At the age of 14, Risha Grant took a trip to Alabama that made her notice for the first time that there were diversity issues in her home state of Oklahoma. The realization of the existence of these kinds of issues lit a spark inside her that has led her to a decades-long career helping people and organizations deal with things like unconscious bias, exclusion, and racism.
Speaking with Glamour, the diversity and inclusion expert talked about how her change in awareness led her to start her own communication and consulting firm, and outlined the work she does when companies ask her for help. It can be complicated work, both in establishing the root cause of the problems in the first place, and in getting buy-in for the solutions she puts forward. As Risha explained:
“Mostly when I am asked to go into a company to help with these, they are being reactive (i.e they’ve been called out) and not proactive. Normally there will be some kind of incident and they call me in and they say they have a ‘diversity’ problem and I would have to say, ‘no, you don’t; you have a people problem; diversity is just a fact,’” she explains, “Diversity is the thing that makes us unique, it is not a problem. People are. People want to put their own thoughts and opinions on others’; we think they should act and behave a certain way and when they don’t fit into that box that we put them in; we feel we have a diversity problem.”
Reframing diversity as not just a catchall phrase but really looking at its human cause and cost, is a key concern for Risha.
“Diversity has become a word that has negativity associated with it. I have been on committees and in meetings where people try and come up with a different word for diversity because every time it was mentioned people would roll their eyes,” she says, “I think it has lost something. For me, it’s my superpower. When I come to any meeting or conversation I bring in a whole new level of things with me that enrich the blend of any conversation. I think we need to change the way we view diversity.”
To help with these often-complex situations and to help foster meaningful change, Risha uses three key points herself, and encourages others to do the same. Those points are:
Listen to understand, not just respond.
Validate others’ experiences, don’t disparage them.
Act on the problems, and follow through with agreed upon solutions.
Risha Grant is diversity personified. From her race, gender, and lifestyle choices, to being a small business owner and tackling economic issues, every area of Risha’s life intersects diversity. The founder and CEO of an award-winning diversity consulting and communications firm, Risha’s mission is to show how diversity communication strategies, tactics, and training can create an inclusive culture in every company and community and, as a result, increase the bottom line.