DEI is Personal: My Story of Family, Kenya, and a Career

Diversity has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. We just never called it diversity when I was growing up. But it was there all along.

It started with being the youngest of eight children; five brothers and two sisters, all of whom are very different. Add in their friends and you get the picture: a bustling, dynamic house with a never-ending, revolving door of high school and college students. As the youngest, I spent a lot of time observing the differences and similarities of my siblings and their friends, trying to understand what made each person tick.

My early memories start with having Rotary Youth Exchange students in our house, which is when where an American high school student lives in another country for a year, while a student from that country lives in an American home for the same year. Over the years, we had students from Sweden, Belgium, Japan, Bolivia and other countries living with us, each bringing new perspectives on culture, language, food and traditions to my world.

I hung out with a fairly international crowd in college with friends from Argentina, Mexico, France and Kenya. After falling in love with my Kenyan friend, we got married in an international wedding with his family coming from India, Canada and Kenya to help celebrate. I didn’t think much of it at the time; however, someone recently said to me, “You married a Kenyan two decades ago?! That just wasn’t done back then.” Well, we did it. And we also moved to Kenya to live and work. It was only supposed to be for two years; we stayed for 12 years instead. My grandmother referred to Africa as the dark continent; that should’ve warned me of what was to come.

I hadn’t seen real racism growing up, but I saw it firsthand in Kenya. I witnessed how people of different skin colors treated each other on a daily basis. I noticed how people expected less of people with darker skin color, for no reason other than a bias that skin color was linked to intelligence. And I clearly saw how my husband was treated differently than me in various situations. All those observations shaped my beliefs around diversity, inclusion and belonging.

After returning to the US, helping teams, individuals and organizations talk about diversity was my focus. I started with age diversity, being dubbed The Generational Guru by the Washington Post. Yet that felt limited and incomplete. So, I moved into the wider arena of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), using executive coaching, leadership development, and human capital consulting to drive those conversations forward.

Many people tell me that DEI conversations are daunting. I get it; it’s hard to look at our own bias and have these conversations. Yet, I’ve been doing it my whole life, personally and professionally. And my life is richer because of it.

I can help you start diversity conversations too. I’m pleased to announce DEI360, an organization’s starting point for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI). It’s an easy, customizable, online assessment that quickly allows organizational leadership to see how they’re doing from the employee’s perspective. Once an organization takes the assessment,( our team walks through the final report giving clear DEI data, a snapshot of the internal DEI landscape, and actionable next steps. Have questions? Check out our FAQ or contact us directly.

Let’s share experiences. Leave a comment below, send me an email, or find me on Twitter.

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