Speak Up, Take Action: 2021 DEI Conference Recap

This year’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusivity Conference, in partnership with Bank of America, took place virtually over a two-day period and attracted over 800 attendees.

The conference theme for this year was ‘Speak Up, Take Action’ and our speakers took this to heart in their sessions by delivering powerful strategies and insights that we can bring to our personal lives and to our organizations.

We kicked off day one with a privilege walk led by Jackie Ferguson, co-founder of The Diversity Movement. Attendees shared their varying levels of privilege at the end of the interactive exercise, as shown in the graph below. Afterward, attendees shared how they were feeling in the chat box. Words such as “reflective”, “surprised yet grateful”, and “guilty” were common. See the word cloud below.


However, Jackie made sure to mention that no one should be feeling guilty from their privilege score, but rather understanding that privilege is a step toward empathy and helps to build a more inclusive culture. It helps us realize that there is so much more to people than the few personas they introduce to you. She summarized, “privilege is a responsibility, not something to feel guilty about.”

The next part of day one featured DEI Talks for participants to choose one of the below topics:

  • Blindsided: Uncovering Bias

  • Facilitating Courageous Conversations

  • Understanding and Disrupting Micro-Aggressions

  • Understanding the Depth of Identity

We ended the day with a powerful keynote speech from Stedman Graham, chairman & CEO of S. Graham and Associates. He shared an important lesson on Identity Leadership and figuring out who you are. “It’s not about how the world defines you, it’s about how you define yourself,” he said. The lesson we took away was it’s important to know how to define yourself, your identity, and go on a quest for self-improvement and self-actualization. This way, you will be able to create your own system for success and lead others the right way.

Day two kicked off with the session “Measuring DEI Impact: Quality vs. Quantity”. Attendees heard tips and tools for aligning qualitative and quantitative diversity, equity, and inclusivity, and enterprise goals. It’s important to create strategies and understand both sides to create an inclusive and equitable work culture.

Qualitative Tip: When hiring new talent, let’s transition the language from ‘culture fit’ to ‘culture add’. Rather than asking people to fit into an existing company culture, ask what an employee can add to our culture to help expand our viewpoints.

Quantitative Tip: If we’re not measuring our work, we don’t know how we are doing, and we can’t prioritize and adapt. This goes beyond just measuring representation, you can also measure other factors such as how many employees are going through training, and how engaged employees are.

Next, we moved into breakout sessions which attendees had the opportunity to choose one of the below topics:

  • The Undeniable Benefits of Corporate Social Responsibility

  • How to Navigate Your DEI Journey

  • Becoming an Ally and Accomplice in the Workplace

  • Disability & Neurodiversity Inclusion in the Workplace

  • Racial Equity for Black Employees in the Workplace

Lastly, before our closing activity, we heard from our keynote speaker Bo Young Lee, the chief diversity and inclusion officer at Uber Technologies. Her keynote can be summarized by a quote from Mike Tyson, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

The lesson to take away from her keynote is that it’s important to remember that you already have people of marginalized groups working at your organization. If you haven’t heard their story, it’s critical to ask them: Do they feel included and treated with equity?

Thank you to everyone who joined us for the 2021 Diversity, Equity & Inclusivity Conference. We hope you enjoyed this virtual experience and are leaving with insights and goals to act on. Together, we will Speak Up, Take Action.

Learn more about the Triangle DEI Alliance. 

Thank you to our sponsors.

In Partnership With
Bank of America

Presenting Sponsors
Credit Suisse
McGuireWoods LLP

Platinum Sponsors
ABB Inc.
District C
Greene Resources
RTP Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Collective

Gold Sponsors 
City of Raleigh
The Diversity Movement
Merz Aesthetics
Raleigh Regional Association of Realtors
RTI International
Spectrum Reach

Silver Sponsors 
ElectriCities of NC, Inc.
Marsh & McLennan Agency
WakeMed Health & Hospitals

Bronze Sponsors
321 Coffee
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina
Clark Nexsen
First Citizens Bank
Grace Federal Solutions, LLC
Rodgers Builders, Inc.
Univision 40
Wake Technical Community College
Williams Mullen

Breakout Session Sponsors
AT&T North Carolina
Clancy & Theys Construction Company


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