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Top DEI Influencers in HR 2022

Key players in the HR industry and their thoughts on DEI’s place in the workplace

by Nikhil Bendre - November 3, 2022

Now more than ever, the role of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is crucial to the success of any organization. We’ve seen how quickly the world can turn upside down, whether it’s due to a deadly pandemic or blatant violations of human rights. Making sure that DEI is at the core of your company has become a prerequisite for longevity. Let’s look at some key players in the HR industry and their thoughts on DEI’s role in the workplace in 2023 and beyond!


Kelli Mason JobSage COO

Kelli Mason

Chief Operating Officer
JobSage

Kelli has been a leader in workplace inclusion throughout her career. Beginning in law school and as a corporate lawyer, Kelli led Building a Better Legal Profession, a nonprofit that brought transparency to law firms’ demographic diversity and pro bono participation. She left the practice of law to co-found Paradigm, a data-driven consultancy that partners with leading technology startups and Fortune 500 companies to build stronger, more inclusive workplace cultures. Kelli then led People Operations for two startups, integrating diversity and inclusion into each company’s culture. She is now co-founder of JobSage, an employee transparency platform that brings insight into the things that matter most to job seekers. Kelli is a graduate of Rice University, cum laude, and Stanford Law School.

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What advice do you have for improving DEI in the workplace?

If I could offer only one piece of advice for improving DEI in the workplace, it would be to track your data with a lens on how demographics may or may not be affecting the candidate and employee experience. In addition to tracking internal data like offer acceptance rates and turnover rates, you should also solicit data directly from employees on how they’re experiencing the workplace. Analyze this data to determine if people from different backgrounds or life stages (e.g. women, people of color, and/or caregivers) are having the same, better, or worse experience. Use your findings to improve the workplace for everyone or, if they’re great, to spread the word to candidates and diversify your candidate pool!

What is one book that everyone involved in DEI initiatives should read, and what do you love about it?

While it’s not exactly a DEI book, I always recommend Primed to Perform: How to Build the Highest Performing Cultures Through the Science of Total Motivation, by Lindsay McGregor and Neel Doshi. I love that the book provides original research into what drives employees in different functions, how total motivation leads to higher performance and a tool for measuring the strength of workplace culture and tracking improvements. I read it when it came out in 2015 and still find myself returning to the insights.

What is your best tip for writing inclusive job descriptions?

While I appreciate the “diversity statement” that you’re probably starting to see at the end of many job descriptions, affirming that the employer values diversity and welcomes applications from people of all backgrounds, I advise recruiters to go a step further. The most inclusive job descriptions I’ve seen, and the kinds I advise others to write, include a more personable and encouraging statement to potential candidates at the end of the job description. Examples include: ” We kindly ask you to ignore your imposter syndrome and apply today if you think this job is a good fit for you!” and “Don’t Meet All The Requirements? Apply Anyway!” This lighthearted messaging can help remove concerns that the diversity statement is just a statement and help confirm to potential candidates that you actually mean it!


Kelli Mason JobSage COO

Simone Sloan, Rph, MBA

Founder
Your Choice Coach

Simone is an accomplished business strategist and coach with a career in senior roles at Fortune 500 companies across marketing, communications, medical affairs, sales, and global business strategy. Her tenure includes successfully launching and leading products and services, implementing programs for key stakeholders across the globe, and developing and training sales, medical, and technical teams.

Simone’s mantra is “Voice, Power, Confidence.” As an emotional intelligence executive coach, she changes the way leaders and their businesses engage their employees and clients. Simone emphasizes the human element with a focus on diversity and inclusion.

Simone is a keynote speaker and has been featured as a thought leader in articles for Huffington Post, Forbes, and Pharmacy Times. She is an active member of the Tri-State Diversity Council and advocate for women, LGBTQI, BIPOC, people with disabilities, and cross-generations.

Simone holds a BS in Pharmacy and an MBA from Howard University. She is co-author of the book: Achieving Results and 30 Days to Courage, and is certified in DISC, Emotional Intelligence (EQI) 2.0, IDI Cultural Competence, Block Chain, Behavior Design, and is also accredited through the InternationalCoaching Federation.

What advice do you have for improving DEI in the workplace?

It becomes important for leaders in the workplace work with their employees by listening to their employees. Understand what is important to them and areas to address and prioritize. Take a pulse of what is happening within the organization’s culture. Your Choice Coach takes a data driven and people centric approach to ensure we understand various functions across the organization and identify the gaps to address. We acknowledge areas of strength within the company and leverage those strengths to build momentum to create sustainable change.

What are some of the biggest DEI challenges in the workplace, and what is HR’s role in that?

One DEI of the many challenges I have seen is when organizations do not take the time to create/develop a documented strategy, one that can be scaled across the organization. Lack of a strategy impacts communication, expectations, and creates an overall sense of feeling stuck or feeling of frustration for those who are really motivated about DEI. Without a strategy, leaders cannot effectively communicate the why or importance of DEI. Failure to communicate the strategy frequently, can cause confusion across the organization. Set the expectations so that people understand their level of contribution, can create consistency, and model behaviours. Without expectations, people are doing things without any alignment to move the DEI and business forward, or a frozen layer develops across the organization that has not bought into this mindset and behavioural changes needed to support DEI. HR has data that can be actioned. Support their leaders by identifying the gaps. If an employee survey is conducted, share the results with the broader organization and commit to next steps. Ensure that the employees’ voices heard and communicate the approach that is planned to execute.

How do you think HR can make a meaningful impact on DEI in 2023 and beyond?

DEI requires a formal structure that is aligned to a business strategy. It requires DEI professionals, talent/HR, and the CEO. Diversity, Equity & Inclusion is a shared responsibility that should not be left for one department to solve. A dedicated resource is needed to foster, nurture, and cultivate it across the organization. However, when DEI is left only in the hands of HR, competing priorities can undermine its true intent, causing it to be stifled.

It becomes imperative to operationalize DEI through the organization’s people, culture, and business. HR plays a key role in ensuring equitable and inclusive practices, policies, and procedures are intentionally part of the hiring of new team members, overseeing the talent management lifecycle, administering benefits, compensation forecasting, disciplinary action and labor law compliance to name a few areas.

What made you decide to get into leadership coaching?

Earlier in my career I was exposed to a manager who was toxic and insecure. He did not know how to communicate, trust, delegate, coach, nor lead. I learned a lot from that experience and knew that was not the leader that I wanted to become. People get promoted based upon their skills, but are not necessarily groomed to manage a team let alone lead themselves. My work includes helping managers with performance effectiveness, emotional intelligence, awareness, and inclusive leadership. I would never want anyone to experience a toxic manager.


Liz Hogan

Digital Partnerships Manager

Find My Profession

Liz Hogan is the Digital Partnerships Manager and a CPRW at Find My Profession. She is passionate about volunteering and learning about others through immersion in different cultures and languages. Her whole life she has always believed that by fully immersing oneself in a new country and going through the learning process of acquiring a new language is the way to understand people and value their cultural differences. She dedicates her free time to teaching underrepresented communities English and the skills to land the job they dream of. She regularly shares her advice on job search and resumes writing with others.

What advice do you have for improving DEI in the workplace?

Improving DEI in the workplace starts with one thing – awareness. Evaluate where your company stands and what specific areas can improve inclusivity.

From there, start the conversation and increase accountability. Include the entire team, when possible, and create an actionable game plan. Ask yourself and the team the following: Does your hiring process need to change? Is your pay fair? What do the employee resources look like for training on DEI? What team-building activities can you do to promote DEI culture?

It’s important to remember that a lot of team-focused or team-building exercises, a lot of times they can be very gender-focused without us even realizing it, like sports analogies, team activities for shows we watch, etc. Keep a focus on inclusive activities where the theme isn’t inherently geared to one gender/ethnicity/religion, etc.

How do you think HR can make a meaningful impact on DEI in 2023 and beyond?

Making sure an organization has a solid code of conduct or mission statement to fully support DEI initiatives. In addition, being inclusive from an external and internal standpoint where HR is willing to invest in a DEI program with clearly defined goals for the organization.

What is one book that everyone involved in DEI initiatives should read, and what do you love about it?

Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald: This book creates awareness of all the lifelong biases we have created based on how we were raised. It encouraged the reader to understand and be aware of how their mind works in order to be less biased and more fair to those that are different from us.

The Leader’s Guide to Unconscious Bias: How To Reframe Bias, Cultivate Connection, and Create High-Performing Teams by Pamela Fuller, Mark Murphy, and Anne Chow: I love this book because it educated on the neuroscience aspects of biases and gives advice on how to overcome this entrenched influences. In addition, it has workbook-like exercises that help you work on DEI best practices.

What are the long-term consequences for organizations that ignore or fail to recognize the importance of DEI initiatives?

When a company ignores DEI initiatives, in the long term it creates a potential PR crisis, as the remnants of an outdated culture persist at a time when the world is changing.

What does that mean? For example, if a call center forces people outside the US to use more “American-sounding” names. But through the course of time, the names from outside the US become more commonplace. You now have staff told they must change their names at a time when DEI initiatives have stopped such a practice years ago.

Another example: Leadership that has been around for 25+ years, but who does not understand the reasons behind demands being made by a workforce fresh out of school This tends to lead to losing fresh intelligent talent.

The results of ignoring DEI initiatives can lead to EEOC claims which can be expensive. In addition, your staff might unionize, which will incur legal fees and restructuring of a staffing model. Take the time to get ahead of the curve now or may have to pay later, financially or in company’s reputation.

What are some creative ways to proactively source candidates from underrepresented communities?

  • Search on LinkedIn by using search terms relative to the underrepresented communities
  • Use Local city government workforce development sites to find candidates ex: https://nycetc.org/
  • Join diverse social groups and actively network with members
  • Spearhead events that are driven to attract talent from underrepresented communities
  • Hold career workshops and/or job fairs for students and job seekers for communities in need of additional resources
  • Have open conversations with current employees from diverse backgrounds about outreach ideas and strategies

What is your best tip for writing inclusive job descriptions?

Encouraging candidates to apply, even if they don’t have all of the qualifications for the role because not everyone has every qualification. It is also important to replace the word “required” or “requirement” from job descriptions. Instead, use “What you’ll do in this role” or “What makes you a great candidate.”


Being a leader in DEI in 2023 will require companies to go beyond just diversity and inclusion. It means actively looking for ways to improve the workplace experience of historically underrepresented groups and creating an environment that is equitable and inclusive. This includes implementing policies that support hiring, promotions, and retention of diverse talent; providing meaningful opportunities for development and growth; and eliminating discriminatory practices, such as pay inequity.
Amira Irfan, Founder and CEO at A Self Guru

Alysha M. Campbell

Founder & CEO
CultureShift HR

Alysha M. Campbell is an accomplished and respected Strategic HR Leader with a decade of experience that encompasses all facets of Human Resource Management. From executing successful multi-million dollar workforce recruitment and optimization projects to spearheading employee culture initiatives, Alysha has truly seen and done it all in the HR space.

Her passion for the industry has led her to start her own HR Consultancy and Strategy agency – CultureShift HR. As Founder and Principal, Alysha uses her business acumen to help companies utilize and engage their best talent while creating purposeful work environments that help businesses grow and thrive.

Through her experience and foresight in the Canadian, US and International talent space, Alysha has developed an eye for talent engagement patterns and the resulting effects on culture. As a speaker and entrepreneur, Alysha partners with and teaches organizations her proven process on how to align their talent with corporate objectives to achieve more and increase profitability. She enjoys sharing the secrets of the trade to help businesses discover the benefits of a high-performance culture, the increasing value of employee engagement, and the ins and outs of talent acquisition.

Within Alysha’s business practices, she encourages companies to embrace the “Employee First” philosophy that focuses on shifting the cultural dynamics and encouraging recognition of positive results and behaviors. Ultimately this leads to greater employee engagement, customer service and recurring revenue allowing clients to stay competitive in their respective industries and labor market.

Alysha is a graduate of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Commerce.

What advice do you have for improving DEI in the workplace?

Believe that change is possible. It can be difficult to see the ways in which we might benefit from structural change, but it’s important to remember that things can get better. Workplace diversity, equity, and inclusivity are not just about making sure everyone is represented; they’re about creating an environment where everyone can thrive. When people feel seen and respected for who they are, they’re able to bring their best selves to work each day.

What are some of the biggest DEI challenges in the workplace, and what is HR’s role in addressing them?

There are many diversity, equity, and inclusivity (DEI) challenges that can arise in the workplace. One of the most common is a lack of understanding or awareness of what DEI means and how to properly implement it. Another challenge can be when people try to “one size fits all” DEI initiatives, which often overlook the unique needs of different groups.

Misunderstandings or misinterpretations of communication can also lead to conflict and tension in the workplace. In order to create an inclusive environment, it’s important for everyone involved to be open-minded and willing to learn about different cultures, backgrounds, and experiences. Creating a safe place for employees to discuss these issues is essential for progress toward inclusivity.

HR’s role in addressing diversity, equity, and inclusivity challenges is to ensure that the organization has a policy in place that outlines its commitment to diversity and establishes expectations for employee behavior with regard to diversity.

HR should also work with management to develop procedures for investigating and resolving complaints of discrimination or harassment. Additionally, HR can play a role in training employees on diversity and inclusion topics and helping managers create an inclusive work environment.

How do you think HR can make a meaningful impact on DEI in 2023 and beyond?

There are many ways that HR can make a meaningful impact on diversity and inclusion in 2023. Some of these ways include the following:

  1. Educating employees about the benefits of diversity and inclusion.
  2. Encouraging employee engagement and participation in diversity and inclusion initiatives.
  3. Creating an open and welcoming environment where employees feel comfortable discussing differences and sharing their experiences.
  4. Developing training programs that focus on improving cultural competency and sensitivity.
  5. Promoting diversity and inclusion initiatives externally to attract top talent from diverse backgrounds.
  6. Collaborating with other departments within the organization to support the implementation of DEI initiatives across all levels of the company.
  7. Celebrating success stories and highlighting

What is one book that everyone involved in DEI initiatives should read, and what do you love about it?

I would recommend “Diversity and Inclusion: A Guide for the 21st Century Manager” by Jane E. Dutton and Monica C. Worline. This book is a great read for individuals who want to learn more about diversity, equity, and inclusion and how to create an inclusive workplace. It provides readers with concrete strategies for becoming more aware of their own personal biases and how to manage them, creating an environment that supports differences, and building an inclusive team.

What advice do you have for HR professionals struggling to get leadership to buy into DEI initiatives?

There are a few key things you can do to get leadership buy in for diversity initiatives in your workplace. First, make sure that you have a clear and concise vision for your program, and be able to articulate the benefits of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Second, create an action plan that outlines how you will achieve your goals, and make sure that leaders can see how their involvement will be instrumental in achieving success. Finally, build a coalition of allies who support your cause and can help advocate for change within the organization. By following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to securing leadership buy-in for DEI initiatives in your company!

What are the long-term consequences for organizations that ignore or fail to recognize the importance of DEI initiatives?

If we ignore diversity and inclusion in the workplace, the consequences can be long-term and far-reaching.

For one, ignoring diversity can lead to an environment where employees feel they have to conform to a certain way of thinking or behaving in order to fit in. This can stifle creativity and innovation, as employees are less likely to share new ideas if they feel they won’t be accepted. Additionally, a lack of diversity can also lead to tension and conflict among employees, as different groups vie for power and recognition.

In the long run, ignoring diversity and inclusion in the workplace can damage a company’s reputation and bottom line. If potential customers see that a company is not welcoming of diverse perspectives, they may take their business elsewhere. Additionally, employees who feel marginalized or excluded are more likely to leave a company, leading to high turnover rates and added recruiting and training costs.

Diversity and inclusion are important for creating a thriving workplace where all employees can feel valued and respected. When we embrace diversity, we open the door to new ideas and perspectives that can help us innovate and succeed.

What are some creative ways to source candidates from underrepresented communities proactively?

There are a number of ways to source candidates from underrepresented communities. One way is to reach out to community organizations and ask for referrals. Local organizations that work with underrepresented communities can be great sources of candidates. They often have networks of talented individuals who may be a good fit for your company, and they can also help you connect with these candidates in a way that feels more personal and authentic.

You can also post job openings in local newspapers or online job boards that cater to minority communities. There are a number of online resources that can help you find talented individuals from underrepresented communities. Sites like diversity recruiter or talent summit can provide you with access to a wealth of qualified candidates, and they also offer helpful resources like tips for reaching out to underrepresented groups and creating an inclusive workplace.

Additionally, you can hold career fairs and invite local community organizations to participate. Finally, you can reach out to candidates directly by networking and recruiting through social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

What is your best tip for writing inclusive job descriptions?

When writing job descriptions, it’s important to be mindful of including all types of potential applicants. In order to create inclusive job descriptions, try including language that is welcoming and open-ended, such as “people of all genders are encouraged to apply.” You can also list specific qualifications that are not related to gender, such as “must have a valid driver’s license” or “must be able to work independently.”

It’s also important to avoid excluding people with disabilities. This can be done by specifying the essential functions of the job, rather than listing specific requirements. For example, you might say “the candidate must be able to lift 25 pounds,” rather than “the candidate must have 20/20 vision.”

Here are some other tips to start you off:

  1. Use gender-neutral language. Instead of “manpower” or “he”, try “personnel” or “they”.
  2. Avoid mentioning specific genders. For example, instead of saying that the ideal candidate is male, try saying that the ideal candidate is someone who is competent and capable.
  3. Refer to people in a way that respects their gender identity. If you don’t know someone’s preferred pronoun, use “they/them”.
  4. Be aware of your own bias and privilege when writing job descriptions. Try to be as objective as possible when describing the skills and qualifications required for a position.

Agatha Agbanobi

Founder, CEO, and Principal Consultant

Optimal Leadership

Agatha Agbanobi is the founder, chief executive officer and principal consultant of the Optimal Leadership LLC, a firm that provides antiracism and diversity, equity, inclusion and justice (DEIJ) audits/assessments, strategy and implementation advising, leadership coaching, resource development and implementation support. She provides interactive, thought-provoking advising and coaching sessions to help leaders and team members tackle tough issues related to equity, diversity and inclusion, belonging, leadership, anti-racism, anti-bias and allyship. Whether you’re an individual contributor, a team supervisor, a chief Talent officer, or CEO at your company, Agatha will meet you where you are and partner with you to build and facilitate the DEIJ strategy, policy changes, programmatic initiatives or learning and development plan your team needs.

For over a decade, Agatha has been involved in equity work, starting with gender equity in international education development in 2010 and progressing to racial equity and more broadly, diversity, equity and inclusion in Texas education systems and government agencies. In 2020, Agatha pivoted to working primarily with corporate and non-profit clients, including Fortune 500 companies. Agatha has many years of experience as a consultant, project/program manager, director/supervisor and corporate trainer. Throughout the years, she has engaged in the evolution of racial and gender equity practices and is aware of the underlying systemic issues that prevent reform initiatives from leading to meaningful change. A “restructure” and redesign is what is needed, not reform. She has also performed extensive research on restorative justice and inclusive culture-building, DEI workforce change management and policy reform. She has used this knowledge and experience to inform her unique approach to providing clients with exceptional counsel – that which will help teams and their workplace culture experience meaningful change, especially those most marginalized and underestimated in the workplace.

She holds a Master’s in Education Leadership and professional certifications in DEI, Optimizing Diversity on Teams and Change Management. She is also a Course Facilitator/Instructor for DEI and Women Entrepreneurship courses at Cornell University. She also serves as the Professional Development and Education chair on the Central Texas chapter of the National Diversity Council.

What advice do you have for improving DEI in the workplace?

  1. Do a full, comprehensive DEI audit first. Assess internal climate, departmental and company-wide policies and practices, and external-facing work from a DEI and justice lens.
  2. Educate leaders and team members on foundational DEI principles and practices for driving an inclusive and equitable work environment, grounded in an anti-oppression and anti-colonial framework.
  3. Develop a real DEI strategy that is fully integrated in all business functions and includes accountability systems and metrics. Build in continuous improvement systems and strategies for driving and maintaining momentum.
  4. Lastly, ensure that your strategy includes initiatives and systems for self-care, self-advocacy and wellness for your minoritized employees and those who are at the forefront of doing this work. Sustainability matters.

What are some of the biggest DEI challenges in the workplace, and what is HR’s role in addressing them?

One of the biggest challenges continues to be people management and leadership awareness. When you don’t have the right people and leaders on teams – people for whom DEI is in their DNA (it is not just what they do but who they are) – there continues to be issues retaining diversity and an inclusive culture on teams. These teams will continue to make the same faux pas in DEI communication and implementation. Additionally, many tend to focus only on the D and the I, not understanding that justice (correcting wrongs) and equity (outcomes-driven access) come first. We cannot simply launch DEI and/or make commitment statements without first becoming aware of and acknowledging those who are hurting within our teams, customers who have been impacted by exclusionary practices in the way we design and market our products and services, etc.and then determining ways to repair such harms. We cannot assume that equal access or “fairness practices” are the equivalence of equity. True equity acknowledges that our system is designed in a way that inherently privileges those in socially dominant groups. It acknowledges that, because of this reality, different groups will need different types of resources and tools in order to level the playing field. For example, the culture-building habits and practices required for a white, able-bodied woman to feel safe and included at work will not be the same for a Black, disabled woman. There will be overlapping needs, but your Black, disabled employee will require more resources. The way forward is to design and build for our most marginalized and underestimated, in order to get to equity and inclusion for all.

How do you think HR can make a meaningful impact on DEI in 2023 and beyond?

There are so many opportunities in HR as well as in other departments. HR is not where DEI should be housed and HR should not be the primary driver of DEI. Every department should have specific DEI goals and metrics that they are held accountable to, like every other business imperative. HR can start by reviewing their policies and procedures with a comprehensive DEI audit and from a human-first/human-centered lens. The policies often really do not have an anti-oppression, anti-colonial lens to them and they ignore the full range of workplace / identity-based abuse, including some of the gray areas of how to protect and affirm affected employees during an investigation, as well as how to adequately hold people accountable from a restorative justice perspective. These policies often do not center those closest to the harm and their perspective. They often center an ethos of “this is the way things have always been done.”

What is one book that everyone involved in DEI initiatives should read, and what do you love about it?

There are not a lot out there that are substantive enough with tangible implementation guidance and case studies so I’m not sure I can recommend any at the moment. Much of the “DEI books” I have read provides broad advice that helps with visioning and interpersonal interactions. I highly recommend that everyone increase their understanding of approaching DEI with an anti-oppression, anti-colonial framework. This means a deeper understanding of the systemization of racial hierarchy, identity-based oppression and its interweaving with class, wealth, capitalism and the political framework of “western democracy.” These foundational understandings help us better understand why so many DEI initiatives and social justice reform initiatives have a ceiling of effectiveness and what we can try to avoid when redesigning our systems for equity, inclusion and justice in the workplace. For this, I recommend Isabel Wilkerson’s “The Origin of our Discontent,” Olufemi Taiwo’s “Elite Capture – How the Powerful Took Over Identity Politics (And Everything Else),” Mahmood Mamdani’s “Neither Settler nor Native: The Making and Unmaking of Permanent Minorities,” Richard Rothstein’s “The Color of Law,” and anything by Audre Lorde and James Baldwin to start.

What advice do you have for HR professionals who are struggling to get leadership to buy into DEI initiatives?

Peel back the layers and find out the underlying beliefs that are leading to a lack of leadership buy-in. Review the organization’s values, mission and bottom line. If none of it is people- or human-centered, it will be a hard climb. I highly recommend hiring a DEI consultant or coach to help you problem-solve in a contextualized, data-driven manner. Data always speaks volumes. Be strategic and clear about the tiers of DEI work that exist as options for your team and develop a roadmap towards readiness to embark on a particular tier or pathway. Additionally, know your limit. Have an honest conversation with yourself and/or the DEI committee/council about what happens next, if leadership is never bought into what you have defined as meaningful DEI work for the company. There are no real broad solutions here. Context will always matter.

What are the long-term consequences for organizations that ignore or fail to recognize the importance of DEI initiatives?

Many organizations will be left behind as it relates to finding enough staff and growing overall business profitability because people have more options for getting a paycheck nowadays with the rise of the gig economy, monetized content creation, and side-hustle entrepreneurs. It matters how people are experiencing an organization, especially within those businesses in pivotal growth stages. Staff retention is pivotal and reduces costs. Additionally, businesses with increasingly diverse teams and leaders often experience more innovation, grow in new ways and outpace the competition.


Being a company that leads the way in DEI means promoting practices with data and context in 2023. DEI practices are not a one-size-fits-all approach, and one strategy that works in an organization might not impact yours in any way. It’s critical to gain personal awareness of your internal practices and how integrating DEI into them can be achieved without disrupting the workflow. After all, DEI initiatives require context from one organization to another.
Nunzio Ross, Owner and Head Director at Majesty Coffee

Angela L. Shaw

Senior Vice President of Talent
Amplify Credit Union

Angela Shaw is an HR professional focused on developing the next generation of inclusive leaders. She is a force to be reckoned with as a volunteer leader, people advocate, diversity inclusionist, introvert, speaker, student, and teacher. As an avid learner, Angela is never afraid to ask hard questions. Best of all, she shares her truths and experiences to connect, influence, and inspire the people around her.

When Angela is not changing the world of HR with her talents, she is speaking on the importance of HR, diversity, inclusion, and other related people topics. Not only does she speak about it, but she also lives it in her everyday life. Angela is actively involved in groups and organizations such as Austin HRM Association, TXSHRM and SHRM where she uses her platform to help change people’s thinking about critical topics like good HR and diversity, equity and inclusion.

Currently, Angela is focusing on teaching, speaking and consulting work. She is also an adjunct professor at the University of Texas at Austin Center for Professional Education where she teaches about the essentials of HR. Angela has had a range of roles in HR within a variety of industries, adding to her rounded experience and expertise. She has also served as a volunteer Board Member for several other organizations including the YWCA of Greater Austin and PelotonU.

What advice do you have for improving DEI in the workplace?

My advice is mainly for individuals because within every organization are the individuals that are holding up real and lasting movement. From silent allies to outright racists who instead of helping to break down discriminatory and oppressive systems are in fact upholding it up. These are the ones that I want them to:

  • Accept that disparity exists and that the playing field is not level.
  • Accept where they are on their journey even when it is in its early stages.
  • Accept that it is an ongoing journey that moves beyond education to action.
  • Commit and support all underrepresented groups, not just the one that you can tolerate.
  • Center on the underrepresented and shift power to the vulnerable.

What are some of the biggest DEI challenges in the workplace, and what is HR’s role in that?

  • The fragility of the people with privilege and power who want to stop DEI with their outcry of reverse discrimination, unfair treatment and labeling everything political therefore not worthy of discussion.
  • Individual acceptance of stopping progress with fear or not wanting to do the work that comes with real DEI.
  • Ignorance of experiences that are not your own. If it doesn’t affect me, it doesn’t exist and doesn’t need addressing.

HR needs to call people on their BS and address bad behavior in the workplace. Accountability not only for DEI but just common decency in how everyone is treated is sorely lacking.

If a manager fires all of their Black employees…there is a problem and are we addressing that?

If a co-worker makes misogynistic comments…there is a problem and are we addressing it?

If a senior leader uses a homophobic slur in an all-hands meeting…there is a problem and are we addressing.

How do you think HR can make a meaningful impact on DEI?

Whether DEI leadership and advocacy comes from a DEI executive or from within the HR department there will always be a close relationship. Almost all HR duties relate to DEI in some way. HR are the ones that do the actual work to evolve the application of policies, programs and people but unfortunately, HR does not have a good track record in fighting bias and discrimination. In order to have meaningful impact HR should:

  • Re-connect with employees and change the perception that HR cannot be trusted or are only in place for compliance and policing.
  • Be a change agent for ensuring equity and fair systems are in place for employees.
  • Commit to creating equitable culture by making diversity, equity and inclusion focal points within the company.
  • Show up with innovative and creative ideas for employee inclusion.
  • Exemplify inclusive behavior for everyone else to follow.

What made you decide to get into HR?

The opportunity to connect with and serve the people of the organization. I was an employee first but I recognized as an HR person that I would have more power and a platform to help others. When I decided to get into HR I didn’t have anything but a passion for it but I persevered and learned as much as I could. Over my own journey I’ve been able to use my righteous indignation as a measure of my dedication to DEI and working towards real change. I’ve built a platform that allows me to speak to my experiences that so many others resonate with and connect to. I’ve had the opportunity to encourage and empower people in using themselves to take a stand for what is right. Every uncomfortable, torturous or oppressive experience I’ve had only inflamed me for more. Each day I count my blessings that I have the opportunity to do more, be on the right side of history and get into good trouble


In order to lead the way in DEI in 2023 businesses must create an environment where all employees feel comfortable and safe discussing diversity and inclusion issues, and where everyone is encouraged to participate in creating an inclusive workplace. Organizations must be open to feedback and constantly work to improve their DEI practices.
Grace He, People and Culture Director at teambuilding.com

GoCo’s 2021 Top DEI Influencers in HR

Cory Kapner

VP of Global Sales & Partnerships Recruitics

Cory is currently a VP for Recruitics, a global recruitment marketing agency Headquartered in NYC and San Francisco. Previously, he served as the Managing Director of UK and Europe for Recruitics. Before Recruitics, Cory worked for Indeed.com and ran a full desk of recruitment at Michael Page International where he learned and solutioned against some of the greatest job seeker challenges. For the last 2 years, Cory has been volunteering at the New York Public Library as a career coach assisting job seekers with their job search, organization, interview tips, and salary negotiation

What are some of the biggest DEI challenges in the workplace, and what is HR’s role in that?

The biggest DEI challenge is measurement. As stated in books like “The Sum of Us-What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together,” companies are starting to quantify the dollars lost in the US economy due to racism. Executives employed by influential companies need to do the same with their DEI challenges. Data provides a narrative to start making real change without hesitancy or friction.

How do you think HR can make a meaningful impact on DEI in 2021 and beyond?

HR can make a meaningful impact on DEI by #1, educating themselves on concepts like bias, privilege, culture, microaggressions, xenophobia + many more. Once the HR teams are fully fluent and passionate about these concepts, it’s critical for them to advocate for people that can’t advocate for themselves. Communication apprehension plays an instrumental role for most diverse employees and unfortunately, gaslighting has become the norm. HR needs to bridge these gaps and meet people where they are.See what Cory’s up to at Recruitics!


Amit Parmar

Co-Founder & CEO
Cliquify

Amit is a global HR/Talent leader with over 16 years of experience in the Technology industry. Presently, he is the co-founder and CEO of Cliquify – a candidate engagement SaaS that helps employers re-define how open jobs and career content is portrayed to drive more diverse and relevant talent pools across social media channels to the career site. The result, 4x more candidate engagement as measured by click through rate while reducing cost per click by as much as 79%.

What advice do you have for improving DEI in the workplace?

Improving DEI in the workplace begins with helping people understand the various facets of diversity, equity, and inclusion. A common understanding of what DEI means is a critical foundational step. Once the understanding is in place, the next step is to identify, review, and measure the impact of all HR practices and policies to drive more equity and inclusion throughout the journey of the employee lifecycle. People analytics and insights are key functions in this approach. Having a good handle on the demographic makeup of your workforce and then measuring the impact of each of your HR practices whether positive or negative is important to identify the specific areas that need to be revamped or leave as-is.

Address HR practices and policies that may unintentionally impact specific demographics of the workforce in their journey experiencing you as an employer of choice. For example:

  1. Talent Attraction: Removing biases in sourcing and selection processes. Hiring for potential versus pedigree.
  2. While Employed: Ensuring equity in maternity and paternity paid leave policies or benefit elections that are favorable to transgender or aging populations, or accommodating commuting policies for employees who may live in underserved communities or with disabilities relying on public transportation. Removing biases in performance and promotion management. Ensuring people are included in key meetings or offsites without favoritism.

What are some of the biggest DEI challenges in the workplace, and what is HR’s role in that?

The biggest DEI challenges in the workplace are related to how people view and learn from the “norm” behaviors that are displayed by leadership at all levels in the company. If a certain set of positive/inclusive behaviors are celebrated and rewarded consistently then people will learn those behaviors as anchors to continue emulating. However, if top and front line leaders incentivize and accept toxic behaviors at the expense of top results (high performance), then there is a huge challenge and a problem. HR’s role is to defend the behaviors that are core to the values of the organization and hold leaders at all level accountable to live and breathe those values. Call out leaders and employees who role models for those values and behaviors and address those leaders and employees who need coaching and develop to help emulate those values/behaviors.

How do you think HR can make a meaningful impact on DEI in 2021 and beyond?

HR is the only function in the entire company that is objective and is trusted by employees to hold leadership accountable and also trusted by leadership to hold people accountable with appropriate coaching and development. As it relates to DEI, HR can make a meaningful impact by ensuring that they are addressing areas in the organization where there may be toxic/non-inclusive behaviors and bring a balance back to living the core values versus simply focusing on high performance. HR’s role is to make sure that there is balance between how the work is performed and what the results are. How would you as HR influence your line leaders with this choice: A high performer who is toxic and not team oriented OR a mediocre performer who lives your values and is a team player?

What made you decide to get into HR?

For any organization to be successful, they have to have the right caliber of people working there and there is a social responsibility we have to grow and develop people as a global society. I chose the field of HR early on in my career as I am deeply passionate about helping organizations and people maximize their potential.See what Amit is up to at Cliquify!


Pat Caldwell

Chief Operating Officer (COO/CPO)FundApps

Pat is a senior people and operations leader and self-confessed people geek! After starting his career in the coal mining industry in Australia before joining the tech scenes of London and New York, Pat is now building People, Finance, Legal and Operations as the COO at FundApps, a high-growth bootstrapped software company and certified B Corporation. Pat has a passion for disruptive HR practices, reimagining the role of HR for the future of work and the role of culture and inclusion in the employee experience.

What advice do you have for improving DEI in the workplace?

Start small and focus on practical actions that meaningfully contribute to equity and inclusion. Improving DEI isn’t a simple, silver-bullet fix, otherwise we wouldn’t be having this conversation. But when I see 5-year diversity & inclusion strategies that have taken months or sometimes years to put together, I do wonder if we’ve overcomplicated it a bit. Sometimes the most meaningful change is sparked from a small, practical action executed well. More walk, less talk.

We’ve just seen our LinkedIn feeds smothered in rainbow-washed brands talking about celebrating the LGBTQ+ community but with a complete absence of stories regarding the actions companies took to contribute to greater DEI for LGBTQ+ team members in the workplace beyond updating their logo colours and writing a cute social media post. If we genuinely want to make change, beyond just good intentions, we need to co-design actions using lived experiences and start to think of DEI as being as integral to the business as customer satisfaction or product development. For example, when was the last time you reviewed your parental leave policies to understand the experience of LGBTQ+ parents in the workplace? Or reviewed the education/experience requirements on a job description to see if it might be playing to biases and turning away very capable candidates? Or systematically reviewed and adjusted the process to award pay increases to ensure a reduction in the gender pay gap. It’s not ground-breaking stuff, but it requires actually making a change and forcing some uncomfortable conversations.

What are some of the biggest DEI challenges in the workplace, and what is HR’s role in that?

Converting a strong ‘why’ into the ‘what’ and ‘how’. There’s plenty of debate around DEI having it’s own seat at the table, or whether it should sit within HR, and both of these seem like noise to the actual question which is whether a company is genuinely committed to making changes and progressing DEI, or if they’re just afraid to be seen as doing nothing. It’s an important distinction. Assuming there is that commitment, I see HR’s role as ambassadors for the workplace culture to be helping translate that commitment into tangible actions.

It might be the case there is a lack of women or people of colour in leadership positions. Unfortunately, the common response to that is to show commitment to change it, to maybe set a target, to communicate it out to the business, and perhaps a tweak or two in the recruitment process for good measure. But all of this is just scratching at the actual issue. HR can play a vital role in helping the organisation ‘develop its IQ’ and understand what exists systemically that has contributed to this, what are the lived experiences of women and people of colour in the organisation, where are the areas that need to change for leadership to be more representative of the broader organisation or the community in which it operates in. This may reveal a whole host of various issues, from policies that reinforce stereotypes to leadership behaviours (or even leaders) that need to be removed from the business.

They can be tough things to confront, but it comes back to the same question of whether we’re actually committed to making changes and progressing DEI, or just afraid to be seen as doing nothing.

How do you think HR can make a meaningful impact on DEI in 2021 and beyond?

In a single sentence: Pick one thing that needs to change and change it, then listen to your people to see what effect it had.

What made you decide to get into HR?

It was very much an accident. I dropped out of law school and studied business as I found I was interested in lots of different things and I liked being able to flip between the complexity of organisational behaviour, to the certainty of accounting and finance, to the thinking and psychology in marketing. Now that I’ve been in HR for the better part of the last decade, I appreciate that it’s a profession that is currently being reinvented and there’s an incredible opportunity to cut across teams and do good by people.

See what Pat’s up to at FundApps!


DEI is not a separate department, nor a singular initiative. It is a mindset and a way of life. If a company wants to lead the way in DEI, it has to make sure that the company culture supports it. There is no one-size-fits-all DEI initiative. It is all about building awareness, creating an environment of trust, and having people at all levels of the organization committed to it. This is how a company can lead the way in DEI.
Matthew Ramirez, CEO at Rephrasely

Katrina Jones

Inclusion, Diversity & Equity Leader Amazon Web Services (AWS)

Katrina Jones is a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Leader and Champion. She works with organizations to create strategic and process driven solutions to disrupt bias, in order to foster more equitable and inclusive workplaces. Katrina has served as a diversity and inclusion lead at large, complex, global companies and startups, and has designed and executed strategies to attract, retain, and advance people from underrepresented and historically marginalized communities. The foundation of her passion for this work is an unyielding belief in justice and transformation, and a desire to lift up people whose voices and experiences have been denied or silenced. Katrina is a Lifetime member of the Texas Exes, having earned a Bachelor of Arts in Ethnic Studies from The University of Texas at Austin. She also has a Master of Arts in Human Resource Management from The Catholic University of America. You can connect with Katrina via LinkedIn, or find her on Twitter, threading tweets on diversity in the workplace, racial and gender equity, and the occasional art exhibit.

What advice do you have for improving DEI in the workplace?

I have three key pieces of advice for improving DEI in the workplace: 1) Focus on systemic interventions; 2) Critically assess your organizational culture (or find someone who will); and 3) Resource DEI with external experts as needed.

1. Commit to tackling the work at a systemic level. To do so, you’ll need to collect and analyze data from every place you can – the recruiting process, promotions, attrition, performance plans, compensation, employee relations cases, offboarding and exit interviews – basically any outcome that’s connected to the employee and talent management lifecycles within your company. Look for any trends in the data – no matter how minor they initially seem – and apply interventions that get to the root of the issue within the organization. What does this look like? It could look like an organization revamping or eliminating a certain talent management process, if it’s found that the process results in disproportionately negative outcomes for certain marginalized groups.

2. Oftentimes, in organizations with homogenous employee populations (or limited employee diversity), employees from majority groups will have a different employee experience than employees from marginalized groups (who may have a less positive employee experience). When majority employees hear critical or negative feedback about the organization, they are often surprised and may react defensively in response. It can be difficult to empathize with employee experiences that contradict your own, especially if this feedback is coming from people whom you lack “familiarity” with. Your implicit biases and embedded stereotypes will work overtime to help you dismiss their feedback. Leaders and HR/Talent team members must consider their biases about the organization, and how those biases impact your view of the employee experience and the organizational culture. Admit that you can’t be objective or detached in reviewing your organizational culture, and ask others who can do so, unsympathetically, to take the lead in evaluating the organizational culture. Or better yet, hire an expert to put together a report on your organizational culture, along with recommendations for addressing any problems uncovered.

3. Pull in external experts as needed. You might hire external consultants for anything from conducting an audit of your company’s current DEI state, to facilitating employee learning and skill building, or even serving as a DEI thought partner and coach to senior leadership. If you bring in external consultants, make sure you’re clear about goals and what the person or team will deliver within the defined period.

What are some of the biggest DEI challenges in the workplace, and what is HR’s role in that?

One of the biggest DEI challenges is how DEI is resourced and where it sits within an organization. Often the DEI function sits within HR, with the head of DEI reporting into HR. At times, it can appear as if the goals of each function are in conflict with one another (HR wants to minimize risk; DEI wants to foster a more equitable organization and increase diverse representation). Historically, the head of DEI has been expected to influence change (“win hearts and minds”) and has often been severely under resourced – no headcount, small budget – with a large plate of responsibilities. HR can demand more (and better) for DEI as a function. Ask for DEI to report into the CEO’s office, and advocate for increased resourcing of the work. HR can also be explicitly supportive of DEI. I would encourage all CHROs/CPOs to sit down regularly with the DEI leader at their org and ask them, “how can I best support you and your work, as well as the work of your team?” Listen intently, to really understand what they’re asking for, and then follow through with your full support.

How do you think HR can make a meaningful impact on DEI in 2021 and beyond?

One of the impactful things HR can do is ensure that their HR team is engaging in continuous learning on diversity, equity, and inclusion. It’s critical for HR professionals to go beyond unconscious bias, and build skills to engage in organizational equity and inclusion work. To do this, you’ll need to assess your knowledge gaps about specific dimensions of identity (e.g., race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, veteran status, disabilities, and more), and get real about what you don’t know, as well as where the knowledge you do have came from. As an example, if you are white and grew up in a majority white community in the United States, you likely have limited knowledge about the history of race and racial injustice in the US, and how racial inequity shows up today in our workplaces. Learning about this history and reading about the experiences of marginalized employees in the workplace will help you build knowledge that you can apply towards equity and inclusion work.

HR professionals can also continue building their capabilities to lead and work with diverse teams, and strengthening their inclusive leadership skills.

What made you decide to get into HR?

I’m incredibly purpose driven – I always have been, since I was a kid. I was drawn to HR because I saw it as a place where I could make a positive difference in the lives of people, in spaces where access and opportunity aren’t always distributed fairly. How can we transform our organizations to meet the needs of a diverse range of people and their communities? Professionally and personally, I am a champion for justice, and an advocate for evolving our workplaces to welcome everyone – especially those who have been historically excluded and denied opportunities because of who they are and how they identify. See what Katrina is up to at AWS!


Anita Lettink

Strategic Advisor/Analyst/PartnerHRTechRadar and Strategic Management Centre

Anita has worked in the HR Tech space for 20 years. As SVP Strategy & Alliances, she developed digital ecosystems, executed multi-national research projects, coordinated alliances with partners and implemented strategy programs while leading global, virtual teams. She has worked for public, private and PE-owned companies.

What advice do you have for improving DEI in the workplace?

Always start by listening to your employees. You might want to send a short survey out first, and then follow up with meetings to understand the real issues. Ask a lot of questions. As leaders, you might think you know what the issues are, but you don’t have the full picture.

Also involve your employees in coming up with solutions to improve DEI. I think you will be nicely surprised by what they suggest, and how much progress you can make by following their lead.

What are some of the biggest DEI challenges in the workplace, and what is HR’s role in that?

As soon as you set your DEI goals, you will hear from team leaders who think you should make an exception for them: their situation is different.

When we first ran our DEI initiative, as a leadership team we set objectives for our teams and then cascaded those all the way down. We decided that no matter what arguments people would bring, we wouldn’t change our (and their) objectives. While we did soften our approach a bit later, that early stance showed how serious we were about DEI and sent a message to the whole company.

DEI is a tough topic to crack and requires that everyone is on board and supportive. Once you allow one person to deviate from the plan, it becomes a slippery slope, everyone will come up with an excuse and you will not hit your objectives. So be firm at the start to achieve success.

And don’t forget to celebrate success: sharing achievements is the best way to show employees that you are taking DEI seriously and it becomes “business-as-usual”.

How do you think HR can make a meaningful impact on DEI in 2021 and beyond?

The best thing HR can do is put the topic on the board agenda and link it to workforce strategy. Arm the CHRO with facts and numbers. Understand the issue. Make visible how a lack of DEI will seriously impact your attractiveness as an employer.

In short, don’t do DEI because it is a trend: do it because it’s normal. A lot of companies make great progress with well-thought out programs. Most of them are happy to talk about the way they approached the topic and will share lessons learned. Reach out to their HR teams: I’m sure they will be eager to talk to you.

Make sure that HR presents the C-suite with a monthly progress review – this way the topic stays front and center, and you can immediately take action in case you are behind.

What made you decide to get into HR?

I got into HR by accident – I worked in technology, and joined a company that implemented HR solutions. I came to understand the industry very well, and the profession has gone through so many changes with so much still left to do that I am still here!

See what Anita’s up to at Strategic Management Centre!


Anessa Fike

CEO & FounderFike + Co

Creating excellent workplace cultures, strengthening employee engagement, and increasing company productivity run through Anessa’s veins. She has led more than 70 companies worldwide through scaling efforts through various stages of business from seed round series to Series A- D to mergers and acquisitions to pre-IPO. She has served as Chief People Officer, VP People & Talent, and/or Head of People at 15+ tech companies and has not only helped to scale revenue at these organizations but has also helped companies boost their DIBE efforts to ensure that more people find amazing places to work for them. Anessa has been named as one of the Most Inclusive HR Influencers for her work toward pushing businesses forward in this area.

Focused on assisting executives with complex organizational and growth issues, she has also been a force in the growing world of transparent workplace culture, working with anonymous employer review sites including InHerSight and Glassdoor.com. With a Master of Arts in English from National University and a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, Business, and English from Penn State University, her unique background enables her to understand people and craft internal communication in a way that very few can.

When Anessa isn’t helping companies enhance culture, you will find her with a kickass pair of shoes on and a full-bodied glass of red wine in her hand.

What advice do you have for improving DEI in the workplace?

Most companies have to first get really clear on what DIBE means. There needs to be a solid foundation from which to work from at a company that is built on true understanding of DIBE. DIBE includes diversity, inclusion, belonging, and equity. Belonging is also as important as the other items because once someone gets to an organization, if she/he/they don’t ever feel like there is a place for her/him/them at the company, they aren’t going to be as productive, engaged, or happy. Companies also need to make sure they truly understand the E in DIBE; the goal should be to strive for equity. Bring in the core values of your organization and make sure to weave DIBE through each and every one. Then, educate, create awareness, and then educate some more. Encourage hard conversations. Encourage open dialogue. Encourage real discussions. And then make solid steps in the right direction. Whether that means creating an unlimited vacation policy where taking the time needed to recharge and rest is encouraged, or that means a hybrid 4-day workweek, both can help out underrepresented groups and create more inclusivity, belonging, and equity. The best companies that understand and make a real difference in DIBE are the ones that create thoughtful environments; for leaders, this means never thinking about just one group of people in their organization when they are making decisions, but instead thinking of all people and of all circumstances and taking those into consideration. Be careful not to forget about the intersectionality of people – each person is unique and so is the perspective of that person. Don’t assume that one person’s views are representative of all of those that come from the same background or look like that person.

What are some of the biggest DEI challenges in the workplace, and what is HR’s role in that?

The largest DIBE challenge for most organizations is honestly that they don’t want to do the work. They want to look like they are doing the work, and project the illusion that they are doing the work, but for most companies and most leaders, the status quo has gotten them to where they are today – and they aren’t jumping up and down to change that. Now, the smartest companies realize that having a heterogenous group of people makes them smarter, better, and more thoughtful, but change is still hard and takes a lot of time and work. Really changing companies for the better is not a side job and not the job of only one department. It is the job of each and every person in that company. If companies are serious about DIBE, then it should be clear and seen in the company’s core values and in its everyday life. If leaders push off DIBE to their HR teams and do nothing else, they aren’t serious about DIBE; instead, they are only concerned about the appearance of DIBE.

How do you think HR can make a meaningful impact on DEI in 2021 and beyond?

The number one thing that HR departments can do now and in the future is to continue to push; push hard conversations, push leaders to get uncomfortable, push for change, and push for action. If you are not pushing as an HR department for DIBE, you aren’t doing what is fundamentally at the core of your role. Human resources doesn’t just mean resources for white men; it means resources for all humans, period.

What made you decide to get into HR?

I always laugh at this question because I’m not sure that I ever decided to get into HR as much as I fell into it. I started my professional career as a journalist writing for a small family-owned newspaper in Eastern NC. After having won a press award there and seeing the journalism industry change from paper to digital, I decided to try something different. I started as an Executive Assistant at The Motley Fool shortly after I decided on a career change, and there I worked with the President, Chief People Officer, and Chief Technology Officer plus their teams. After 6 months in that role and having a very in-depth view of the business from various angles and from both strategic and detailed levels, I was promoted to work on the People team where I handled projects that had been on the back burner. I got a crash course in what people and talent looked like at an organization that was one of the highest revered workplace cultures in the country, and the skills needed were surprisingly similar to what is required of a journalist. And at the base of both were people. See what Anessa’s up to at Fike + Co!


Keirsten Greggs

Founder & CEOTRAP Recruiter, LLC.

Keirsten Greggs is the Founder and CEO of TRAP Recruiter, LLC, a Recruiting Consulting and Career Coaching firm. With over 20 years of experience in Talent Acquisition, she’s passionate about helping organizations attract, select and retain the best people, including underrepresented candidates, as well as helping job seekers find their voice in the hiring process. She does this through consulting, facilitating workshops, hosting training sessions and webinars, coaching job seekers and more.

She has been featured as an expert in ERE, InHerSight, Diversity Jobs, Hiretual, Talview, TechTarget, BBC World Service Radio, MadameNoire, Fast Company, and SiriusXM Urban View.

What are some of the biggest DEI challenges in the workplace, and what is HR’s role in that?

Many organizations haven’t had DEI strategies long enough to measure their efficacy. 2. Some DEI initiatives are reactionary and a temporary fix/bandaid for deep-rooted systemic issues.3. Even when there is a desire to develop and execute DEI strategies i a meaningful way, some organizations don’t know where or how to start. 4. No buy-in and commitment from the very top to 5. Putting an emphasis on Diversity hiring (improving numbers/representation) without putting mechanisms in place to ensure equity and inclusion once historically underrepresented hires are made.

HR’s role should be a stakeholder, key driver, and collaborator. Depending on the size of the org, ownership of DEI initiatives and strategies should rest with a dedicated individual or group of internal and/or external DEI practitioners.

How do you think HR can make a meaningful impact on DEI in 2021 and beyond?

We should be the change we want to see and lead by example. ​

What advice do you have for improving DEI in the workplace?

A few ways that HR can make a meaningful impact on DEI in 2021 and beyond are to partner with organizational leaders to define the DEI strategy, assist in short and long term goal setting, and lead the organizational change management to ensure the desired outcomes and optimal organizational culture are achieved.

What made you decide to get into HR?

​I started as a third-party/agency technical recruiter in 2000. Shortly thereafter, I moved into an in-house corporate recruiting role. I’ve mostly worked for large, global organizations and the TA and HR functions were either directly connected or adjacent so I was afforded opportunities to learn and cross-train across HR functions.

See what Keirsten’s up to at TRAP Recruiter!


Ashley Perryman

VP of Global Human ResourcesSpiceworks Ziff Davis

Ashley Perryman is the Vice President of Global Human Resources at Spiceworks Ziff Davis and the President of the J2 Global Latinx ERG. She is an Executive Coach, Certified Force Management Facilitator, and a long-standing Human Resources leader in the technology industry. Ashley leads graduate-level workshops at Acton School of Business, mentors in the Women’s Initiative on Entrepreneurship and Leadership Development at University of Texas at Austin, and serves on the Texas Diversity Council. Ashley has been an active Committee member in her local professional associations including Association for Talent Development, Young Hispanic Professional Association of Austin and Austin’s Society for Human Resources Management Association.

What advice do you have for improving DEI in the workplace?

To improve DEI in the workplace, companies need to focus on becoming a place where all people can thrive; it goes beyond being hired, which is good, but DEI efforts need to establish environments where people belong, do their best work and grow in their careers.

What are some of the biggest DEI challenges in the workplace, and what is HR’s role in that?

Truly effective DEI work will uncover some issues and bring out some very uncomfortable conversations/environments. This is hard, but worthwhile, work that is never fully finished. Human Resources professionals play an integral part in shaping and deploying DEI strategies in that they are often a mouthpiece for employee groups, the connector who introduces DEI resources to the business, or responsible for monitoring/reporting success metrics over time.

How do you think HR can make a meaningful impact on DEI in 2021 and beyond?

The Human Resources function can drive meaningful impact on DEI through ensuring that the company conducts regular equity audits – truly assessing its practices, structures, and all of the assumptions that are rolled up into them. A baseline evaluation and then regularly scheduled audits to make ongoing assessments should be a key part of any effective DEI strategy. The HR team should be responsible for partnering with the business to deploy and monitor the agreed-upon KPIs/metrics over time.

What made you decide to get into HR?

I like to say that over the course of my career, I tripped and fell into the HR field in that I did not originally set out to be an HR practitioner, but I am so thrilled and fulfilled about the work that I do every day. It really is all about the people for me – I’ve had the privilege of working with some pretty brilliant teams, under fantastic leaders, and in support of amazing employee groups.See what Ashley’s up to at Spiceworks Ziff Davis!


Joey Price

Founder & CEO Jumpstart:HR

Joey V. Price is the Founder and CEO of Jumpstart:HR. The company offers HR outsourcing and consulting for startups and small businesses. Joey also hosts the “Business, Life, and Coffee” podcast, with personal development and success tips for entrepreneurs.

A seasoned HR professional with hands-on experience in multiple organizations, Joey advocates for businesses to “translate their goal into high ROI through happily engaged staff members.” He also serves on the Advisory Board for the HR Department at the Forbes School of Business and Technology and the Ethics in AI Board at Arena Analytics.

What advice do you have for improving DEI in the workplace?

What gets measured gets managed. Once you have resolved to improve DEI at work, you MUST track and set real goals based on where you are today. Don’t stop with a mission statement or “beliefs” about diversity… make it a key metric by which intentional business decisions are made.

What are some of the biggest DEI challenges in the workplace, and what is HR’s role in that?

The biggest challenge about DEI is that not everyone believes it’s important. HR’s role in highlighting the importance of DEI is to be an advocate for underrepresented staff and candidates who might be overlooked based on biased thinking.

How do you think HR can make a meaningful impact on DEI in 2021 and beyond?

HR won’t make a meaningful impact on DEI until C-Level leaders make a commitment to grow in this area. HR must study, be credible in recommendations, and present the business and ethical case for DEI so that when the C-level is ready to listen, you have the right things to say.

What made you decide to get into HR?

I decided to get into HR after I decided my undergraduate major was no longer a career choice I wanted to pursue. My undergrad major was Kinesiology and I thought I would be an athletic trainer. However, I realized that I didn’t want to be taping up athletes for the rest of my life. What I did want to do, however, is see people reach their highest level of performance in whatever arena I was in… so that lead to me pursuing HR. HR is the architect of workplace culture and a champion for workplace leaders who want to give their best to their role and the teams they work alongside!

See what Joey’s up to at Jumpstart:HR!

Tara Furiani

CEO of Not the HR Lady

Tara holds several certifications, including Predictive Index, DiSC, Dale Carnegie, Franklin Covey, Meyers-Briggs and more. She also has her BBA in Marketing, her MS in Organizational Leadership, and her 2nd MS in Psychology.

She spends her free time with her seven children, her NTHRL co-host and partner Justin Boggs, and her mom and aunt, who round out their multigenerational household of 11. Their fun family team enjoys traveling (before COVID-19), dark hide and seek, going to the lake, making music together, dance parties, roller coasters, and cooking as a family.

What advice do you have for other women in HR?

Don’t compromise your own morals and sweep bad behavior under the rug. HR has a difficult job… to both protect the company and to be a champion for all employees. With a role like ours, it can be easy to justify and even defend those in leadership roles, who are doing wrong things, out of fear. You don’t want to lose your job and you may be put into situations where it’s clear that you will, if you say something… but if HR isn’t saying something, who is? If you want to be in HR or you’re in it now… Be a champion for the fair and equitable treatment of everyone. Be a champion for anti-racism. Be a champion for anti-harassment.

Call out, even the biggest names… Because you have to. Because if you don’t, more people suffer. Over the course of my career I didn’t yell loud enough at times and I look back on that with regret. Don’t be like me, in that way… you don’t HAVE to do anything and there are resources that can help you, if you’re in fear of losing your job for doing the right thing.

What are some of the biggest challenges that women are facing in the workplace, and what’s HR’s role in that? How have you personally been affected by patriarchy in the workplace?

A company I used to work for asked me if I’d go to court for them against a CFO’s theft, which I uncovered. Soon after, I was fired without cause or severance, because “The guys don’t like you. You have too much to say.” Women face challenges ranging from sexual harassment (yes, still), pay inequity, a lack of respect, and bullying. The world of work, especially the higher you climb, is filled with narcissism, egos and a touch of psychopathic tendencies. I’ve seen it first hand. Most leaders have a bit of these traits. The smart ones know how to leverage support, get help and use self care to manage theirs. That’s the work I do now and a little bit about the why. The white male patriarchy has the opportunity to continue to oppress or, to realize they don’t have to do things the way their daddies did before them. Allyship, if you prefer that to being called a feminist, is critical, especially with white male executives, who still hold so much of the power.

See what Tara’s up to at Not the HR Lady!


Katie Chaney

Founder, SVP of Client Strategy at BetterGrowth

Katie is a talent acquisition leader known for building high-growth startup teams. A Human Resources specialist for nearly 10 years, she serves BetterGrowth and their clients as a strategic partner to human resources, management and executive leadership teams during the scaling process. In addition, Katie is an employee champion and a torchbearer of company culture. Her skills as a collaborative team player as well as a disciplined leader – coupled with the ability to build strategic solutions that streamline complex business processes are key to client success.

Committed to community and equality, Katie is always willing to give her time and talent towards worthy causes.

What made you decide to get into HR? What do you love about it?

I actually entered HR through recruitment. I decided to move over because I wanted to make sure everyone I had recruited was having an amazing experience at my company! Seeing an employee through their lifecycle is so exciting and rewarding.

What advice do you have for other women in HR?

I think women in HR should make their work as data-driven and revenue-focused as possible. When we have a seat at the revenue table, we can accomplish amazing feats within companies. We deserve to have a voice as strong as a sales or development leader, because if we can’t hire, retain, and grow great talent within our organizations, there won’t be an organization left! And of course, I think we can all do a better job supporting one another in this field. And I mean tangible support – helping each other find a new role, giving praise to someone who may seem to be in competition with you, promoting someone’s post on LinkedIn so they get exposure. I think community over competition is a really powerful sentiment.

See what Katie’s up to at BetterGrowth!


Gemma Toth

Human Resources Manager at Epsen Hillmer Graphics Co.

Gemma Toth has 20+ years of combined experience in Human Resources as a Chief HR Consultant, HR Generalist, and HRIS Project Manager with top companies in various industries with multiple locations nationwide. Gemma is a Senior Certified HR professional with a proven history of implementing HR infrastructures, policies, procedures, and highly effective human capital strategies. She is the President of DisruptHR Omaha and currently works for Epsen Hillmer Graphics, Co. in Omaha, Nebraska.

How has the role of HR changed since the pandemic? How will it continue to evolve in the coming years?

The role of HR during the pandemic has become more transparent in showing agility, flexibility, and preparedness, showing resourcefulness and really staying on top of things while taking care of employees’ well being.

HR will continue to evolve simply because of the world of work as we know it can change without much notice. We have to be prepared no matter what. Have a contingency plan. I actually worked onsite the entire time and I was at a new job one week before the pandemic shift.

How do you think HR can make a meaningful impact on DEI in 2021? What are the most important priorities?

Be truthful with the intention. It’s not about the numbers or trends. It’s about inclusion and belonging. When we hire people, do they feel connected to the company, their team, are they contributing, are they being heard? Do they see themselves making an impact?

See what Gemma’s up to at Epsen Hillmer Graphics Co.!


LeAnne Legasse and Joy O’Steen

Consultants and Co-Founders of ROI Talent Development

LeAnne Lagasse and Joy O’Steen are both former Communication Professors and Staff Directors at Texas Tech University, and both have a profound passion for workplace strategy and communication, but each brings something unique to the table, which makes ROI Talent Development the right choice for leaders looking for a customized and thorough approach.

Together, Joy & LeAnne have over 30 years of higher education teaching experience and over 20 years of combined management and training experience. In addition, both are certified through the Gallup Organization as CliftonStrengths® Coaches.

What made you decide to get into HR? What do you love about it?

In our previous roles as Communication Professors we became increasingly interested in the areas where the Communication discipline intersected with the diverse role of the HR leader. In fact, after developing and instructing courses in organizational communication and leadership development, many of our students and former graduate teaching staff would go on to work in the HR field, but it wasn’t until we launched ROI Talent Development, an HR consulting and training firm in 2017 that we officially joined the HR community. Our very favorite thing about the HR field is getting to meet so many talented HR leaders who make it their aim every single day to contribute to the thriving and flourishing of their people.

How has the role of HR changed since the pandemic? How will it continue to evolve in the coming years?

In many ways, the pandemic shone a bright light on the crucial role that HR plays in any organization. While we’ve been encouraged to hear many HR leaders express that they’ve felt more respected and valued in the past year than ever before, there’s no question that many organizations that hadn’t prioritized their workplace culture and employee experience were faced with the consequences of their prior lack of investment in HR and culture. On the flip side, those organizations that had long invested in their people and culture with a robust HR presence found themselves in a much better position to weather the storm.

Our hope is that this experience has opened the eyes of many leaders and stakeholders who had yet to view and treat HR as trusted business partners. Moving forward, we think businesses will work harder to align HR with their strategic goals.

See what LeAnne and Joy are up to at ROI Talent Development!


Elizabeth Amaro

Director of Client Success at GoCo

Elizabeth Amaro is the Director of Client Success for GoCo and she’s responsible for all aspects of the post-sale customer journey. Her roles involve maintaining customer engagement, product adoption, retention, growth, and building a world-class team of customer-centric GoConuts.

Elizabeth has more than 15 years of HR and benefits solutions experience. She’s known for driving operational excellence in process development that drives product efficiencies and customer satisfaction. Elizabeth holds an MBA from Texas Woman’s University and a Bachelor of Science degree from University of Houston.

What advice do you have for other women in HR?

Understand that you’re meant to lead and capable of being a leader. Traditionally the HR industry has a poor history of executive level female representation. My advice for women in HR is to continue to strive to be the decision maker at your organization.

HR should have check ins with employees and allow more flexibility for working mothers. Employers should be more understanding if meetings are missed or if mothers who are working remotely are unreachable because they have to step away to care for her child.

What are some of the biggest challenges that women are facing in the workplace, and what’s HR’s role in that?

COVID has pushed mothers to take on more responsibilities at home with juggling housework and child care. Taking on more can lead to stress and burn out forcing women to reconsider their careers. Women are already underrepresented in leadership roles and companies are at risk of losing them. As a result, it leaves companies with a less diverse workforce.

See what Elizabeth’s up to here at GoCo!


Jessica Merrell

Founder of Workology

Jessica Miller-Merrell is the Founder of Workology, a workplace resource for HR, recruiting professionals and business leaders. The site was listed twice as a top 75 career resource by Forbes Magazine. Jessica is the president and CEO of Xceptional HR, a human capital strategy and consulting agency, and a published author of Tweet This! and her new book Digitizing Talent: Creative Strategies for the Digital Recruiting Age. Jessica is listed by Forbes as a top 50 social media power user. Because of vast industry expertise and knowledge, Jessica’s professional opinions and expertise are sought after and sourced by publications and media including: the Economist, Forbes, CIO Magazine, CBS, Entrepreneur Magazine, and SHRM’s HR Magazine.

What advice do you have for other women in HR?

We tend to see HR as a touchy-feely profession in which our desire to help others can be channeled into supporting teams of employees, training managers, creating programs and processes that translate into a better environment for all. Which is great. But we have to understand that, for HR leaders, HR is also very much a data-driven role. We have to be able to collect data that help us make decisions, and new SEC filing requirements for public companies put HR metrics at the forefront for company leaders. My advice to women in HR who want to reach an executive level role like CHRO or VP of HR is to get really familiar with HR metrics and data.

What made you decide to get into HR? What do you love about it?

I fell in love with HR because it was a mystery to anyone but me within my organization just how critical my role was. If I did not hire the right staff and schedule them appropriately, not only would our customer service suffer, but it would also impact our store’s sales. I realized that unless we had the right people hired, trained, and developed to do their jobs, it did not matter how stocked or pretty our displays were, how wide and clean our aisles were, or how strong our advertising and brand was. Without me, as a leader in HR anticipating, planning, and scheduling the right people in the right place, our business would not be successful.

I’m a bit of an internet evangelist or enthusiast when it comes to recruitment and human resources. In 2001 after just graduating from college, I was new in my HR role working as a store HR leader for Target.

My store location had a budget of $250 for the quarter for recruiting and job ads, and I invested all of our budget on job advertising in the classified section of the newspaper. While candidates did apply at my store location, I didn’t make a single hire for the sales associate, order puller, and cashier roles that were open at my store.

Having spent our entire budget in two ads and 12 inches, I set out to find a creative and cost-effective way to reach my candidate community. I was broke and I didn’t want to lose my job 3 months into my new role so I looked to the internet. In 2001, the two main reasons you were on the internet were that you were looking for love or looking at p0rn. I decided to use the former rather than the latter in my recruiting efforts and began using free online dating websites to source candidates that fit my job openings.

I saw these online dating websites as digital rolodexes searchable not unlike how we use LinkedIn to search by city, job title, and/or company name. Once I had my search criteria figured out and a few qualified candidates sourced, I reached out to them via private message letting them know I was a recruiter and I had a job opening they might be interested in. The response was amazing, and I quickly made hires for all types of positions at our store from assistant manager to cashier at no cost with my creative digital sourcing.

My digital love affair (no pun intended) with the internet continued and I expanded my internet sourcing and recruiting to forums, chat rooms, and social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. At around the same time I started my job search blog in 2005. Originally called BloggingforJobs (now Workology.com), I started blogging about the job search from a recruiting and hiring manager perspective and people started writing me back, and emailing me and I was able to create a candidate funnel that could quickly fill my job openings.

In early 2010, I gave my first talk at the SHRM National Conference that discussed the use of social media and technology to drive innovation and change within the HR industry, but my first love has been recruiting since 2001 when I found myself the HR Manager at a rural Target store in Garden City, Kansas.

See what Jessica’s up to at Workology!


Wendy Dailey

Talent Acquisition Professional and HR Blogger

Wendy Dailey is an experienced talent acquisition professional, and Girl Scout mom. She’s also an HR blogger & podcaster, providing her insights on the HR community, her own HR experience, and information about other HR professionals!

How has the role of HR changed since the pandemic? How will it continue to evolve in the coming years?

HR became a lot more flexible since the pandemic! HR was there to interpret the changing laws and adapting workspaces. HR became the go-to for updates. HR professionals that were already staying up to date with what was happening in the world, who were learning and growing and always striving to be better professionals, were ready to jump in and help the rest of the organization adjust. Those HR professionals are going to continue to succeed.

How do you think HR can make a meaningful impact on DEI in 2021? What are the most important priorities?

We need to be intentional about DEI. We cannot hide behind “we just want the best person for the job.” We need to look internally and ask, “Who can we promote? Who isn’t represented in our leadership teams?” Once we know who is missing, we need to go out and find them. Once we bring them in, we need to make them feel welcome and a part of the team. We need to ensure our onboarding feels the same whether in person or remote so that they feel they are a part of the team.

See what Wendy’s up to at My Dailey Journey and on her Twitter!


Madison Butler

VP, People+ Impact at GRAV®

Madison Butler is a New Englander at heart but moved to Austin in 2017. Her work is focused around creating equitable spaces and creating scalable strategies to achieve psychological safety. She is an outspoken advocate for mental health, removing the stigma around trauma, DEI and the ability to be “human at work”. She is passionate about facilitating hard conversations through storytelling, data and tough empathy.

She has a background in talent development and attraction paired with a deep knowledge of DEI and culture.

What made you decide to get into HR? What do you love about it?

To be transparent, I don’t refer to myself as HR but typically use the “People” umbrella. I initially started in recruiting and continued to want to create impact on larger scales. I love that I can help craft and shape organizations to make them safe for all people.

What advice do you have for other women in HR?

Stand in your truth. Oftentimes it feels as if the world is asking us to shrink, to make others comfortable- do not shrink. Doing the right thing, and standing for the right things will not always make others comfortable.

See what Madison’s up to at GRAV® !


Tracie Sponeburg

CPO of The Granite Group

Tracie Sponenberg is Chief People Officer of The Granite Group, a wholesale distributor with nearly 50 locations across New England. She has spent her career working with CEOs to align people & business strategies, working in industries like publishing, health and wellness, and professional services. Formerly a paper-pushing, compliance-driven HR person, she became a people-first business leader several years ago, and has since made it a mission to help others do the same, through speaking around globe, co-founding DisruptHRNH and HRRebooted, and writing daily short LinkedIn blogs. A bookworm & introvert, several years ago started getting comfortable with being uncomfortable and it changed her life for the better.

How do you think HR can make a meaningful impact on DEI in 2021? What are the most important priorities?

If you are doing nothing surrounding DEI, start now. Start by learning and educating yourself. Remember DEI is not an initiative. It is the work of a lifetime, and you will continue to learn and grow every single day. And REALLY DO THE WORK. Being bold and brave comes in handy here, since you cannot just “be diverse, equitable and inclusive.” You need to fund it. DEI committees and ERG need money to make things happen. Every company has different focus areas, but if you aren’t developing a diverse pipeline of candidates already, start there. If you continue to just throw an ad out on your normal sites, nothing is going to change. Go to where candidates are. You’re really missing out on some incredible talent if you don’t.

What are some of the biggest challenges that women are facing in the workplace, and what’s HR’s role in that? How have you personally been affected by patriarchy in the workplace?

This past year has seen women, particularly mothers, leave the workplace at an alarming rate. That is going to have a far-reaching impact on pay equity, and it is going to have a huge impact on our businesses by losing so much talent.

It’s going to have a greater impact on the professional future of these women. As businesses, we need to stop fitting people into our companies, our cultures, and start designing work and our companies around our people and our future people. If a job allows for remote work, there is no reason why that shouldn’t be an option. Flexibility is critical, and is possible even with front line workers. For companies with mostly office workers, view work as a thing, not a place. And let your people decide when, where and how to do it.

My introduction to patriarchy in the workplace started at the age of 15, when I got my first job at a grocery store where the male employees were baggers and the female employees were cashiers or clerks. I was assigned to the full service bakery and was told, “that way you don’t have to handle money!” with probably a “honey” thrown on at the end. In my first full-time job, I was marked as “not professional” on my review for wearing a skirt that was shorter than regulation. I’ve been shut down, shut up, told not to speak, criticized for my appearance, attire, attitude, and more. Everywhere, except for at my current company. It’s the most welcoming, embracing place I’ve ever worked. And it is, ironically, and for now, 85% male. It’s not only possible to eliminate the patriarchy in the workplace, it’s necessary.

See what Tracie’s up to at The Granite Group !


These HR superstars are some of the people who are making Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion an increasingly prevalent topic and priority in the workplace. Be sure to check them out, as well as all of the incredible work that they do!

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