Honest Conversations about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Where to Begin


Last Thursday, we hosted a Strategy Breakfast with Michelle Y. Bess and twenty-five Chicago leaders had an intimate and collaborative experience engaging on the important topic of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). From her depth of experience, Michelle helped lay the foundation for how we go about initiating more honest and authentic conversations in the workplace and in our lives. Here are some key takeaways:


Take the time to understand why DEI is important to you and your company. As an individual - it is likely personal and may be connected to your privilege. As a company - it may be related to your customer, your community and your competitive advantage.

“You have to start with your why otherwise the conversation won’t be authentic - people will see right through you. If you don’t know your why, do not pass go, do not collect $200!” 


Active listening is key to making important connections and progress in the DEI conversation. Instead of interrupting and judging, practice curiosity and empathy - by letting people talk, you’ll open yourself up to new ideas that will change your perspective.

“Listening is the most powerful way to learn what is important to someone who is different than you. It allows you to find what you have in common and build from there.”


It can be overwhelming to know where to start. But by knowing your why and listening first, you’ll be able to start taking small steps forward. Your progress may seem small and insignificant, but celebrate the wins because systemic change happens one conversation and action at a time. 

“We help make change in our organizations and in the world through consistent small actions; by using our influence to educate, advocate and plant the seeds for new cultural norms that empower the underrepresented around us.”

To go deeper on this topic, the Ignite Community has a Member Meetup on Becoming a Better Ally at Work on July 17th.