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20 Great Speakers On Embracing Diversity To Drive Innovation

by Debbie Saylor, Vice President
Diversity Leads To Innovation

One of the best parts about my job as a program consultant at Leading Authorities is that I am constantly learning new things. I work with a diverse set of speakers covering a variety of industries and a broad array of business and motivational topicswhich means that every day is different and that I’m always learning and being challenged with new information and ideas. It’s a lot of fun to help clients build their meetings and solve their organization’s challenges along the way.

I was recently inspired by one of my clients who put together a program with the theme “Diversity Leads to Innovation.” This client wanted to focus on the many reasons that working with a diverse group of leaders, thinkers, and coworkers ultimately leads to better and more effective ideas.

I receive many topic requests around innovation, and a good amount around diversity. This was the first time I received a request for a speaker to address how diversity can lead to innovation, and I immediately took to and loved the theme. I was so impressed that my client had dedicated an entire internal conference around this theme that the challenge of finding them the perfect speaker led to my inspiration. It was truly motivating to see how much importance a company placed on this topic and how much they cared about their employees.

Diversity leads to innovation touches on so many different sub topics: inclusion, communication, leadership, and growth to name a few. I put together a list of 20 speakers who touch upon this overarching idea as well as these smaller themes. Here is a list of speakers who talk about why diversity is so essential to innovation.

20 Speakers On Embracing Diversity To Drive Innovation

I've compiled a list of 20 suggestions for keynote speaker who cover this trending topic:

  1. Deborah Shaw, Former Senior Vice President, Chief Global Diversity and Engagement Officer of Pepsico
  2. H. Lee Scott, Former President and CEO of Walmart
  3. Dawn Hudson, Former Chief Marketing Officer at the National Football League and Former President and CEO of Pepsi Cola North America
  4. Carlos Gutierrez, Former CEO and Chairman of the Board at Kellogg Company & Former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce
  5. Shellye Archambeau, Former Chief Executive Officer, MetricStream
  6. Carla Harris, Vice Chairman, Global Wealth Management and Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley
  7. Ori Brafman, Leadership and Organizational Dynamics Expert; Multiple New York Times Best-Selling Author
  8. Ana Navarro, Republican Strategist and Political Contributor to CNN, ABC News, and Telemundo
  9. Sondra Thiederman, Expert on Workplace Diversity, Bias Reduction, and Cross-Cultural Business
  10. Kristin Beck, Former Navy SEAL and Civil Rights Activist
  11. Donna Brazile, Renowned Political Strategist and Commentator, Former Interim Chair of the Democratic National Committee
  12. Jonathan Capehart, Journalist and Television Personality
  13. Mika Brzezinski, Co-Host of MSNBC's Morning Joe and Best-Selling Author of Knowing Your Value
  14. Dex Torricke-Barton, Former Head of Communications at SpaceX, Executive Communications Manager at Facebook, & Executive at Google
  15. Erik Weihenmayer, World-Class Blind Adventurer
  16. Anthony Foxx, Former United States Secretary of Transportation and Chief Policy Officer at Lyft
  17. Kimberly Bryant, Founder & CEO of Black Girls CODE and Aspen Institute Fellow
  18. Vernice Armour, First African American Female Combat Pilot
  19. Lior Zoref, Researcher, Advisor, TED Speaker, & Best-Selling Author
  20. Sekou Andrews, Creator of "Poetic Voice" & Inspirational Speaker

Read more about each of these dynamic keynote speakers on how to embrace diversity to drive innovation below and click on the links in each speaker's description to navigate to their individual speaker profile pages to learn more about their experience, expertise, and speaking topics.

Deborah Shaw

Former Senior Vice President, Chief Global Diversity and Engagement Officer of Pepsico

Deborah Shaw is an expert in navigating uncertainty, as well as the reasons why unlikely people can often be the source of our greatest new ideas. She discovered strategies for success that formed a bridge from tough inner-city beginnings to award-winning entrepreneur and Fortune 50 senior executive and consultant. In 2004, Deborah founded the Rosado Shaw Group, LLC., a consulting and advisory firm focused on intervening in today's complex challenges around culture, performance, talent engagement, and diversity. Since 1996, Deborah has delivered custom executive briefings, seminars, keynotes, and consulting to organizations that include Accenture, American Express, The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, IBM, Microsoft, New York Life, PepsiCo, Sam's Club, Walmart, and many more.  | See more on Deborah Shaw here.

H. Lee Scott

Former President & CEO of Walmart

H. Lee Scott served as Walmart’s president and CEO from 2000 to 2009, the company’s third, following Sam Walton and David Glass. He is widely credited with reinvigorating Walmart’s mission and transforming it into a respected corporate leader on many of the major issues facing today’s increasingly complex world. In eye-opening presentations, H. Lee Scott discusses why diversity is essentially to a successful and happy workforce.  |  See more on H.Lee Scott here.

Dawn Hudson

Former Chief Marketing Officer at the National Football League and Former President and CEO of Pepsi Cola North America

Whether serving as CEO, Chief Marketing Officer, or Chairman of the Board, Dawn Hudson has led an impressive career spanning high-level posts in media, retail, consumer goods, consulting, and healthcare at some of the biggest corporations in the world including the NFL, PepsiCo, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Allergan, PF Chang’s, the LPGA, and NVIDIA. Hudson's track record of success is packed with groundbreaking ideas born of an ability to see what’s around the corner and an expertise in crafting revenue-boosting competitive advantages, and she is able to relate these themes to the importance of diversity. Hudson has been recognized as the “Most Vital Leader in Tech, Media, and Marketing” by AdWeek—topping a list of 50 industry titans—and twice as one of Fortune magazine’s “50 Most Powerful Women in Business.”  |  See more on Dawn Hudson here. 

Carlos Gutierrez

Former CEO and Chairman of the Board at Kellogg Company & Former Secretary of the US Department of Commerce

The son of Cuban immigrants who began his career selling cereal to small grocers in Mexico City, Carlos Guiterrez rose to become the youngest CEO in Kellogg’s 100-year history. Named one of the most powerful Hispanic-Americans in business by Fortune magazine, he was an ardent voice for business in the government as well as why new voices from various backgrounds can often contribute to forging new partnerships that may not have been possible. As secretary of commerce, Gutierrez was a core member of President Bush’s economic team.During his tenure, Gutierrez made it a top priority to open global markets for U.S. companies, and he played a key role in the passage of CAFTA-DR, a landmark trade agreement that expanded opportunities for US exports throughout Latin America.  |  See more on Carlos Gutierrez here.

Shellye Archambeau 

Former Chief Executive Officer, MetricStream

Under Shellye Archambeau's 14 years of leadership, MetricStream has grown from a newly-formed company in 2004 into a recognized global market leader with nearly 1,500 employees globally, as of 2018. The company has been recognized for growth, product innovation, and customer success, and has been consistently named a leader in GRC by leading independent analyst firms. In April 2013, Archambeau was named the “#2 Most Influential African American in Technology” by Business Insider. She previously held senior positions with IBM during a 15-year-long career there, and was the first African American female to be sent on international assignment by IBM. She talks about her personal journey and why she believes diversity is essential to success.  |  See more on Shellye Archambeau here.

Carla Harris

Vice Chairman, Global Wealth Management and Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley

In her current role at Morgan Stanley, Carla Harris is responsible for increasing client connectivity and penetration to enhance revenue generation across the firm. She has extensive industry experiences in the technology, media, retail, telecommunications, transportation, industrial, and healthcare sectors. The recipient of numerous awards, including being named to Fortune magazine’s list of “The 50 Most Powerful Black Executives in Corporate America,” Harris was appointed by President Barack Obama to chair the National Women’s Business Council in 2013. She helps groups tap into their unique potential and understand why our individual gifts are at the core of our success equations. She is the author of two best-selling books, Strategize To Win and Expect To Win, and the creator of “Carla’s Pearls,” the centerpiece of her speeches and television appearances.  |  See more on Carla Harris here.

Ori Brafman

Leadership and Organizational Dynamics Expert & Repeat New York Times Best-Selling Author

Born in Israel and raised in Texas, Ori Brafman specializes in unique approaches to problem solving, and imparts the lessons he has learned about approaching problems in new ways to diverse audiences globally. His ideas have been implemented by the US government, Google, Microsoft, Cisco, Intel, the Chicago Bulls, the San Francisco 49ers, Amazon, Facebook, Family Business Network, and PWC. Brafman is a multiple New York Times best-selling author. His new best-selling book, Radical Inclusion: What the Post-9/11 World Should Have Taught Us About Leadership, examines today’s leadership landscape and argues that inclusion is no longer a “nice-to-have” but a strategic imperative in the digital world.  |  See more on Ori Brafman here.

Ana Navarro

Republican Strategist and Political Contributor to CNN, ABC News, & Telemundo

Ana Navarro is a top Republican strategist and political contributor for CNN and ABC who served as the national Hispanic co-chair for Governor Huntsman’s 2012 Presidential campaign, national co-chair of Senator John McCain’s Hispanic Advisory Council, national surrogate for Senator John McCain’s 2008 Presidential campaign, as well as an ambassador for the United Nations’ Human Rights Commission. Ana is an advocate for changes in immigration policies and sustained political outreach efforts for the Hispanic community. Respected on both sides of the political aisle for her straight shooting and candor, Navarro frequently appears on top media outlets, such as Meet the PressAnderson Cooper 360, and The View, to name a few, where she shares her insights, as well as her personal journey to success.  |  See more on Ana Navarro here.

Dr. Sondra Thiederman

Professional Speaker, Author, & Expert on Unconscious Bias

Dr. Sondra Thiederman is one of the nation’s leading experts on unconscious bias and workplace inclusion issues. As President of Cross-Cultural Communications, a San Diego based training firm, Sondra has more than 25 years’ experience as a speaker, trainer, and author. She helps professionals in Fortune 500 companies, public sector organizations, and dozens of associations find ways to successfully navigate and succeed in our increasingly diverse workplaces. Sondra’s client list spans industries and associations ranging from aerospace (The Boeing Company) to Finance (Ernst and Young) to health care (The Mayo Clinic) to communications (AT&T) and beyond.  |  See more on Dr. Sondra Thiederman here.

Kristin Beck

Former US Navy SEAL & Decorated Civil Rights Activist

Kristin Beck is a retired United States Navy SEAL, who served for more than 20 years in the Special Operations Forces, as well as a civil rights advocate. Over the course of 13 deployments and seven combat deployments, she conducted special operations with small UAVs, HUMINT, and Direct Action missions. Now a civil rights activist, she gives speeches and lectures at various events around the country. Kristin was a key voice in the Congressional Bill to end discrimination toward the LGBT community. She continues her “new mission” fighting for equality for all Americans and a documentary story of her life, Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story, aired on CNN in 2014. She encourages audiences to focus on their similarities, rather than their differences, and to unlock new ideas by exploring various perspectives.  |  See more on Kristin Beck here.

Donna Brazile

Renowned Political Strategist and Commentator & Former Interim Chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC)

Veteran political strategist, Donna Brazile, is the former interim Chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the author of the New York Times bestseller Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-Ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House and the 2004 best-selling memoir Cooking with Grease: Stirring the Pots in American Politics. She is a co-author of the forthcoming book For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics. Ms. Brazile has devoted her life to working for progressive change, responsible governance, and the advancement of all people in a society that is fair and equitable, as well as why great ideas often come from unlikely places. Ms. Brazile loves working with young people, encouraging them to vote, to run for office, and to work within the system to strengthen it.  See more on Donna Brazile here.

Jonathan Capehart

Journalist & Television Personality

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jonathan Capehart is a member of The Washington Post editorial board, writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog, and hosts the Post’s “Cape Up” podcast. He is also an MSNBC contributor who regularly serves as a substitute anchor. He is also revered for his abilities as an expert panelist and moderator, who is particularly skilled at directing and navigating honest, meaningful conversations with high-level personalities. In addition to his work with the Post, Capehart is a regular moderator of panels at the Aspen Ideas Festival and for the Aspen Institute, the Center for American Progress and at the Atlantic Dialogues conference and the Brussels Forum of the German Marshall Fund. In moving speeches, he shares his personal story and encourages audiences to not discount people who may seem different.  |  See more on Jonathan Capehart here.

Mika Brzezinski

Co-Host of MSNBC's Morning Joe & Best-Selling Author of the Book, Knowing Your Value

The Democrat to partner Joe Scarborough’s Republican, Mika Brzezinski spends each weekday morning debating the headlines of the day with a roundtable of political insiders, journalists, and newsmakers. Morning Joe has been called “revolutionary” by TIME magazine and ranked a top news show by The New York Times, who noted the stellar impact of Brzezinski’s natural repartee with co-host Scarborough as well as her off-the cuff commentary. Most recently, Brzezinski and her co-host were both inducted into the Cable Hall of Fame. In addition to her daily television presence, Mika Brzezinski is a best-selling author. Her second book, Knowing Your Value, looks at perceptions of value and how successful women today have achieved their deserved recognition and financial worth in the workplace. Knowing Your Value reached #1 on the New York Times best-seller list for business books in 2011 and is currently in its second edition.  |  See more on Mika Brzezinski here.

Dex Torricke-Barton

Former Head of Communications at SpaceX, Former Executive Communications Manager at Facebook, & Former Executive at Google

Dex Torricke-Barton, son of refugees from Burma, has managed communications for some of the most-influential and admired Silicon Valley leaders and corporations of our day. From 2012 to 2016, he led the executive communications team at Facebook and served as personal speechwriter for Mark Zuckerberg. On stage, Dex expertly combines his experience working for some of the world’s most innovative and technology-driven brands with his passion for social innovation to help companies shift towards a 21st century business methodology. Dex takes audiences into Facebook’s boardroom, Musk’s open-concept cubicle, the famed Googleplex, and finally to the UN itself to share lessons on what it takes in today’s environment to build highly-effective internal teams, how to use storytelling in modern communications, and what to make of the steady transition from local to global that’s unfolded over the past decade.  |  See more on Dex Torricke-Barton here.

Erik Weihenmayer

World-Class Blind Adventurer

Erik Weihenmayer is one of the most sought-after keynote speakers in the world. Despite losing his vision at age 14, he is an accomplished climber, paraglider, skier, and kayaker who never allows blindness interfere with his passion for pursuing an exhilarating and fulfilling life. Erik brings audiences a powerful message about harnessing the power of adversity and different life experiences as fuel for greatness, emphasizing the importance of building a strong “Rope Team,” and illuminating how to develop a “No Barriers Mindset.” Erik’s talks resonate with diverse audiences from graduating college students to large sales teams to CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Erik’s speaking career has taken him around the globe from the 2005 APEC Summit in Chile to the 2009 Presidential Inaugural celebration in Washington, DC.  |  See more on Erik Weihenmayer here.

Anthony Foxx

Former United States Secretary of Transportation & Current Chief Policy Officer at Lyft

Anthony Foxx is the Chief Policy Officer at Lyft who formerly served as the 17th United States Secretary of Transportation and as mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina. As Secretary of Transportation, he led an agency with more than 55,000 employees and a budget of $70 billion. Secretary Foxx energized DOT’s embrace of innovation to help solve these problems by launching the Smart City Challenge, a national competition to implement bold, data-driven ideas that make transportation safer, easier, and more reliable in that city. In fast-paced presentations, Foxx encourages audiences to rethink what they know about "how things should be done." He also worked to accelerate the Department’s efforts to incorporate vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology into new vehicles. As Chief Policy Officer at ride-sharing powerhouse Lyft, he works to develop government partnerships and serves as adviser to Lyft's president and CEO.  |  See more on Anthony Foxx here.

Kimberly Bryant

Founder & CEO of Black Girls CODE and Aspen Institute Fellow

In 2011, Kimberly Bryant founded Black Girls CODE, a non-profit organization dedicated to “changing the face of technology” by introducing girls of color (ages seven to seventeen) to the field of technology and computer science with a concentration on entrepreneurial concepts. As Oprah describes, Black Girls CODE is “the first organization of its kind.” Kimberly has helped Black Girls CODE grow from a local grassroots initiative serving only the Bay Area, to an international organization with fourteen chapters across the US and in Johannesburg, South Africa. Black Girls CODE has currently reached over 7,000 students and continues to grow and thrive. She speaks to audiences about why greatness often comes from the most unexpected places.  |  See more on Kimberly Bryant here.

Vernice "flygirl" Armour

First African American Female Combat Pilot

Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour propelled herself from beat cop to combat pilot in a record-breaking three years and became America’s First African American female combat pilot. FlyGirl’s first signature book, Zero to Breakthrough: The 7-Step, Battle-Tested Method for Accomplishing Goals that Matter, which was released by Penguin in 2011, chronicles the process she utilized to transition from beat cop to America’s First African American Female Combat Pilot. She is an internationally-recognized inspirational leadership keynote speaker for premier leadership conferences and Fortune 500 companies, who helps groups develop a breakthrough mentality that prizes talent of all shapes and sizes.  |  See more on Vernice Armour here.

Lior Zoref

Researcher, Advisor, TED Speaker, & Best-Selling Author

Originally from Israel and having previously spent 14 years as a vice president in marketing at Microsoft, Lior Zoref is currently a researcher and advisor whose work has been featured in Fast Company, Harvard Business Review, NPR, The Huffington Post, and more. In his fascinating and highly-engaging talks, Dr. Zoref looks at the ways organizations and individuals can draw on wisdom of crowds to create a greater output with less effort. He shares techniques major corporations are using now to innovate and problem-solve in record time—all by using the power of “we. Zoref used stories of crowdsourcing in action—including a poll of the audience—to illustrate its power.  |  See more on Lior Zoref here.

Sekou Andrews

Creator of "Poetic Voice" & Inspirational Speaker

A schoolteacher turned actor, recording artist, two-time national poetry slam champion, entrepreneur, and award-winning poetic voice, Sekou is a multi-talented entertainer with over 2 decades of experience rocking diverse audiences. It is no surprise that Forbes Magazine has called Sekou “the de facto poet laureate of corporate America.” His “wow-factor” is in high demand with the world’s most successful organizations, including Google, Viacom, Toyota, Nike, Cisco, LinkedIn, Global Green, Paypal, ASAE, The Gap, General Mills, TEDx, and the NBA, to name but a few. Sekou’s talks on disruption are in such demand because they literally embody disruption on stage, charging audiences to disrupt themselves to access their individual innovation. His keynotes on dynamic communication and storytelling show leaders how to deliver dense data through beautifully human presentations.  |  See more on Sekou Andrews here.

LOOKING FOR A Diversity OR Innovation speaker?

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