We need to be kinder to ourselves for being imperfect

Photo: Vladimir Vladimirov/Getty Images

I have a secret — I lean solidly progressive and yet still bank with Wells Fargo. Yes, the Wells Fargo that funded the Dakota Access Pipeline, created millions of fraudulent accounts in customers’ names, and discriminated against low-income customers and communities of color in its lending practices. No, I don’t feel good about it either. But despite my understanding that all of these critiques are true and that as an entity Wells Fargo perpetuates harm, I still bank with them. …


This essay belongs to Beyond the Business Case, a Medium-exclusive essay series exploring the big-picture questions about diversity & inclusion work. Intended for D&I practitioners, C-Suite executives, and other leaders looking to shape the future of D&I.

“Diversity increases revenue, improves productivity, sparks creativity, and boosts innovation.”

In my line of work, the business case for diversity is practically a mantra. As Diversity & Inclusion has gained mainstream acceptance, so too has this “business case” emerged as the centerpiece of many modern organizations’ D&I efforts. It figures prominently in keynote talks, diversity panels, and internal presentations alike. …


In my latest piece, “Why Don’t Companies Just Stop Discriminating?” I made the case that the modern corporation has evolved to treat workplace discrimination not as an urgent moral or business imperative, but as a manageable PR investment. I left the big question — “what can we do about it?” unanswered. In this article, I’ll define decoupling and explore the impact of decoupled discrimination on organizations. I’ll explain how we can recouple companies’ anti-discrimination messaging with their actual policies and practices, and introduce four tactics to do so: Targeted Disruption, Negotiating Reality, Framing Metrics, and Vigilante Changemaking.

what is decoupling?

Organizational decoupling, first…


Corporate discrimination hasn’t changed much in 30 years. Much of that is by design.

A recent study found no change in anti-Black hiring discrimination from the late 80s to 2015. Data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) shows that the total number of discrimination charges filed on the federal level hasn’t fallen from 1992 to the present (if anything, it’s gone up). Even without the data, many people are aware that modern discrimination is alive and well through major scandals involving companies like Starbucks, Amazon, Google, Nike, and others.


This essay belongs to Beyond the Business Case, a Medium-exclusive essay series exploring the big-picture questions about diversity & inclusion work. Intended for D&I practitioners, C-Suite executives, and other leaders looking to shape the future of D&I.

These days, Diversity & Inclusion initiatives have become more common than ever at companies around the world. Data from Indeed shows that D&I positions have increased by 35% in just two years, and the diversity landscape is inundated with so many workshops, talks, lectures, courses, and trainings on D&I that the phrase “diversity fatigue” is in our lexicon. But things aren’t working as…


This essay is part of Beyond the Business Case, a Medium-exclusive essay series exploring the big-picture questions about diversity & inclusion work. Intended for D&I practitioners, C-Suite executives, and other leaders looking to shape the future of D&I.

“Iwish _____ could have been here to see this.” The diversity & inclusion workshop is ending, and spirits are high. Participants share a knowing laugh: everyone knows who _____ is. The mid-level manager who brushes off D&I as “not a priority.” The administrator who loudly complains that D&I initiatives are “ruining meritocracy.” The colleague who makes off-color jokes about people of color…


Transgender Day of Remembrance is observed on November 20th, and around the country many hundreds, if not thousands of TDoR events will memorialize the 28 trans people in the U.S. — and the 369 trans people worldwide — murdered as a result of transphobic violence. All of these events will be well-intentioned. Many of these events will fall short of supporting trans people in the way we need.

As a queer, transgender woman of color with a history of activism, I’ve seen my fair share of TDoRs. I’ve rehearsed lists of hundreds of names for days on end, looking each…


Examining the relationship between cisgender men and cisgender women leads to the conclusion that masculinity is a strong predictor of workplace treatment and outcomes: those who are masculine end up having a better experience in the workplace than those who are not. The experiences of gender-diverse people complicate this simple conclusion.

Lacking Masculinity

The experiences of the six trans women, all of whom transitioned away from hegemonic masculinity, demonstrate basic support for the theme that masculine is superior. Every one of them, with the exception of of one, noted that after transitioning they perceived themselves as having less privilege than they had…


Many of the gender-diverse people interviewed for Gender Ambiguity in the Workplace told stories of leaving a workplace, and almost every instance mentioned was related to discrimination.

Some were fired due to their trans identity. Cory, a white nonbinary person in their twenties, shared that while working in a Boston cafe, “the owner of the café had the manager take me off the schedule and it was shared with me through a roundabout way that he had been getting complaints about a man with boobs working behind the counter. And then I was discreetly shuffled off the schedule and there…


Discrimination in the workplace was a universal reality for all of the gender-diverse people featured in this blog, with every interviewee able to speak about at least one experience during their work histories that felt discriminatory

Many gender-diverse people experienced micromanaging once their gender expression began to change. Rowan, a white nonbinary person in their twenties, described how the respect they received dropped after varying their gender expression at their mobile app company, and how they were more likely to be micromanaged on days they were presenting more feminine at work.

Leslie, a white trans woman in her thirties, described…

Lily Zheng

Organizational Consultant | Activist | Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Champion | Keynote Speaker | Author lilyzheng.co & @lilyzheng308

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