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On a cavernous soundstage in Denmark, groups of people file
in one by one. They are clearly different from one another. One
group walks in with tattoos. Another, all female, is wearing
medical uniforms in various colors. There is an all-White group,
right alongside one that includes people visibly from multiple
ethnicities. Each group stands apart, staring uncomfortably at
one another for what seems like an eternity.
Finally, a host comes in to explain what is about to happen.
"I'm going to ask you some questions today," he says. "Some of
them may be a bit personal, but I hope you will answer them
The first question immediately reduces the tension. "Which one
of you was the class clown?" A smattering of people from each
cluster comes forward. They line up together on the far side of the
room and stand in front of a screen posing for a group photo. The
session continues with a range of other unexpected questions.
Who among you are stepparents? Who has been bullied? Who
has been a bully? Who feels lonely? After each question, people
come together, embrace, pose for a photograph, and return to
The point of the exercise soon becomes clear to every participant:
they are celebrating their similarities instead of their differences.
Watch the TV2 social experiment video at
This social experiment was conceived and filmed several years ago
to promote Denmark's most-watched family of channels, TV2.
Titled "All That We Share," the campaign ran on Danish television
and was later released globally on YouTube.1 It quickly went viral,
racking up nearly 300 million views and winning a prestigious
Gold Cannes Lion award.
This focus on similarities is sadly missing in many conversations
happening about diversity and inclusion across the world. It is
a rarely spotlighted irony that so much of the dialogue about
diversity ends up emphasizing what sets us apart instead.
You can see this splintered approach in the structure of many
live and virtual events aimed at exploring the theme of diversity.
There are conferences dedicated to racial justice, reducing gender
discrimination at work, advocating for LGBTQ+ legislation,
eliminating ageism at work, creating more accessible digital
content for people with disabilities, making corporate boards
more inclusive, and much more.
These conferences host important conversations-and they offer
a safe space for people who have been excluded and marginalized
to share their experiences freely and have their points of view
heard and discussed. They play an essential role in our evolving
conversation about diversity and equity.
And yet, they are not enough.
These often-insular conversations about diversity don't reflect the
reality of our intersecting identities. As the TV2 viral experiment
so powerfully illustrates, none of us fits neatly into a single category.
We exist through intersections, but our conversations about
diversity regularly push us to pick one dimension of ourselves
at the expense of others. These dimensions are the lenses that
shape how we perceive our place in the world. Being Hispanic,
or female, or gay, or over 50, or disabled, or any combination of
identities helps us zoom in on a unique perspective of the world.
But while zoom lenses are helpful for focusing on details, they are
intentionally designed to ignore the full picture.
If there is one shortcoming of the worldwide conversation about
diversity and inclusion, it is this: focusing on only one aspect
of our identities prevents the opportunity to better understand
ourselves and others outside that one label.
Instead, there is a concept we will discuss frequently in this book
known as intersectionality. The term, first coined by American
lawyer and civil rights advocate Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw,
refers to the idea that none of us can be defined by a single label,
but only through a combination of social identities.
Embracing the idea of intersectionality requires us to switch to
a wide-angle lens. What if we had conferences, TV shows, or
corporate recruiting programs dedicated to bringing people and
perspectives together that might never otherwise share the same
space? It is exciting to imagine the sorts of questions and topics
that might arise.
How would someone fighting to end gender pay gaps relate to a
disabled gamer demanding more accessible experiences? What
would an advocate for racial literacy in schools say to a researcher
studying how to end age-related biases at work? What might a
local business fighting to expand broadband internet access for
those living on Native American reservations ask a community
organizer imagining how to transform a neglected local park into
a vibrant urban garden? All of these people are pioneers fighting
for equity, but they rarely (if ever) cross paths.
To truly create a more inclusive world, we need to move beyond the
usual diversity conversations and break down the barriers between
"Sometimes the assumptions we make about others
come not from what we have been told or what we have
seen on television or in books, but rather from what we
have not been told."
Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, Author and Psychologist
Verna Myers, vice president of inclusion strategy at Netflix,
once said, "diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is
being asked to dance." Her words are often shared by those who
advocate for diversity, but for us, they inspired a question: what
if everyone was not only invited to the party and asked to dance,
but also left with a mixtape filled with music they would love, but
had never had the chance to hear before?
In late 2020, we decided to try and host this type of party. It
started with the idea of a one-day virtual event that would bring
together a dozen or so diversity and inclusion experts from
various fields. Over the next few months, that concept sparked
a whirlwind of hundreds of conversations and 20-hour-days
that would eventually result in the groundbreaking gathering of
voices that inspired this book. It all began, as many great ideas do,
The World's Most Ambitious Conversation About Diversity
In 2020, an app called Clubhouse started to take off. A real-time
audio chat room where anyone can start a conversation, the app
owed much of its rapid growth to early popularity with Black
creators and musicians. As a result, users of Clubhouse were highly
likely to enter "rooms" on the platform and hear conversations
hosted by people whose diverse opinions and expertise were
frequently missing from mainstream media.
Plunging into this never-ending stream of conversations, at any
given moment you could hear struggling professionals grappling
with bias in the workplace, while minutes later, you might join a
group of parents talking about accepting their transgender kids.
In a single afternoon, you could participate in conversations about
neurodivergent education, hear immigration questions from
refugees, experience the daily heroism of doctors working on the
front lines to fight COVID-19, debate cultural appropriation and
learn about income inequality.
These are topics many of us who have contributed to this book
deal with every day in our work. To add even more authentic
perspectives to our efforts, we augmented our daily conversations
about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) by dipping in and
out of rooms on Clubhouse and listening to real people share
their experiences and challenges. We also spent the past year
participating in virtual conferences, professional webinars, and
training sessions centered on DEI. We read dozens of reports,
books and magazine articles.
Finally we started putting together a list of topics for our virtual
event. It grew quickly: Women in tech. Inclusive higher education.
Colorism in fashion. Body shaming. Neurodiverse recruiting.
Accessible gaming. Workplace ageism. Racial justice. Image bias.
Pay equity. Gender fluidity. White fragility. Social belonging.
Diverse casting. Representative government. The list goes on.
Along the way, we discovered meaningful conversations already
happening about all these topics amongst experts and advocates.
We discovered that most of them were happening in isolation,
completely separate from one another. It was like seeing an entire
relay contest of athletes racing side by side, with no one passing
any batons. It became clear that creating a conversation where
we connected the dots between these topics would necessitate
something more significant than gathering a dozen smart people
together for one day. So we sent out more inquiries to more people
and engaged the help of additional experts to expand our vision.
By the time the virtual event was broadcast live in late January
2021, we had lined up just over 200 speakers who participated in
more than 50 sessions. Over 75 percent described themselves as
belonging to an underrepresented group. More than two-thirds
identified as a gender other than male. The range of expertise and
topics represented was equally diverse.
Our panel of experts included a widely loved news anchor, a world
record holder as the heaviest person to complete a marathon,
multiple chief diversity officers, the popular voice of an animated
children's TV show character, a master puppeteer, a child abuse
survivor, a former Miss India winner and two hundred others.
Watch all 50+ sessions from the summit at
We called the event the "Non-Obvious Beyond Diversity Summit."
It was Non-Obvious because of the types of conversations we
hoped to curate. And it went Beyond Diversity, because we knew
that if we were truly going to have an impact, we needed to focus
every conversation on tangible actions we could all take to build a
more inclusive world. Our tagline came from one of our speakers
who remarked that the event sounded like "the world's most
ambitious conversation about diversity."
Our "ambitious" conversation was a hit.
Thousands of people watched the event live and commented on
the sessions in real time, and hundreds of thousands watched
them on demand in the months afterward. But the day after the
summit ended, we knew our work had only begun. To share the
insights we heard with a wider audience, we started working
on this book. The first step was to identify twelve themes that
cut across all the sessions. Then we assembled a team of expert
contributors and started writing.
The book you hold in your hands is the final product. It is a
compilation of conversations that we hope will launch you into a
journey to understand people unlike yourself. For us, and perhaps
for you as well, it usually starts with a moment of awakening.
Where Every Diversity
Journey Starts . . .
You may be thinking that the path to experiencing this moment
is someone else's journey to take. Maybe you come from a
marginalized group yourself. Some of you might even be DEI
experts. Or you may already consider yourself to be an ally and
advocate for equity and inclusion through your actions or beliefs.
Wherever you are on your journey, we hope this book and the
stories in it will inspire and motivate you to learn more, speak up
and take action.
"The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty
by the bad people, but the silence over that by the good
Martin Luther King, Jr., Social Activist and Nobel Prize Winner
The first thing you should know is that this book was compiled,
edited and reviewed by dozens of people who believe in the power
of standing up for others. The voices you will see spotlighted in
this book regularly spend their days helping others to be more
open-minded, inclusive and empathetic toward those from
different backgrounds. We all live and breathe this work . . . and
yet for each of us, the process of writing this book has offered a
moment of awakening that we very much needed.
No human is free from bias. What we all must try to do is
recognize and overcome our biases and to see others as having
In the fight for equity, there have always been three parties. Two
are well understood. There are the oppressors, who benefit from
inequity and leverage their power to maintain the status quo. And
there are the oppressed who fight back-sometimes successfully
and sometimes not. These two have been the participants in
every social movement everywhere in the world, whether against
racism and gender-based discrimination or ethnic struggles
between majorities and minorities.
Yet there is, and has always been, a third regularly overlooked
group: the bystanders. These are the people and institutions
who remain on the sidelines by choice or ignorance. Many tell
themselves that the fight isn't their fight. They may not be racist,
but they are also not anti-racist. These are the bystanders, and
their willful silence has also contributed to and shaped human
history. It is time for that to change.
This is a book about being more
than a bystander.
No matter what combination of ethnic, social, gender or cultural
groups you belong to, this book aims to help you and the people
around you achieve a moment of awakening. Perhaps it may help
to start by sharing some of our own.
For Rohit, one of these moments came when he became embroiled
in controversy just months before our summit. In 2020, he
accepted an invitation to deliver a recorded virtual keynote at an
event in Asia about the future of marketing. When the organizers
shared an image on social media promoting the entire list of
headlining speakers, it was obvious that every one of them was
male. The social media backlash started instantly.
Some commenters called for a boycott of the entire event. Others
noted the irony of having only male speakers at an event for an
industry that, by most estimates, is more than 50 percent female.
Dozens suggested that the speakers themselves be held personally
responsible for their complicity in agreeing to speak on a #manel
(a male-only panel).
Despite years of work supporting and writing about more
inclusivity in business, Rohit hadn't thought to check if women
were represented on stage at a conference he had agreed to speak
at. He didn't realize his mistake-until someone else pointed it out.
Rohit apologized and immediately helped the event organizers
seek out female speakers to include. He also converted his solo
session into a panel discussion by inviting two female trend
researchers from his network to share the stage as co-presenters.
The moment reminded Rohit that no matter what work he may
have done in the past, being a vocal ally is a constant challenge.
Today, he is a popular keynote speaker and the founder of the
Non-Obvious Company where he leads a team that produces
content, workshops and signature events designed to help leaders
embrace "non-obvious" perspectives and see what others miss.
"If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your
time. But if you have come because your liberation is
bound up with mine, then let us work together."
Lilla Watson, Murri (Indigenous Australian) Artist and Activist
Jennifer recalls a similar moment of awakening to the reality that
the identities we carry can marginalize and separate us from the
mainstream. When she came out as a member of the LGBTQ+
community in her 20s, Jennifer downplayed this part of her
identity in a series of professional roles, from opera singer to
corporate HR professional to entrepreneur. She saw few people
who shared her story-at least publicly-and she didn't feel safe
bringing her full identity to the workplace.
Discovering the LGBTQ+ workplace equality movement shaped
the way she understood her own story of not feeling heard or
respected. The sad reality is that today's work culture remains ill-
suited to people from marginalized communities.
When Jennifer founded her own consulting company 15 years
ago, her struggle for authenticity continued in what was a largely
male-dominated space. She initially built a traditional hierarchy
with many of her mentors and key hires being White men. She felt
vulnerable about her identity as a new entrepreneur and a queer
woman, and feared prospective clients would hold stereotypes or
biases that might hamper her credibility or impact.
At the same time she came to recognize the privilege and
advantages she holds as a White cisgender woman. She
understood that privilege isn't just about what you've experienced
personally during your lifetime; it's also about what you haven't
had to experience.
Today Jennifer describes herself as an "aspiring ally," and taking
action against discrimination and inequities has become the
mission of her company. Jennifer Brown Consulting is a highly
diverse company-led by a diverse team-and has become a
recognized leader in diversity, equity, and inclusion, working
with hundreds of companies. Jennifer has become a renowned
speaker, has written several books on diversity and inclusion,
and she continually uses her platform to amplify the voices of
We are each many identities at once, and each one can influence
our actions. At the same time, we all carry some degree of
privilege. In moments when that privilege is laid bare, we can
choose to silently benefit and remain a bystander, or we can stand
up and try to fix something that is clearly wrong.
"To never think about race means that it doesn't really
shape your life, or more specifically, the race you have is
not a burden to you."
Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, Professor, Advocate and Author
The ambition of this book is to inspire you to take action when
that moment comes for you-or even better, to create that
moment for yourself.
How To Read This Book . . .
In the chapters that follow, you'll read about twelve themes that
are shaping our world today. For each topic, we will explore how
it is, how it could be, what needs to change on a systemic level
(imperatives), and what you can do today to help bring about this
This is not a research book. This is a do-something book.
By spotlighting the conversations that are already taking place and
celebrating those who are making strides in the world of diversity,
equity and inclusion, we hope to amplify their work, provide
concrete and actionable strategies, and give you a roadmap to
becoming personally involved.
By ending each chapter with specific "Conversation Starters," we
are hoping to spark new conversations that offer opportunities to
align these important but isolated efforts.
The journey to build a more inclusive world must involve all
of us. Along the way we will need to better understand culture,
identity and family. We will have to ask big questions about
how technology, government, education and our workplaces are
structured. Entrepreneurship, leadership and the retail landscape
that surround us also must be part of this conversation. And it all
starts, in our humble opinion, by reimagining the stories we tell
and share with the world.
Our lives, ultimately, are lived through our stories. So let's get
started in crafting a better and more inclusive one together.
Very strong writing and a…
Very strong writing and a fascinating read. And such a positive message and alternative slant on the issue which I found inspiring.
This is a different approach, a fascinating one.