Are you Diversity Resistant, Inclusive AF, or Somewhere in the Middle? with Jen O’Ryan from Double Tall Consulting

Jen O’Ryan was in tech for 20 years, but she started to realize that she wanted to do something to give back to the community. She wanted to help companies move from really good intentions and really good ideas – and having no idea where to start – to actual results. So like so many in diversity and inclusion work, she became an accidental expert.


Jackie Ferguson: Please welcome, Dr. Jen O’Ryan, to the Diversity Beyond the Checkbox Podcast. Jen is the founder and principal of Double Tall Consulting, specializing in the design of inclusion and diversity strategies.

Leveraging two decades of experience and change management, Jen has guided organizations across a variety of industries through her process. She holds a PhD in Human Behavior, focused on gender identity and sexual orientation, as well as an MBA in Technology Management and a BA in Ethics and Human Behavior. Jen is a public speaker and the author of Inclusive AF, a field guide for accidental diversity experts; designed for leaders looking to cultivate a more welcoming workspace.

Jen, we’re so excited to have you on the podcast today. 

Jen O’Ryan: Thank you. I’m very excited to be here. 

Yeah. So, let’s jump in. Let’s talk first a little about your early career. How did you get started and what did you think you’d be doing at this point in your career? I wanted to be– well, two things, I wanted to be Batman. And then I realized that that was probably not can happen. No, I really– I didn’t really have a clear idea of what I wanted to do. I mean, originally, it was like, “I’m going to go to LA and be a stunt person in  film.” And then I realized, “No, I just want to go to LA.” Because it rains all the time in Seattle and it doesn’t in LA. So, again, getting down to your root, “Why?” 

Jackie Ferguson: Yep, that’s right. 

Jen O’Ryan: So, I spent a couple of years contracting, driving around the country, doing different projects, and I ended up back in Seattle. And I was doing a project at Boeing and a friend of mine had just taken a project at Microsoft and said, “No, you have to come here because they never stop working. It’s all they do is problem-solve and work.”

Jackie Ferguson: Wow. 

Jen O’Ryan: At that at that time, it was totally me. And so, yeah, I went and absolutely fell in love with the company and the culture, and it was just such a great time to stumble my way into tech. So, that’s where I spent the next 20-ish years. 

Jackie Ferguson: Love it. And then, tell me a little about your experience in tech. How did you go from tech to diversity and inclusion and then tell us why this work is so important to you? 

Jen O’Ryan: Yeah, it’s interesting. And that’s– actually part of the title of the book is “The Accidental Expert” because tech is full of accidental experts because there will be a need and somebody will very quickly have to go figure out how to do something in, you know, code or something like that.

And all of a sudden, they’re the go-to expert on it. And then it just kind of becomes a default. It’s a term that I use lovingly and I consider myself an “accidental expert” in a few ways. So, back to your question, I always had a huge passion around humans and understanding how they engage with each other and with change and just how do we navigate that ourselves in the world?

And always been fascinated with that. And, but, I lived in Seattle, and at the time, it’s like, “Okay, you got to go the business route, get an MBA, do the corporate thing.” And I was always drawn to projects and systems that were underperforming, or had grown so quickly they didn’t have the infrastructure, and then just kind of deconstructing them, putting them back together, optimizing them and sending them on their way.

And so, when I was working on my PhD, I knew that I wanted to do something to give back to the community. And at the time, it seemed like a lot of the inclusion and diversity initiatives were focused on these aspirational goals as if they would just kind of– we’ll introduce it to the company and it will just become part of the culture.

Jackie Ferguson: Yeah. 

Jen O’Ryan: With the 20 years experience of launching things, I’m like, “That’s actually not how change works. That’s actually not how we operate.”

And so, I wanted to fill that piece of, how do I get companies from really good intentions and really good ideas, or having no idea where to start, and actually getting that space in between idea and results? And helping to actually implement and measure and really safely and effectively roll out some of these organizational changes. 

Jackie Ferguson: Yes. And that’s so important because so many of us, most of us, have good intentions and want to do the right thing, but really understanding how to work that process is a totally different thing. So, thanks for that. Jen, let’s talk about Double Tall. First, that’s a really interesting name for a company. So, tell us about how that came to be and then let’s talk about what your organization does. 

Jen O’Ryan: So, the name– I wanted to have something that would kind of evolve because I, I wasn’t entirely sure what this would look like when I started. And so, when I was finishing my doctorate, I was doing– my research focused on growing up as an LGBTQ+ individual. So, healthy influences during childhood that led to healthy outcomes later in life. And supportive families is a big part of that. And it’s a small community, even in Seattle. So, people would get word of what I was working on, and friends would have friends of friends who had kids who were coming out and they didn’t know what to do. 

So, they’re like, “Oh, you need to talk to Jen.” And so, I would be talking to educators and families and was just like, “Let’s sit down and have a coffee. And we’ll talk through strategies. I will answer all your awkward questions. You don’t have to go look it up on the internet.” And so, that was my original fee, was a Double Tall Americano. It was like, “Send me a coffee, we’ll talk for an hour, we’ll get you all, all sorted, and send you on your way.” 

Jackie Ferguson: That’s so great. You know, it’s so important because we, you know,  sometimes don’t know how to ask questions, don’t know what questions we can ask without offending people, so being that ear to be able to provide good information is so important and we need to be that where we can.  So, I love that. Thanks for sharing that. So, I need to understand more about “Data Geekery.” Tell me what that is and, and what that means. 

Jen O’Ryan: So I have been a data geek as far back as I can remember; all the way back to access database and reverse engineering queries and things like that. But a lot of people are– if you’re not a data person– it’s like finance and accounting, right? If you’re not a finance accounting person, if you don’t like opera, you never will. And so, if data scares people, or is intimidating, or seems really boring, Data Geekery is almost like– it’s combining the art and creativity around very cold measurable numbers. Right? So, it’s almost taking– it, it’s like mixed methods, right? 

So, you take the hard actual data, but then you also peel back and say, “Okay, what’s going on in the environment? And what’s changed? And what hasn’t?” And then you introduce that more qualitative human aspect and then all the different variables that could influence that. And so, it’s kind of like putting the data through a human filter and really seeing what’s behind it. 

Jackie Ferguson: Absolutely. And you know, the thing with diversity, equity, and inclusion is, very often, leaders make the mistake of thinking that it’s just the “feel good process,” right? It’s just the things that, that make people feel better about being there, feel more safe, but those things need to be measured in order to make progress and really first understand where you are. Because often, you’ll have executives that think one thing, and then an employee base thinks another thing about that same organization. And so, you really need to understand where you are, and then using the data, be able to make real progression forward.

If you’re not measuring, you can’t make real progress. So, I love that Data Geekery is part of what you do, because that is really how you understand where you are and then can make steps forward. So that’s, that’s awesome. 

Jen O’Ryan: Yeah. And it’s– it goes back to basic quality research design, right? It all depends on how you’re asking the question and who you’re asking the question. 

Jackie Ferguson: Yeah. 

Jen O’Ryan: So, that’s the first place I start with companies. And it really doesn’t matter how big they are. I love the smaller startups, they’re fun. It’s finding out, okay, when you do your organizational health or you get a sense of what your organization’s doing, how are you asking the question? Because if it’s only going out to email, it’s only going out to a subset of people who have email. And so, how are you measuring everybody who doesn’t have that experience? 

Jackie Ferguson: That’s right. Absolutely. Absolutely. So in the intro, I talked quickly about organizational change and change management. Let’s talk about what change management is. And why does it apply in diversity, equity, and inclusion work? 

Jen O’Ryan: I think it’s actually at the core of make or break.

Jackie Ferguson: Yes. 

Jen O’Ryan: Because the idea is, especially with inclusion and diversity, because as you know, some of these conversations can be very emotionally-charged. It’s a lot of learning and unlearning. It’s a lot of people really having to be vulnerable and uncomfortable and have very real conversations about what’s going on. So managing that change doesn’t just start at, “Okay. We’ve got this amazing solution that we’re going to roll out.” It goes way back into the, “What are we even trying to solve?” If we’re designing something to support a segment of the population of our employees, do they agree that this is a problem?

And are they part of the conversation to evolve it, figuring out what the solution is? 

Jackie Ferguson: Yeah.

Jen O’Ryan: And so, to me, change management is actually the entire ecosystem of the company and the organization. And then we communicate it out, “How do you evaluate it? What measurements do you have in place? What role back do you have in place?” Because it has to be done safely, right? You don’t want to cause unintended harm or consequences to employees. 

Jackie Ferguson: Absolutely. And you know, just from, from my perspective as an employee, when change gets rolled out, a lot of times, you know, we’re changing our email server or we’re going to new types of computers, or we changed our snacks in the break room, right?

People are like, “Oh my gosh!” Right? It’s end of the world. Right. It’s because people don’t like change. They like what they’re used to. And especially in this work, because you’re combating just the, “I don’t like change feeling.” And then they have to do the work around things that they’ve been taught and socialized and, you know, learning how to think different, learning how to use different language. That’s really tough. 

And so, understanding how to message that and take them through that change management process, is so important because you’ll lose the majority of your team because a lot of people just don’t understand why it’s important, how it applies to everyone, and how it’s good for business. And so, the change management piece is– you’re right, Jen. That is so important in this work. 

Jen O’Ryan: Yeah. And I feel like too often, it’s, it’s almost like when you say change management, it almost sounds like  quality control. Like it’s a series of check boxes that are checked to make sure that it’s ready to go. 

Jackie Ferguson: That’s exactly right. Absolutely. Jen, why do you think people are so resistant to change? 

Jen O’Ryan: We just as humans, we don’t like change. We don’t like different. And it starts out very, very early. This is a huge generalization because there’s always going to be people who just like– very adventurous, the bleeding edge, early adopter people.

Jackie Ferguson: Yeah. 

Jen O’Ryan: And then the people are just like, “I like my typewriter. I don’t ever want to change.” But it really depends on how close change will impact us or how closely we perceive it is. So going back to your, “Oh, we’ve got a new system implementation that’s coming out.” It’s the historical basis for that.

So, how many times have they rolled something out and it just failed spectacularly? And how many times have they rolled something out and then it ended up being something completely different?  It’s having that trust and that consistency and, and actually transparency around it. So, if I send you an email from human resources and I’m like, “Good news on our insurance!” Like, what that means is they’re changing our insurance.

And that is not good news for me, probably. So, just being really transparent about what the change entails and what it doesn’t, and having those communication channels open. 

Absolutely. So trust, consistency, transparency. That’s so important. Love that. On your  LinkedIn and, you know, for people that don’t know, I do a lot of research on our guests before they come on the show, you talk about your super power. Will you share what that is with our audience? And then how do we tap into our own superpower? 

So, it’s interesting because the first time somebody ever asked is like, “What’s your super power?” I was like, “I don’t even know what you’re talking about.” Like, and I immediately went to what my favorite– you know, “Batman, it’s my super heroes.” But it, it really took me a long–  I had taken a writer’s retreat, so I just hold myself up away for four or five days and just got really deep into the value statements of the work that I do. And why, why do I do this? 

And I realized that my superpower is, and has always been probably, that I am a trusted guide.  And I can help people see what’s possible and I can help lead them through whatever they need to get through, to get to what’s possible. And it sounds very esoteric, or I don’t know what the right word is, but that’s really what it is. I can see a traffic and what’s possible. And it doesn’t mean that it’s, you know, unrealistic, it, it means that it’s very optimistically pragmatic. 

Jackie Ferguson: ” Optimistically pragmatic.” That’s great. That’s great. So then how do we begin to think about our own super power and tapping into that and what that is and recognizing that, Jen.

Jen O’Ryan: I think it’s going back to that, that constant thread. Like, everybody’s got a through line, you know, no matter– there’s so many different iterations of ourselves, right? My 20 year old self did not look anything like this version of me. And it’s just, we’ve got a through line. We’ve got something and it’s the thing that people look to us to help, or it’s our first instinct to help, or our first instinct to react.

And just going through that and see, is it something like,  you’re a natural peacekeeper, or you’re a natural leader, or you know, you’re just a guide. And just really instilling it down to that, that root essence of what it is. 

Jackie Ferguson: Yes. That makes sense. You know, I think that’s such an important thing that we all have to find within ourselves, so that we can better understand what our purpose is, what our passions are around, and, you know, be able to do work that, that makes us feel fulfilled.

Jen O’Ryan: Yeah. And it’s so difficult because we always want to put a corporate label on it. We always want to put like, “I’m a natural blah, blah, blah.” I have colleagues who are just natural connectors. They have this mental Rolodex of everybody and  they’re like, you need to talk to this person over here, seemingly completely unrelated, but she’s able to distill this down and just connect to people. And it’s, it’s brilliant every single time.

Jackie Ferguson: That’s so awesome. I know someone like that and you know, the connections you would never think to put together, it’s especially frustrating when you’re like, “Oh, that makes total sense.” And I would have never thought of that. But yeah, there are people that are really adept to that. That is, that’s cool. 

Jen O’Ryan: And  that’s one of the things that really lights me up about diversity, is because we always think about, you know, I, and D. We think about it as a concept, but it’s that diversity of perspectives because I can be in a room sitting around people and, like, I can immediately pick up on how people are engaging and who’s checking out and who might be having a bad day, but I can’t tell you how big the room is. 

But one of my colleagues could. Because they’re going to count the tiles and they’re like, “Oh, we’re in a 10 by 14 conference room.”

Jackie Ferguson:  Right. 

Jen O’Ryan: I have no spacial ability. And it sounds like it’s completely unrelated, but you need people who can look at the same experience through very different lenses because that’s where we get this innovation and these invasive solutions.

Jackie Ferguson: That’s exactly right. And so often, Jen, what we’ll find is that people who are new on this journey think about diversity from a– the aspects of race, or gender, or sometimes sexual orientation, but not about perspectives and experiences and personalities and thinking styles.

And those are so much part of the conversation and so important. And, you know, how you’re creating and cultivating innovation and creativity and, you know, opportunities for better problem solving. So, absolutely. Absolutely. Jen, in your book, Inclusive AF, you offer a three part roadmap for anyone implementing inclusion and diversity initiatives in the workplace. Can you tell us what those are and why that roadmap is so important? 

Jen O’Ryan: Yeah, thanks. So, the book outlines– and the original vision of the book was that I wanted it to be easy to consume. My visionary user, the vision of the user, we could probably, I don’t know what the right term is for that.

The mental imaging out of the reader was that it would be somebody who was flying to a conference, say in Orlando, you’re walking through your Sea-Tac airport, and they see this book and they pick it up. And by the time we land, and they have notes in the margin, they have post-its, they have things that are highlighted, and they’ve already got the beginning stages of an action plan that they can take to that conference and start working.

Jackie Ferguson: Got it. 

Jen O’Ryan: So, the three part is really– it lays out the basic mechanics of launching any project. Because accidental diversity experts in my experience tend to be either really good at launching things or really passionate about championing culture change–

Jackie Ferguson: Yeah. 

Jen O’Ryan: –And diversity. Not very many half both. So, it’s got the mechanics of how do you actually ideate, and launch, and measure, and evaluate a project. And it’s also got everything you need to know– everything you need to know in 168 pages; what you need to know about navigating change, and why people are resistant, and where to really focus your energy and, and bringing people along. And the the top eight ways that I’ve seen I and D initiatives fail. So the ones that are really good, but they just kind of sputter out, tend to have these common themes.

And then the third part is, what I feel is the most important part, it really talks about the “why” behind the all-inclusion. So, the books focuses specifically on the LGBT+ community, but a lot of it applies to typically marginalized populations. It goes deep into that lived experience just because that’s one of my area of expertise. And two, it highlights all the different ways that you need to be thinking about specific lived experiences and intersection of experiences.

Jackie Ferguson: Yes. 

Jen O’Ryan: If you’re really going to stick the landing on your inclusion and diversity. And so, yeah. It’s also got some– it’s got 11 personal narratives in it. So, these are people who share their stories with me and agreed to have them shared in the book and it highlights little vignettes, tiny encapsulations of different work experiences, and what it’s like. And so, my hope is that readers can see themselves through these different experiences and these different lenses that they may actually not ever have encountered in their work life. 

Jackie Ferguson: Absolutely. I think that’s so great. You know, one thing that you said was bringing people along and sometimes it’s, it’s difficult when people are on different points of this journey. But how do you pull people from the beginning of the journey where they’re feeling like, “I don’t know if this is for me. How does this benefit me? Am I going to be part of this?” To people that are really like, “Yeah, this is great. This is what we’ve been looking for.” Right? And making sure that all of those people are allowed to come on that journey and feel comfortable on the journey.

But I think understanding and communicating the “why” is so important; the why for everyone. And part of that is, you know, creating cultures where people feel valued and included and, and, you know, welcome and safe is good for everyone. You know, and it, it creates transformational business outcomes and that’s good for everyone.

Right? So, that’s, that’s awesome. And then I love the personal narratives, you know, because very often when we think about these concepts– there are concepts and, and you really need to, to tap into and tie people to why we’re doing this makes it so much better for people to really understand and say, “You know, I remember this story.” Or, “I remember that someone mentioned this person.” And it helps people move along that journey.

So I love that. I love that. So, Jen, you know, there are tons of books on DEI in the market. What separates Inclusive AF from so many others? 

Jen O’Ryan: It just– it cracks me up. Because every time I hear somebody say the title of my book, I can hear my mom’s voice in my head saying, “Jennifer, what are you doing? Just call it something nice.”

And I’m like, “No,” because we’ve done “Inclusive please,” we’ve done, “Inclusive when we have time,” “After we hire a chief diversity officer.” I was like, “No. It’s time. We need to be all in. We need to have very real talk about this.” So, I also have the, the disclaimer that, you know, if it’s too salty, then just say, “I thought field guide was one word.”

So it’s “Inclusive: A Field Guide.” Anyway, so, the differentiation here I think is, there’s definitely room for all of the resources around I and D because I can go pick out five different books and they will have five different flavors. One will focus more on leadership, one will focus more on race and social justice or LGBTQ individuals or remote workers.

But this is very specifically designed for individuals who either have a huge passion around driving change and they don’t know where to start, or they’ve been tasked with leading change in the organization or their, you know, their community center. And they just really need to have that trusted guide. One, showing them that change is possible and it’s assessable and it doesn’t have to be scary and, and just really kind of guiding them through.

Jackie Ferguson: And Jen, how can we all be a trusted guide to help people along the journey in, in our communities and our workplaces. What does that look like? And what, what do we need to know to be that trusted guide for individuals that are beginning this journey? A little uncomfortable on this journey, trying to understand the language, trying to make sure that people do feel valued and just taking that trip, right? How do we do that? 

Jen O’Ryan: Yeah, that’s such a good question too. Because it is, it’s a journey. Everybody’s at a different point. And the thing is, is that I, human beings, we’re wired to make assumptions about people and we will build an entire narrative about somebody who’s standing next to us in line at a bank.

And we have absolutely no idea who that person is. But based on how they appear to us that moment of time, that’s where our brain is going. And so, the reason I lead with that is because we just need to have very authentic, real talks about what this is and why we’re doing it. And taking it into this more– this is– if I have a corporation and these are my stated values, If I’m doing something that is not aligned with those values, then I need to figure out why. 

Jackie Ferguson: Yeah.

Jen O’Ryan: And so, if I do not enthusiastically lead change and make sure that we do have a culture of inclusiveness, then that’s not, that’s incongruent with my values. That’s what it comes back to. But, my approach is that it’s just very real talk about, you know, this is going to be uncomfortable and not everybody’s on the same place in the journey. If you look at it, like, from an inclusion and diversity specific change perspective, right?

You’re going to have people on one end that are all in, they’re advocates, they’re champions, they are totally on board. And we could geek out with them all day long on how amazing this is going to be. 

Jackie Ferguson: Right. 

Jen O’Ryan: And then on the other end you’ve got people who are resistors. And for whatever reason, they’re just unable to accept new information. They’re unable to change. And our human nature is– it’s typically that we want to engage with them and try to prove that we’re right and try to bring them along. But that just– it’s spinning tires because they won’t change or they are incapable of changing at this point on this issue. Where you focus your energy is the ambivalence.

Those are all the people in the middle that, for whatever reason, probably lived their whole life never having to think about this. 

Jackie Ferguson: Yeah, that’s right. 

Jen O’Ryan: They’re not having to think about what it’s like to be a trans man, or never having to think about what it’s like to be a woman of color. And just describing to them in very human terms in a conversation, over a series of conversations, why this is important and what that lived experience could feel like.

Jackie Ferguson: Yeah. Absolutely.

Jen O’Ryan: And once you have them, then you get that tipping point. Then you get that momentum. 

Jackie Ferguson: And eventually, you know, some of those people that are on the outskirts that don’t understand, those seeds are planted. So, at some point, there may be something that moves them in that direction, but it’s– you’re right. It’s those folks in the middle that, you know, “I’m not sure how this benefits me. I’m not sure exactly what to say.” You know, those are the people that you can bring along and that you need to focus on. I totally agree. Totally agree with that.

Jen O’Ryan: It’s humanizing and one conversation at a time. And actually, as I was telling the story to my colleague, the uh–  in the four times I was in a coffee shop in an airport and just sitting down. And I’m an introvert, right?

I just have my headphones in, I don’t pay attention, but for whatever reason, you know, sometimes someone’s chatting me up and I’ll start talking. So, we had this conversation and it turns out, you know, probably 15 minutes into it, we start realizing that we are from very different areas. I’m from a very urban area. He’s from a very rural area. Different, you know, red state, blue state, however you want to divide us up. 

Jackie Ferguson: Yeah. 

Jen O’Ryan: And we didn’t start the conversation that way though. We started the conversation with common ground; the coffee that we liked. No pun intended, “common ground.” But we started with what we had in common and what was immediately shared.

And so that’s, that’s really where we need to start the conversations for people is you know, with what can we talk about? We have a mutually beneficial relationship at work. And so, how do we   give a safe space for people to ask those questions and say, “I’m really struggling with X or Y” in a way you’re accountable to grow and change, but they also don’t feel like they’re so afraid of doing something wrong that they just peel back and don’t anything.

Jackie Ferguson: That’s right. And Jen, speaking of, you know, those coffee conversations, can we talk about– what has been one of your most impactful conversations? One of the ones that just pulled at your heart strings or, or made you feel like, “Wow, I made a real difference here.” Can you share that?

Jen O’Ryan: Yeah.  The story that’s popping into my head right now is actually one that almost didn’t happen because of me. So, I was at a Super Bowl watch party. 

Jackie Ferguson: Yeah.

Jen O’Ryan:  Football is okay. But the Super Bowl is such a huge human shared experience–

Jackie Ferguson: Sure.

Jen O’Ryan: Anyway, I was sitting next to a person and it was an older man. He was white, he was dressed rather conservatively, we were kind of in a more conservative part of the states. And it just– my brain immediately started building a narrative around who this person was. And so, sitting next to each other for five and a half hours.

So, eventually, “What do you do for a living?” You know, comes up. 

Jackie Ferguson: Right.

Jen O’Ryan: And so, he’s telling me about his job and he’s like, “What do you do?” I’m like, “I’m a consultant.” And I really felt awkward. Like, I didn’t want to tell him what I did because in my mind he was going to have this huge reaction and I really wasn’t in the mental space for it.

And eventually, I just like, “I do inclusion and diversity and I specialize in LGBTQ+ individuals” and on and on and on. And it turns out that his son is transgender and had just transitioned. 

Jackie Ferguson: Wow.

Jen O’Ryan: And so, he actually started tearing up and he’s like, “I have all these questions that I want to be a good dad and I don’t know what to do.” And so pretty soon, like, Superbowl’s happening over here and we’re just huddled up and we’re talking about the family. And it was just such an amazing conversation. And I’m like– I had built this narrative that I tell people not to do. And I, myself, did it. And almost prevented that amazing conversation from happening.

And imagine, you know, what, that he’s feeling like is, maybe he’s feeling like he doesn’t have a lot of people that he feels safe talking to–

Jackie Ferguson: Yeah. 

Jen O’Ryan:  –About something so intimate and personal, about, you know, the family and it’s like– but yeah, that’s, that’s why I encourage people and I’m like, “Just speak your truth because you don’t know who needs to hear it.” 

Jackie Ferguson: That’s right. That is so great. And you know, you’re right. Even those of us in this work, we’re still subject to those same things, creating those narratives, making those assumptions, we just have to stay diligent and intentional about saying, “No, that’s not the right way to approach it.” And it’s, it’s so important to just give people a chance. You never know who you’re sitting next to. That’s exactly right. Exactly right. 

Jen O’Ryan: And that’s actually one of the pieces of advice I used to give to my educator friends. Because they’re shutting down bullying or they’re saying something that’s like– it’s not just for that kid. It’s for all the other kids–

Jackie Ferguson: That’s right. 

Jen O’Ryan: –In the class, because they’re not looking to you to see exactly how to respond. 

Jackie Ferguson: Absolutely. And you know, it just goes to show you that, as we said earlier in the conversation, this is a journey. It’s a journey for all of us. And wherever you are on your journey, just keep moving forward and keep practicing, keep doing the best you can, and keep taking those steps. It’s so important. Jen, how can people order Inclusive AF? I love that name by the way. 

Jen O’Ryan: So, there’s a ton of information on my webpage that has reviews on the book, where to buy it. It is available online through all the different channels, local book shops, as well as the bigger ones. So, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, that kind of thing. But the ebook is actually– I discounted it to $1.99, special pride promo, because I really just– it’s pride month. And this is when people, the accidental diversity experts start popping up and saying, “I need resources. I need help here.” 

Jackie Ferguson: Yes. Yes, absolutely. Beautiful. And, Jen, I love that your bio reads outside of I and D work. Jen is a travel enthusiast and avid runner. She also has a strange affinity for bad eighties music, getting lost in new cities, and scary movies. Tell me about this part of your bio, especially the bad eighties music and the scary movies, which are so quintessentially eighties. 

Jen O’Ryan: They really are. They are. Yeah, I feel like– so I put that in my bio, because for so long I had this idea that it was like, “Oh, it needs to be very polished and very one dimensional.”

And then I’m like, inclusion and diversity work is really very intimate. We really need to get into the guts of the organization of the teams that you’re working with. And I really feel very strongly that it needs to be a good fit. Companies need to find the right person–

Jackie Ferguson: Yeah. 

Jen O’Ryan: –To do this work with them. And so I’m like, “I’m just going to put it out here. This is who I am. This is what you’re getting.” And it is, it is true. The eighties music is just– it’s a thing. 

Jackie Ferguson: That’s awesome. And I love that you brought that up too. Because you know, one, when you’re doing this work, it makes you vulnerable, it makes your company vulnerable, you know, as a leader, how you’re perceived, how your company is perceived by our employees. It’s vulnerable work and, and you want to work with someone that you trust. Someone that you’re comfortable with someone that you can share with. So that is, that’s so important, so important. So thanks for sharing that. 

Jen O’Ryan: And that’s one of the reasons why we have, you know, the colleagues that I work with, exactly like the diversity and inclusion books we talked about earlier, right? I can go pick five different ones and they would all have five different flavors.

Jackie Ferguson: Yeah. That’s right.

Jen O’Ryan: If it’s not me, then I might be able to introduce you to several other people that are really, really good and very focused in where you are on the journey and what it is you’re trying to solve for. Because it’s absolutely not a one size fits all.

Jackie Ferguson: Absolutely. That’s exactly right. And that was the other point that I wanted to make too, to your earlier point. You know, it’s not something where you can just hand someone a book or print them off a PDF and say, “Here’s the plan.” You’ve got to really get into that organization and understand that organization before you can make good recommendations. So, that’s, that’s absolutely something to point out there.

So, Jen, my next question is always my favorite to ask and I ask this of all my guests. Tell us something about you that not a lot of people know. 

Jen O’Ryan: Oh, that’s really good. The only thing that’s coming to mind right now, is I have a very interesting relationship with Las Vegas. 

Jackie Ferguson: Okay. 

Jen O’Ryan: I was traveling there so much for work and, you know, just, we can get away some things like that. But eventually, it started feeling like a second home. And so, I actually will go and spend like a week, week and a half out there and do like a writer’s retreat. Or just like go out into the middle of nowhere in the desert and just completely unplug. And yeah. So if you were to look at my social media, it’s like, ‘Why is she always partying it up in Vegas?” I’m like, “No, no, no.” You drive for 40 minutes and you’re in the middle of nowhere. And you know who wants things from you? Nobody. It’s quiet!

Jackie Ferguson: Wow. That’s awesome. That’s really cool. You know, we should all have those places where we feel like we can decompress, unplug, get creative, be inspired. So. I love that outside Vegas is that a place for you. Inside Vegas, I tend to do a lot of eating and drinking and some gambling and tend to be less inspired.

Jen O’Ryan: If you’re going to be less inspired though, that’s the place to go. Anything you want. 

Jackie Ferguson: That’s right. That’s right. Jen, what do you want to leave our listeners with today? 

Jen O’Ryan: I really just want people– we do get kind of lost in this, in this culture of busy, right? Culture of hectic. That we’re always busy, we’re always going, we don’t have time. And like, like driving through the desert at, you know, an excessive rate of speed to get that creative space. Define how you can take a step back and just be more mindful in the words that you use and the images that you use to represent your company on web pages and things like that.

And just see how you can change that to be a little bit more inclusive. And then also, I really want your listeners to understand never underestimate your ability to influence change. Even if it doesn’t seem like you are, if you’re modeling behavior in the grocery store, or influencing change, it’s that splash ripple.

Jackie Ferguson: I love that. That is awesome. Never underestimate your ability to influence change. That’s so true. So true. Jen, how can people connect with you? 

Jen O’Ryan: Well, my information is on my webpage at Or I am always happy to connect with people on LinkedIn.

Jackie Ferguson:  Okay. 

Jen O’Ryan: So, just Jen O’Ryan, PhD. I’m the one with curly hair. So.

Jackie Ferguson: Perfect, Jen, thank you so much for taking some time to be with us today. Thank you for sharing your perspectives and your insights and I look forward to staying connected, but thank you for being here today. I appreciate it. 

Jen O’Ryan: Thank you so much for having me. 

Jackie Ferguson: Yeah, of course. 

Full Episode Transcript

Jen O’Ryan on Linkedin
Inclusive AF: A Field Guide for Accidental Diversity Experts, by Jen O’Ryan

Diversity Beyond the Checkbox is brought to you by The Diversity Movement, hosted by Head of Content Jackie Ferguson, and is a production of Earfluence.

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