We’ve been talking a lot about diversity, equity, and inclusion on the blog lately, and we’re not done yet! DEI may have only recently started trending within the speaking world, but it’s here to stay. Unfortunately, increasing demand doesn’t mean it’s an easy ride being a DEI speaker. There are often fewer resources for aspiring speakers when it comes to new and evolving topics. If you’re looking to educate yourself about becoming a DEI speaker, you might have to do a little digging. Role models and inspiration are fewer and further between. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite top DEI speakers to look to for inspiration.
These speakers come from all sorts of backgrounds, professional and personal. Some of them use novel channels and some of them use traditional media to spread their message. Some of them are corporate leaders, others are entrepreneurs and content creators. All of them have one thing in common (in addition to being top DEI speakers). They are making great strides in moving their industries toward a more equitable and just future.
Israel Greene is one of our very own alumni from The Speaker Lab coaching programs, so of course we have to include him in this list! A leadership development and DEI specialist, Israel helps companies struggling with workplace culture through virtual and in-person workshops. He works especially within the tech industry, which faces particular challenges related to DEI. In fast-moving industries, leaders tend to brush over the needs of their employees (like workplace culture) until it’s too late. Israel offers solutions to companies who may never have considered DEI before by simplifying the process of putting systems into place that create a more engaging culture.He also offers consulting services through his business Greene Consulting Group.
Like many DEI specialists, Israel prefers a smaller, more intimate group setting rather than the big stage. Because of the relational context of DEI, it’s often easier to get a sense for how well your audience is absorbing and applying information, which is facilitated by a small group. (If you’re more interested in keynote speaking don’t worry–several of the DEI speakers on this list serve big audiences too.)
You can read an in-depth interview with Israel where he explains how to launch a DEI program from scratch here. And of course, we highly recommend (if you haven’t already) listening to his appearance on the TSL podcast here.
If you’ve ever enjoyed a cool treat from Jamba Juice, you might have James D. White to thank. He is responsible for launching the humble smoothie shop into a successful global brand–and his business transformation expertise extends to several Fortune 500 companies as well. If you want someone to transform your company from both a business and culture standpoint–he’s the man! He serves on a variety of board appointments, including household names like The Honest Company.
It’s no surprise that one of his passions is diversifying corporate board membership! James knows from experience that lasting change begins at the top. It requires years of intentionality, data analytics, and leadership committed to DEI principles at every level. Yes, even in the boardroom! The boardroom is unfortunately often the elephant in the room when it comes to DEI. A few well-meaning initiatives at the HR level rarely make a dent in the ingrained habits of a large corporation. Even with the most willing employees, an unwilling board stands in the way of making real strides toward progress. With James’ top-down approach, boards and corporations can work toward achieving true diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging that lasts! You can get a taste for his message in this interview. If you like what you hear, check out his recent book on anti-racist leadership here.
Tiffany Yu is a disability rights advocate, speaker, and podcaster. After a tragic accident at age 9, she faced a long road of exclusion and stigma. Ultimately, this led her to raise her voice on behalf of people struggling as their needs are minimized by a world that isn’t optimized for those with disabilities. Her message, which she advances through her organization Diversibility, revolves around disability pride and building community among disabled persons and allies. Her resume is as impressive as her advocacy, featuring a stint at Goldman Sachs and an appearance at the World Economic Forum.
Tiffany is incredibly tech-savvy and leverages social media to educate, entertain, and elaborate on the importance of accessibility. She has garnered millions of views for her videos about anti-ableism, women’s entrepreneurship, and how she goes about her day with creative hacks and strategies for accomplishing daily tasks with limited mobility. You can listen to her story here on Tiktok, where she shares tips for aspiring speakers and content creators all the time! Tiffany is an incredible example of a DEI speaker who meets her audience where they are and engages with her community on and off the stage.
Tracy is a passionate speaker and advocate for women in tech, software engineering, and startups. She knows Silicon Valley like the back of her hand, with degrees from Stanford and experience at Google, Facebook, Quora, and Pinterest on her resume. She quickly found that the design of many social media platforms enabled, rather than discouraged, abusive behaviors. Her crusade against online harassment led her to create an app, Block Party, that minimizes abuse on Twitter. Her advocacy landed her the prestige of being a TIME woman of the year in 2022.
Tech is an industry that has long struggled with diversity and inclusivity especially for women. Major social media platforms have yet to effectively enable connection while discouraging harassment. Tracy is taking on two Goliaths by tackling both of those problems! Unfortunately, due to changing rules about API monetization, her original product has been put on pause. Not to be deterred, she is scaling the concept into a family of privacy and safety applications and browser extensions. DEI speakers like Tracy build off of industry expertise and personal experience by innovating for ethical practices in spaces which are slow to prioritize social good. You can find many of Tracy’s talks about diversity and ethics in tech on YouTube, but a great introduction is her TIME magazine profile here.
Dr. Shelton Goode is an HR professional dedicated to helping companies hire a talented, diverse workforce. Unlike some of the other names on this list, he isn’t a new face on the block. Rather , Dr. Goode DEI veteran with decades of experience under his belt. Dr. Goode has served as the leading DEI officer for several major companies including OshKosh and the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority. He is now the CEO of Icarus Consulting, which offers a variety of strategic planning services with an eye toward diverse talent acquisition, such as inclusion coaching.
A seasoned college professor in addition to his professional achievements, Dr. Goode frequently appears on podcasts and delivers keynotes at DEI events in addition to his consulting work. Building on all his areas of expertise, he recently published a book: Winter in America: The Impact of the 2016 Presidential Election on Diversity in Companies, Communities and the Country. If you want to learn from someone who was trailblazing in the DEI space before most people knew it as such, Dr. Goode is a great resource.
Catarina Rivera is a Disability Stigma Smasher™ who has built her DEI speaker platform around her brand Blindish Latina. She wore hearing aids from a young age, but as a teen her vision also started deteriorating. She went through a years long process of coming to terms with a disability that is not immediately noticeable to those around her unless she chooses to reveal it. Now, she speaks on disability pride and workplace inclusivity. She emphasizes making the workplace accessible to those employees with invisible disabilities. Even those who aren’t ready to disclose their invisible disabilities appreciate basic accommodations!
Her professional experience is primarily in the education and nonprofit space, which often lends itself well to DEI consulting and speaking. She offers both workshops and keynotes on top of her copious content creation which you can find on Instagram, You can listen to her recent TEDx talk, “Creating Inclusive Workplaces for All” here.
We are finishing off this list with a true giant among DEI speakers. Vernā Myers isn’t just a speaker, though she delivers keynotes at conferences all over the world. She has developed DEI training courses for a variety of industries including law and HR. Did we mention she is the VP of inclusion strategy at Netflix? This woman is a glass ceiling smasher who is committed to educating others for a more inclusive world.
Are you looking to get a comprehensive understanding of DEI as a whole before you decide whether to start a DEI speaking business? There are none better to learn from than Vernā. And there are ample resources from which you can learn. You can listen to her TED talk with half a million views where she begs people to acknowledge and confront their unconscious biases. You can read one of her books or take one of her training courses. Or you can follow her podcast, Sundays with Verna.
These great DEI speakers are just a sampling of the amazing talent and insight hitting the stage in recent years. If you’re interested in how to become a DEI speaker, we highly recommend following these pioneers and those with whom they share the stage (or interact with on social media).
There is no one “right” way to becoming a good DEI speaker. Your personal story, your career background, and the type of change you want to effect will all shape your speaking business. And we’ve compiled this list to give you an idea of the many different ways you can do that. The array of professional and personal backgrounds, paths to specializing in DEI, and visions for transformation should inspire you! If you are ready to jump at the chance to start your DEI speaking business, get in touch with us here.