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Top 5 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Keynote Speakers in 2024

Samantha Huntley
Monday, Feb 19, 2024
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In the ever-evolving landscape of business, embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is not just a moral imperative but a strategic advantage. As we step into 2024, business executives need to be at the forefront of this change. To guide and inspire, here are the top 5 DEI keynote speakers of the year, each bringing a unique blend of experience, insight, and inspiration.

2019095183125Phylicia-Rashad-photo-2018-sqaure.jpg (542 KB)Phylicia Rashad: Singer, Actress, Producer, Former Dean of the College of Fine Arts at Howard University

Phylicia Rashad, an acclaimed icon in the entertainment industry, is most well-known for her role as Clair Huxtable on "The Cosby Show." Since her time on “The Cosby Show” she has expanded her portfolio to include other lead roles as an actress, singer and producer. Rashad’s prolific journey in the entertainment industry, marked by breaking barriers and embracing varied roles, has made her a symbol of artistic diversity and a role model for aspiring artists from any background.

Having spent most of her formative years living in Houston, she looks back on a time in her teens when she lived in Mexico City, an experience that served as a pivotal moment in her relation to the concept of diversity. As Rashad explains it, “The greater part of embracing diversity has not so much to do with tolerance as it does with understanding something about yourself that’s beyond your conception of who you are and the perception of others.”

Rashad’s life experiences have led her to become an active participant in charitable and non-profit organizations focused on inclusivity for children, underserved communities, and the arts. She emphasizes how society's impact on these communities now can influence attitudes towards diversity and inclusion tomorrow. To broaden her impact in the arts, Rashad spent the last few years serving as the Dean of Howard University, College of Fine Arts where she worked to support emerging talents. She recognizes these students are the future of the arts, and stresses the importance of open dialogue and preserving history as critical components of a thriving society. By using her platform to advocate for underrepresented groups, she has become an inspirational figure for discussions around DEI, providing insights into how diverse representation can lead to societal progress.

2023177142807Headshot2-2023-07-17T092746-984.png (14 KB)Anita Hill: Brandeis University Professor of Law, Social Policy & Women’s and Gender Studies, Chair of the Hollywood Commission, and Author

Anita Hill, a pivotal figure in the fight for gender equality and civil rights, is a leading DEI keynote speaker helping businesses transform their programs to make the greatest impact on their culture of equality and belonging. Stories from her personal journey from a rural Oklahoman farms to Yale Law School highlight the challenges and barriers faced by women, especially women of color, in academia and demonstrate her resilience and commitment to justice and equality. Hill’s fight for gender equality became even more personal when she made history by testifying before Congress about sexual harassment she experienced from an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Since then, Hill has been at the forefront of the fight for justice for women and people of color, forging paths to equality inside and outside of the workplace.

As an accomplished academic and influential voice in legal and social policy, Hill’s work is aimed at influencing policies and practices to eradicate gender-based discrimination and violence. In her book, Believing: Our Thirty-Year Journey to End Gender Violence, Hill puts a spotlight on the issues of harassment and assault and provides a deep dive into her commitment to these causes. Hill’s book draws attention to the profound effect these issues have on our society by slowing political change and economic growth in addition to evoking individual pain and suffering.

Hill brings a critical perspective on the systemic issues that perpetuate inequality and offers actionable solutions. Her voice in the DEI space is vital, inspiring others to challenge the status quo and work towards a more equitable society.

2024251181619Charlene-Headshot-Web-1-.png (18 KB)Charlene Wheeless: Renowned Communications Visionary, Leadership, Performance, and Inclusion Advisor, and Author

Charlene Wheeless is a distinguished figure in the world of executive leadership and communication, celebrated for her insightful and inclusive approach to workplace dynamics and performance enhancement. Wheeless’s experience as the Principal Vice President of Corporate Affairs at a major global infrastructure corporation has informed her deep expertise in corporate communication, reputation management, and corporate culture. Wheeless's unique perspective, shaped by her personal experiences as a woman of color and a cancer survivor, resonates profoundly with diverse audiences, offering them both inspiration and practical wisdom.

In her keynotes, Wheeless underscores the significance of conscious decision-making in cultivating vibrant and effective work environments. Her book, You Are Enough! Reclaiming Your Career and Your Life with Purpose, Passion, and Unapologetic Authenticity, embodies her belief in the power of authenticity and determination in achieving professional objectives. Her keynotes delve into subjects such as purpose-driven leadership and empathetic understanding, emphasizing the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in fostering a healthy, dynamic work culture.

A major framework for Wheeless’s approach to creating cultural shifts in the workplace lies in her tagline “Choice over Chance.” As Wheeless puts it, “We are not born winners and losers; we are born choosers." This powerful mantra sets the tone for her focus on self-agency. As we move into 2024, we will see more Gen Z individuals than Baby Boomers in the workplace and it will become more evident that traditional leadership models are becoming obsolete. With this notion, Wheeless urges leaders to create a culture of choice where every individual feels welcome, empowered and encouraged to speak their mind and do their best work.

2021253142123Headshot2-17-.png (15 KB)Dr. Kevin Ahmaad Jenkins: Award-winning Journalist, Ivy League Lecturer, and former On-Field Announcer for the Durham Bulls

Dr. Kevin Ahmaad Jenkins is a respected voice in the DEI space and is dedicated to eliminating racial health disparities and addressing the impact of racism on health, workplace culture, and organizational performance. As a lecturer and visiting scholar at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Jenkins combines academic rigor with real-world experiences. His background as a two-time award-winning journalist and health disparities activist gives him a unique perspective on these issues.

Dr. Jenkins focuses on delivering evidence-based solutions to dismantle the effects of racism in the workplace. His approach is grounded in research, humor, and powerful storytelling and his ability to translate complex topics into actionable insights is particularly valuable for organizations looking to implement DEI strategies. Jenkins’ new speaking series titled "Moving in a Direction of Equity" is an effort to bring these topics to leaders across industries in reaching for excellence in organizational culture.

His speaking engagements offer strategies for diversity, equity, and “inclusion-to-action”, providing organizations with practical approaches to fostering inclusivity. Dr. Jenkins's influence in the DEI space is significant, as he provides a nuanced understanding of how racism and health disparities intersect. He offers insights into how organizations can be more inclusive and equitable in their practices and policies to create lasting change.

20221310162508Headshot2-2022-10-13T110948-600.png (14 KB)Chad Foster: First Blind Executive to Complete the Harvard Leadership Program, Billion-Dollar Generator, Job Creator, and Author

Chad E. Foster, a motivational speaker and the first blind executive to graduate from the Harvard Leadership Program, exemplifies triumph over adversity. His journey from losing his sight in college to carving out a successful career in the technology sector is not only a testament to personal resilience but also a powerful narrative about thriving in the face of challenges. Foster shares his insights in his book, Blind Ambition: How to Go from Victim to Visionary, in which he inspires people to shift their individual mindsets, rethink the stories we tell ourselves, and stop making unnecessary excuses that prevent us from unlocking our full potential.

Foster's keynotes focus on instilling resilience in corporate audiences and professional athletes, especially amidst uncertainty. He emphasizes that transforming challenges into growth opportunities and confronting and transcending biases, can help foster a more inclusive and equitable environment in a workplace setting.

With over two decades of experience living in both the mainstream majority and the disabled minority, Foster offers unique perspectives on both worlds. He leverages this understanding to equip teams with innovative approaches to DEI and displays the value of diverse perspectives within an organization. He illustrates how diversity of thought can be a catalyst for change and innovation. His approach underscores the importance of embracing every team member's unique contributions as a key driver of business innovation and progress.

As the business landscape continues to evolve, the insights and strategies shared by these DEI keynote speakers are instrumental in guiding businesses towards a more inclusive and successful future. From Rashad's emphasis on artistic diversity and representation, Hill's advocacy for gender equality, Wheeless's focus on choice over chance, Jenkins's insights into the impact of racial disparities, to Foster's powerful narrative on overcoming adversity, these speakers offer invaluable insight for any organization. Their backgrounds and unique approaches highlight the significance of DEI in creating a more equitable society and enhancing organizational effectiveness and innovation. To bring a DEI keynote speaker to your next event contact Executive Speakers Bureau today.

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