leave the world a better place than they found it."

In the DE&I space, what have been the biggest challenges you’ve encountered so far?

Dr. Vijay Pendakur explains, "One of the biggest challenge any DE&I leader faces within organizational life is to create the same commitment to DE&I that we have to our other business-priorities. As long as diversity is perceived as optional and a nice “value-add,” then it will always be understaffed, underfunded, and prioritized only in response to crisis. My work as a diversity leader is to position the value proposition of this field as closely to the business as possible. By hinging DE&I to the revenue model of the company, it gets harder for an organization to fall back into the 20th century habit of treating these investments as “nice to do, in times of plenty.”

Full List of DEI Leaders to Follow

Adrienne Flemming, Diversity, Culture and Inclusion Manager at Ryder

Alexandra Manrique, Manager, Diversity Equity & Inclusion at Universal Parks & Resorts

Allison Blackwell, Vice President, Diversity Inclusion at Danaher

Angela Cafarelli, Director, Inclusion and Diversity supporting Global Technology at Prudential Financial

Angela Miles, Diversity Program Lead- TA Early Professional Hiring (North America) at IBM

Anika Balkan, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at KAYAK and OpenTable

Aryeh Lehrer, Vice President - Talent Management and Acquisition, Diversity Equity & Inclusion at Comcast

Ash Hanson, Chief Diversity & Sustainability Officer at Aramark

Ashley Seto, Human Resources Director/Diversity and Inclusion Lead at iRobot

Astrid Benedetto, Assistant Vice President, Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion - Strategy Manager at US Bank

Beric Alleyne, Global Head, Diversity & Inclusion at eBay

Betty Henríquez, Inclusion and Diversity Leader, Office of Inclusion and Diversity at Humana

Brian Reaves, Senior Vice President, Chief Belonging, Diversity, and Equity Officer at Ultimate Kronos Group

Brianna Boles, Senior Diversity & Inclusion Program Manager at Adobe

Chanté Martínez Thurmond, Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at VillageMD

Christopher Mitchell, Chief Diversity Officer at Crowe

Cindy Johnson, Sr. Director Talent Acquisition & Diversity at Land O'Lakes

Colin Jansen, Manager Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging - International at Kraft Heinz Company

Corey Anthony, Senior Vice President, Chief Diversity & Development Officer at AT&T

Cornell Verdeja-Woodson, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Headspace

Crystal Hunt, Diversity Talent Acquisition at Bloomberg, LP

Damien Hooper-Campbell, Chief Diversity Officer at Zoom

Damion Jones, Global Head, VP of Inclusion & Diversity at Bayer

Daniel Wallace, Diversity & Inclusion Initiatives Manager at General Motors

Daphney Etienne, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Persado

Darlene Miller, Global Business Diversity and Inclusion Partner at Intel

Daryl Graves, Director of Equity, Balance, and Belonging (EBB) at Dialpad

Denise Banuelos, Director of Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity and Workforce Development at US Bancorp

Devon Voster, Senior Director, Inclusion & Diversity and Talent Acquisition at Whirlpool

Dr. Andrea Hendricks, Senior Executive Director & Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer, Community and Philanthropy at Cerner

Dr. Jennifer Farmer, Vice President, Global Diversity & Inclusion at Thermo Fisher Scientific

Eleanor "Patty" Dingle, Head of Diversity and Inclusion, Americas at BNY Mellon

Erin Mitchell Richeson JD, VP, Global Inclusion & Diversity at Kimberly-Clark

Gabrielle Royal, Senior Director of Global Inclusion & Diversity at Abercrombie & Fitch Co.

Gabrielle Thomas, Diversity, Inclusion, & Belonging Program Manager - Product & Engineering at HubSpot

Gareth Whalley, Global Director, Diversity & Inclusion at Coca-Cola

Ida Gibson, Sr. Diversity & Inclusion Business Partner at Tesla

James Millsap, Manager, Inclusion & Diversity Strategy at DICK'S Sporting Goods

Javier Chen, Diversity, Inclusion & belonging, Talent Acquisition  at ServiceNow

Jen Casimiro, Global Talent Director of Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion at IDEO

Jennifer Sutton, Head of Diversity, Equity & Belonging at Instacart, Senior Director at Instacart

Jewelle T. Brown, Inclusion & Diversity - Talent Acquisition Program Manager at Square

Joe Allen, Chief Diversity Officer at GE Aviation

John Graham Jr., VP, Employer Brand, Diversity & Culture at Shaker

Katelyn Jackson Nnake, Director, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Coca-Cola

Kendra Williams, Vice President of Client Strategy, Diversity & Inclusion at Bayard

Kenneth Imo, Vice President, Diversity & Inclusion at Fannie Mae

Khalil Smith, VP, Inclusion, Diversity, and Engagement at Akamai Technologies

Khelli (Davis) White, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Manager at Redfin

Lady Idos, Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer at Berkeley Lab

Lahaja Furaha, Director of Diversity & Inclusion at The Washington Post

Lambert Odeh Jr., Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Manager at Olo

Latonia Knox, Global Head of Inclusion & Diversity at Flex

Leo Cortez, Head of UR and Diversity Talent at AirBnB

Linda Hassan, Vice President & Global Head, Diversity & Belonging at Medidata Solutions

Lionel Lee, Head of Diversity Engagement at Zillow

Lorie Valle-Yanez, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at MassMutual

Marina Peixoto, Diversity & Inclusion Director at Coca-Cola

Marion Long, Inclusion & Diversity at Juniper

Matthew Coons, Diversity & Inclusion Program Manager at Xero

Merfat (Mervette) Ali-Bennett, Vice President, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Senior Consultant at Northern Trust

Mike Barber, Chief Diversity Officer at GE

Monica Poindexter, Vice President, Inclusion and Diversity at Lyft 

Muhammad Umar, Senior Director - Diversity Inclusion and Belonging, Talent & Culture  at Nordstrom

Neal Booker, Senior Manager, Inclusion & Diversity at Yext

Nicole De La Loza Rivera, Manager, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at AppFolio

Nicole Wormley, Senior Director, Diversity Attraction and University Recruitment at Danaher Corporation

Oona King, VP of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Snap Inc.

Paloma DeNardis, Head of Inclusion & Diversity at DICK'S Sporting Goods

Pamela Harris, AVP, Diversity & Inclusion at Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

Paul Ferrante, Senior HR Manager - Inclusion, Diversity and Philanthropy at JCPenney

Paula R. Miller, Director, Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging at Hillrom

Rachel Book, Director, Global Diversity Recruiting at Stryker

Rachel Kim, Director, Inclusion & Diversity Strategy; Chief of Staff to CIDO at Starbucks

Reine Bounlutay, Diversity and Inclusion Sourcing Manager at PlayStation

Ronald Copeland, Senior Vice President of National Equity, Inclusion & Diversity Strategy and Policy at Kaiser 

Ryan Ruggiero, Sr. Director, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at CNBC

Salvador Mendoza, Vice President, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion  at NBCUniversal

Shauna Ferguson, Managing Director and Director, Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion  at Wellington Management

Sofia Bonnet, Senior Director, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging at GitHub

Sonja Gittens Ottley, Head, Diversity & Inclusion at Asana

Stefanie Fackrell, Inclusion, Equity & Belonging Business Partner at Samsung Research America

Susan Johnson, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer at The Hartford

Susan Long-Walsh, Sr. Practice Manager Diversity Equity & Inclusion at T-Mobile

Susan Strand, VP- Diversity Equity and Inclusion Program Manager at U.S. Bank

Susi Collins, Senior Director of Equality at Salesforce

Suzanne McGovern, Chief Diversity Officer at Splunk

T. Tara Turk-Haynes, Vice President, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and Talent Management at Leaf Group

Tammi Harris, Diversity Inclusion and Belonging Manager at NetApp

Travis Robinson, Global Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging at Spotify

Treneice Collins, Sr. Campus Recruiting Lead | Diversity & Inclusion Leader at Herc Rentals

Trina Scott, Chief Diversity Officer at Quicken Loans

Valencia Tate, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion at Cobank 

Vicki Mealer-Burke, Vice President & Chief Diversity Officer at QualComm

Vijay Pendakur, Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer at Zynga

Vinay Kapoor, Global Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer at FactSet

Walt Frye, Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Conduent

Yashica Olden, Global Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer at Condé Nast

Yves Delpeche, Senior Recruiter - Global Inclusion, Diversity & Belonging Champion Lead  at Verisk

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