Khalilah Lyons: DEI Done Right for Leaders – and Our Kids

If you don’t think diversity, equity and inclusion are hard, then you haven’t been paying attention. Of course it’s hard! Most things worth doing to make our world a better place are hard! It requires us to examine biases, rethink old assumptions, and take the time to empathize and see other points of view. And it’s totally worth it, not just to society as a whole, but to your organization’s ability to attract and retain top talent and make smart decisions. Today, I have the honor of talking with the energetic and determined Khlaliah Lyons about DEI done right – and where it can go horribly wrong if you’re not careful. We talk about DEI and why it needs to be a mindset, not a project. We discuss why we need to consider impact more than intention – and where well-intentioned allies can do better. And finally, we discuss the importance of talking about diversity with our kids early and often – and why doing so helps normalize and celebrate difference. 

Key Takeaways:

  • There is more to DEI than just having a diverse team and marking it off your annual checklist.
  • Leaders need to understand how understanding different identities can connect us and drive engagement and drive performance.
  • DEI is a wicked problem, not a tame problem. There is no beginning and end with everyone coming to the same perspective, like a finance or engineering problem. It can be ambiguous, with no beginning and end, no right or wrong – simply a focus on getting better.
  • As a well-meaning ally, your intention matters less than your impact. It’s also really important to take in that privilege piece, and be okay with it if it’s uncomfortable in this work.

“You can have diversity, but absolutely no inclusion or equity. I want leaders to understand how understanding different identities can connect us and drive engagement and performance.” —  Khalilah Lyons

About Khalilah Lyons:

Khalilah Lyons, DEI Leader & Co-Founder, Candidly Connecting

Khalilah Lyons, DEI leader and co-founder of Candidly Connecting, a storytelling and community platform dedicated to igniting bold, candid and essential conversations about diversity, equity and belonging between children and their parents. With decades of experience in the corporate world, she has devoted herself to the advocacy of the underrepresented and to elevating the untapped talent in women. Before stepping off the corporate track, Khalilah led DEI initiatives at Discover Financial Services including educational strategy and an impactful leadership task force across the organization. She continues her work through consultancy and now partners with a handful of organizations that are early in their journey to building DEI excellence. 

Led by an appreciation for the rhythms of cultures and people, and the necessity to respect those rhythms, her work as a keynote speaker, mentor, advisory council member, thought leader and volunteer have provided powerful platforms to share actionable insights and to empower the brilliance of others.

Khalilah’s mission is to curate the beautifully messy stories that shift perspective, create empathy and ignite change by sharing the nuanced experiences of people we wouldn’t normally connect with.


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