Who's Who in DEI: 14 Keynote Speakers & Experts You Need to Know

DEI = Diversity, Equity, Inclusion

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August 17, 2023
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

In a globalized world, the understanding and implementation of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) principles have never been more critical. Today, companies worldwide are recognizing that DEI is not merely a social responsibility, but an integral ingredient for their success and competitiveness. A robust DEI strategy not only sparks creativity, innovation, and adaptability in an organization but it also helps attract and retain top talent and increase employee engagement.

Most importantly, DEI is a journey, not a destination. It requires persistent effort, continuous learning, and a strong commitment from leadership. To help you in this journey, here is a list of the top keynote speakers in the field.

Heather E. McGowan (US)

As a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Keynote Speaker, Heather E. McGowan integrates the evolution of DEI into her broader research into the rapidly changing nature of work and the shifting leadership profile from domineering and unquestioned expert to humble, curious, authentic expedition leader. As a keynote speaker, McGowan presents the landscape shifts of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, once encompassing only representative diversity to now include not only diversity (representation), equity (fairness), and inclusion (action) but also the essential component of belonging (feeling).

Without belonging, most Diversity, Equity and Inclusion strategies will never realize full potential. Both talent and investors now require organizations to have measurable and actionable DEIB strategies. As a Diversity, Equity, and Belonging keynote speaker McGowan paints a textured landscape that includes not only race, gender, and culture but also the broader representation of sexual orientation and gender identity (LGBTQ+), age diversity, neurodiversity and cognitive diversity, as well as emerging, and long overdue, focus on class and social mobility.

June Sarpong (UK)

June Sarpong is a British TV Presenter, award-winning author and a top speaker on diversity. She is one of the most widely recognized faces in British television. June is a champion for diversity and in October 2019, she became the first Director of Creative Diversity at the BBC. She authored three award-winning books, including ‘Diversity: Six Degrees of Integration’, ‘The Power of Women’ and ‘The Power of Privilege’. She is Co-Founder of the WIE Network (Women: Inspiration & Enterprise), a conference designed to bring together women from different backgrounds, and to empower, inspire and support one another.

She has recently launched a new publishing imprint, ‘The HQ Creative Inclusion Lab’ with Harper Collins, giving a voice to those from underrepresented communities, with a focus on those with a disability, those from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds and people from working-class backgrounds.

Mahzarin R. Banaji (US)

Mahzarin R. Banaji received her PhD From Ohio State University and did postdoctoral work at the University of Washington. From 1986-2001 she taught at Yale University where she was Reuben Post Halleck Professor of Psychology. Since then she has been Richard Clarke Cabot Professor of Social Ethics in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University.

Banaji studies the disparities between conscious expressions of values, attitudes and beliefs on the one hand, and less conscious, implicit representations of mental content. She has primarily studied social attitudes and beliefs in adults and children, relying on multiple methods including cognitive/affective behavioral measures, computational approaches, and neuroimaging. Her work has called for greater consistency between cherished national and personal values on the one hand and policies and individual behavior on the other. In addition to research and university teaching, Banaji’s current efforts are focused on applying evidence from the science of social cognition to improving organizational practices. Her book with Anthony Greenwald, Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People, was published by Delacorte Press. Her educational project can be found at outsmartingimplicitbias.org.

Ibram X. Kendi (US)

DR. IBRAM X. KENDI is a National Book Award-winning author of fifteen books for adults and children, including nine New York Times bestsellers—five of which were #1 New York Times bestsellers. Dr. Kendi is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University, and the director of the BU Center for Antiracist Research. He is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and a CBS News racial justice contributor.

Dr. Kendi is the author of Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, which won the National Book Award for Nonfiction, making him the youngest author to win that award. He also authored the international bestseller, How to Be an Antiracist, which was described in the New York Times as “the most courageous book to date on the problem of race in the Western mind.” Dr. Kendi’s other bestsellers include How to Raise an Antiracist; Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019, co-edited with Keisha Blain; How to Be a (Young) Antiracist, co-authored with Nic Stone; Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, co-authored with Jason Reynolds; and Antiracist Baby, illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky. In 2020, Time magazine named Dr. Kendi one of the 100 Most Influential People in the world. He was awarded a 2021 MacArthur Fellowship, popularly known as the Genius Grant.

Hanan Challouki (Belgium)

Hanan Challouki is a prominent figure in the field of inclusive communication. As the founder of Inclusified, she has dedicated her career to advocating for diversity, equity, and inclusion. With a background in digital marketing and communication, Hanan recognized the pressing need for authentic and inclusive communication strategies that go beyond surface-level representation.

Hanan strongly believes that inclusivity should be at the core of every communication effort. In her work, she emphasizes the importance of acknowledging and valuing the diverse perspectives, needs, and identities of individuals. She encourages organizations to move beyond tokenism and engage in meaningful and authentic inclusion.

In addition to her professional pursuits, Hanan is deeply committed to fostering positive change in society. She actively engages with marginalized communities and advocates for their representation and empowerment. Through her website and social media platforms, she amplifies important voices and promotes inclusivity in all aspects of life.

Lily Zheng (US)

Lily Zheng (they/them/theirs) helps leaders achieve diversity, equity, and inclusion as real and measurable outcomes of organizations, rather than just the aspirational intentions of individuals. They are the author of DEI Deconstructed: Your No-Nonsense Guide to Doing the Work and Doing it Right (November 2022), The Ethical Sellout, and Gender Ambiguity in the Workplace.

They were named LinkedIn Top Voice on Racial Equity in 2022, Forbes DEI Trailblazer in 2020, and HonestCulture Top DEI Influencer in 2021. Their work can be seen in the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, the New York Times, and here on LinkedIn.

They regularly speak on the topics of “From Corporate Social Responsibility to Corporate Social Justice”, “DEI Deconstructed: Foundational Concepts to Achieve DEI”, “From Unconscious Bias and Allyship to Systemic Change” and “DEI Movements That Work”.

Rohini Anand (US)

Dr. Rohini Anand is an expert on organizational transformation, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), executive leadership, human capital, and global corporate responsibility (CR). ​​ She was the former SVP Corporate Responsibility and Global Chief Diversity Officer for Sodexo. Sodexo’s remarkable global culture change, led by diversity and inclusion, is featured in a Harvard Business School case study entitled Shifting the Diversity Climate: the Sodexo Solution. 

​Dr. Anand is a published author and popular speaker. Her book, “Leading Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: A Guide for Systemic Change in Multinational Organizations”, offers 5 principles for companies to advance DEI with a nuanced understanding of local contexts across countries and cultures. She has been featured in CNBC, The Boston Globe, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, as well as appearing on CNN, Bloomberg and CNN Money and on National Public Radio.

​Youssef Kobo (Belgium)

Youssef Kobo is a Belgium based author, essayist, columnist, international keynote speaker. As an often sought after public commentator on international affairs, business and innovation, he has written and served as an analyst for over a dozen Belgian and international media outlets.

He’s a consultant on strategic innovation and public affairs who’s main areas of expertise consist of government and public affairs, public relations, stakeholder management, lobbying and policy making. Kobo has worked with over 300 leading multinationals, supranational institutions, non-profit organisations, think tanks and governments in over a dozen countries in Europe, North America, Africa and Asia.

He’s also the founder of a range of award winning non-profits, projects and programs in Europe and Africa as well as a fellow and alumni of several prestigious international fellowship- and leadership programs.

Dr. Tiffany Jana (US)

Dr. Tiffany Jana (they/them/theirs) is the founder of TMI’s Portfolio companies, now celebrating 20 years championing justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI). Dr. Jana's vision is to redefine the future of inclusion; to manifest equity by creating an accountable, loving embrace of people and culture that includes an emphasis on liberation through joy. The workplace can and should be a welcoming, safe, and healthy environment where employees can thrive and grow.

They have been featured in numerous publications and media including Fast Company, Inc.com, Forbes, Harvard Business Review  for their work on diversity, equity, empowerment, and inclusion. They have authored six books, two of which made this Forbes list, and given hundreds of keynotes and lectures around the world. Their fourth book, Subtle Acts of Exclusion: How to Understand, Identify, and Stop Microaggressions won the 2020 Terry McAdam Award and the getAbstract International Book Award.

Karen de Sousa Pesse (Belgium)

Karen de Sousa Pesse is a Latin-American Executive at Salesforce, based in Brussels. She is working on key trends shaping the public sector, supporting governments and institutions in their Digital Transformation. As a female business leader in Europe, Karen has a strong personal interest in shining a light on topics such as gender bias in Artificial Intelligence, and the importance of gender perspectives in technology.

As a keynote speaker, Karen de Sousa Pesse alerts us to the dangerous nature of a data-driven world where women are underrepresented creating a massive bias in many areas: security, healthcare, work, administrative procedure, etc.

Dr. Stefanie K. Johnson (US)

Dr. Stefanie K. Johnson is an associate professor of Organizational Leadership and Information Analytics. She has presented her work around the world including at the White House for a 2016 summit on diversity in corporate America.

She has published 60 journal articles and book chapters in outlets Journal of Applied Psychology and The Academy of Management Journal. Dr. Johnson is member of the MG 100 Coaches, was selected for the 2020 Thinkers50 Radar List, and is the author of the Wall Street Journal National Bestseller: Inclusify: Harnessing the power of uniqueness and belonging to build innovative teams (pub. Harper Collins). Media outlets featuring Stefanie’s work include: The Economist, Newsweek, Time, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, HuffPost, Washington Post, Quartz, Discover, CNN, ABC, NBC, CNBC. She has appeared on Fox, ABC, NBC, ESPN, CNN, and CNN International.

Melinda Briana Epler (US)

Melinda Briana Epler has 25 years of experience elevating brands and developing business innovation strategies for startups, Fortune 500 companies, and global NGOs. As CEO of Empovia (formerly Change Catalyst), Melinda works with her clients and partners to solve diversity and inclusion together.

Using her background in storytelling, behavioral science, and large-scale culture change, she is a strategic advisor for companies, innovation hubs, and governments around the world. She also co-founded Tech Inclusion, a series of global solutions-focused conferences where she partnered with over 450 tech companies and community organizations and hosted over 50 solutions-focused diversity and inclusion events. Previously, Melinda was a Marketing and Culture Executive and award-winning documentary filmmaker.

Melinda is a TED speaker who speaks, mentors, and writes about diversity and inclusion, inclusive innovation, empathy, and entrepreneurship. She is the author of How to Be an Ally (McGraw-Hill) and the host of the popular “Leading With Empathy & Allyship” podcast. She has spoken on hundreds of stages worldwide, including SXSW, Grace Hopper, Wisdom 2.0, the World Bank, White House, Clinton Foundation, Black Enterprise, Google, Indeed, Capital One, UC Berkeley, and McKinsey.

Carla Harris (US)

Carla Harris is a Vice Chairman, Managing Director and Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley. She is responsible for increasing client connectivity and penetration to enhance revenue generation across the firm. She is a member of the board of overseers of Harvard University and of the board of directors of the Walmart Corporation. In August 2013, Carla Harris was appointed by President Barack Obama to chair the National Women’s Business Council. Harris likes to emphasize the fact that diversity of thought has a huge impact on an organization’s go-to-market strategy — and its long-term success.

Harris was named to Fortune Magazine’s list of “The 50 Most Powerful Black Executives in Corporate America”, Fortune’s Most Influential List, U. S. Bankers Top 25 Most Powerful Women in Finance (2009, 2010, 2011), Black Enterprise’s Top 75 Most Powerful Women in Business (2017), and “Top 75 African Americans on Wall Street”, and to Essence Magazine’s list of “The 50 Women Who are Shaping the World”, Ebony’s list of the Power 100 and “15 Corporate Women at the Top” and was named “Woman of the Year 2004” by the Harvard Black Men’s Forum and in 2011 by the Yale Black Men’s Forum. In her other life, she is a singer, and has performed 5 sold out concerts at Carnegie Hall.

Hassan Al Hilou (Belgium)

Hassan is a thought leader on radical innovation and Youth Empowered Economy who has given numerous keynote presentations around the world, for companies such as Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, Deloitte, Bosch Group, Bain & Company, Google, Microsoft and who has been the keynote headliner for many internal conferences for Fortune1000 companies.

He started at the age of 15 as the youngest entrepreneur of Belgium and today, he builds innovative programs to engage all youth in self-empowerment and entrepreneurship. He is the author of ‘I Am Hassan – Entrepreneur of my Own Life', a book about those people who are able to rethink themselves and become more human-centric.

His book ‘GovTech: how to transform the region into a leading digital government’ focuses on how politics and governments could survive in times of radical innovation. He writes about how the government should explore the limits of the digital world, what happens when technology just becomes ‘normal’ and how to engage youth in building a new start up economy.

Laurence Van Elegem
Laurence Van Elegem
Laurence has more than 10 years of experience in marketing, communications and disruptive innovation. Passionately curious, she is fascinated by the impact of technology and science on the way we work, consume and live our lives.
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August 17, 2023
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion