S2 E 17: Cheryl Ingram: Is Seattle a Diverse City?

What You’ll Learn…

  •  A little bit about Cheryl Ingram, founder and CEO of Diverse City, LLC, and what Diverse City does to help eliminate discrimination and oppression in the workplace.

  • What inspired Ingram to start Diverse City and the most common clientèle they receive.

  • Ingram’s advice for those who want to begin making a change in their society and workplace, her thoughts on what Seattle specifically must focus on, and her hopes and fears for the city moving forward.

With a PhD in education with a specialization in multicultural studies, it’s no secret that inclusion and equity is Cheryl Ingram’s passion. A native of Omaha, Nebraska, Ingram moved to Seattle in 2013 and now calls Burien home. In 2015, she noticed that while discrimination was certainly prevalent in the workplace and discussed in a qualitative manner, there wasn’t much quantitative data available to back up these claims. Being a data nerd, she took it upon herself to start a company that could gather data for other companies and help them create a plan to attack the issues of discrimination and oppression head-on; this is how Diverse City was born.

The main mission of Diverse City is to eliminate discrimination and oppression in every workplace and educational institution. They run what they refer to as “diversity, equity, and inclusion assessments” to give companies a benchmark of where they are now, where they need to be, and what they need to do to get to where they need to be. Ingram notes that while many consulting companies love to jump right into training, Diverse City is different; they want to gather as much data as possible and hear from every employee in order to customize training for each individual company. While they do not have an “ideal” client, she does mention that they are placing a lot of current focus on the tech industry because it is the fastest-growing industry (in Seattle and around the world). From the hiring process and beyond, Ingram and her team ensure that companies become inclusive for all employees (whether some employees like it or not).

Ingram’s own experiences with discrimination and oppression didn’t really hit her until she attended college. Between witnessing the oppression of her friends on campus and having a professor push her to read more on discrimination, she became “woke” (as she notes) and began noticing the ways these systematic issues were affecting her on a daily basis. During her master’s, she worked for a nonprofit where she gathered data on how much it costs the economy per year for every child who drops out of high school. As she sifted through the data, she noted an alarming number of Hispanic drop-outs and compared their issues to those her friends had experienced. This not only inspired her dissertation on “How Academic and Social Settings Impact the Retention Rate of Black Students in Higher Education,” but it also led her to want to make a change by creating Diverse City.

As noted before, Ingram does not consider Diverse City to have an “ideal” clientèle; however, she does mention that about 90% of her clients request prevention because something has already been made public (it is only when issues become public that companies suddenly desire to make a change). She has noticed some start-ups reach out in order to create a plan at a foundational level, but the vast majority have already witnessed their system break and are in desperate need of a new system.

Of course, not everyone is ready to make a change. Ingram notes that she once had a white man come up to her and say that companies like hers are discriminating against people like him. In reality, he is merely upset at the fact that there is now more competition in the workplace because more people are eligible to “play the game,” as it were. This ties into Ingram’s biggest piece of advice for those who are interested in making a change in their businesses and societies: First, do some self-work. Every human being has biases, but if you attempt to create a new system with these biases left unchecked, you will do nothing more than perpetuate the same problems that we see today. You must be willing to begin some reflective work on yourself before you start to change the system as a whole.

A great starting place, in Ingram’s opinion, is through education. Read and study things that may be outside of your comfort zone. Absorb entertainment from another race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. It is only when you step outside of this confirmation bias that you can begin to see and appreciate the joys and hardships of others. Most importantly, make the choice to change. Change is the only consistent thing in the life of all human beings and if you can choose to make a change, to get out there and challenge the systems we have in place and teach others (especially those in power) about what is being done to oppress others, change will happen before your very eyes.

As Seattle in particular experiences one of its biggest booms in recent history, Ingram agrees that the rising cost of living is pushing out those who once made Seattle so racially and economically diverse. She notes that the city must pay closer attention to the correlation between the job market and the real estate market and work together to bring equity to both of these areas through focusing on the people first (“people, product, and then profit). If officials and companies can begin to consider who has been there first, this inequality will begin to decrease.

Overall, Ingram’s biggest hope for the future of Seattle is the same as her hope for every city in the country: that by the time she retires, discrimination and oppression will have been completed eliminated from the community. As long as companies like Diverse City and people like Ingram continue to exist and work tirelessly toward this goal, equity and inclusion may become closer to reality than we could have ever imagined.

About the Interviewee

Cheryl Ingram is the founder and CEO of Diverse City and Inclusology. She earned her PhD at New Mexico State University and has been living in Seattle for five years. If you would like to learn more about Diverse City and Inclusology and get involved, you can follow and check out job announcements at diversecityllc.com and participate in a survey at inclusology.com. Be sure to keep an eye on Eventbrite for a couple of events that Diverse City will be hosting soon and you can follow Diverse City on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. You can also follow Inclusology on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Links

Trader Joe’s

Elysian Brewing

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Debugging the Gender Gap: CODE Documentary

The Bridge of Southern New Mexico

Education for All

Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People

Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity

Peggy McIntosh

Jeff Bezos

Joseph Campbell’s "Hero’s Journey"

(Re-broadcast) #1.11 Nathan Bowling: 2016 Washington State Teacher of the Year on Seattle Education