A Diversity Book Truly for EVERYONE: “Empowering Differences” by Ashley T Brundage

Ashley T Brundage, author of “Empowering Differences.”

As a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant and trainer, I continue to lead with the positive message that every single person is a valuable part of our diversity tapestry, and that diversity is not about setting one group against another, but about all of us being in this together.  Yet so many people seem to fear diversity; that valuing and listening to people different from them will somehow make them “less than.”  I simply don’t get it.

And every single human being is comprised of their own unique combination of various diversity attributes.  The term intersectionality was coined in 1989 by professor Kimberlé Crenshaw to describe how race, class, gender, and other individual characteristics “intersect” with one another and overlap.

And now comes Ashley T Brundage’s new book, “Empowering Differences” where she explains how every single person should value every aspect of their diversity and leverage it for good.

Ashley first tells her own story of coming out as transgender woman and moving out of parent’s home at age 17 to be on her own.  She took on multiple jobs and long hours to fully support herself and worked her way up to a Boston Market store manager.  Ashley at a fairly young age did start a family and then embarked in her second career in banking, and quickly rose to become Vice President of Diversity at PNC Bank.  In her remarkable journey, Ashley discovered the power of leveraging her various dimensions of diversity instead of viewing certain characteristics as negatives.

In her book, Ashley then provides the four ground rules for empowering differences:

  • Knowing who you are
  • Knowing those around you
  • Using your differences strategically
  • Empowering others

Then a good portion of the book goes through various dimensions of diversity and how any attribute of a diversity area can be used for strategic advantage, and she provides short testimonials using a wide range of people.  Some of the dimensions include:

  • Empowering ability – whether you have no physical limitations or have disabilities
  • The value of age – whether you are younger, older or in between
  • Ethnicity – getting value out of being white or a person of color
  • Gender – leveraging your identity as female, male or nonbinary
  • And many more

The remaining sections then go into practical strategies for leveraging yours and others’ diversity, and then how to develop into a leader who can bring out the best in all the diverse people you interact with.

I highly recommend this practical and positive book.  Isn’t it time that we stop focusing on how differences divide us, but instead how a diverse team, community, country and world can achieve so much more when we all value each other and seek to bring out the best in ourselves and others?

To order Ashley’s book you can use this link: https://empoweringdifferences.com/product/empowering-differences-book/


Reflections from the Triangle Business Journal Leaders in Diversity Awards

I received a “Leader in Diversity – Role Model” award from TBJ publisher Bryan M. Hamilton and PNC Bank Regional President Paula K. Fryland. (Photography courtesy of Triangle Business Journal | Dathan Kazsuk)

I received a “Leader in Diversity – Role Model” award from TBJ publisher Bryan M. Hamilton and PNC Bank Regional President Paula K. Fryland. (Photography courtesy of Triangle Business Journal | Dathan Kazsuk)

On Thursday, September 12, I was honored along with several other awardees at a luncheon held by the Triangle (NC) Business Journal for their inaugural “Leaders in Diversity” Awards. I received the “role model”and was cited specifically for my leadership for LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) Diversity work during my 31-year career at IBM, now as the President and Founder of Total Engagement Consulting by Kimer and in various community activities. Other honorees included small, medium and large companies as well as individuals from corporate and non-profit settings. And the winners themselves were quite diverse: women and men, older and younger, various racial and cultural backgrounds, even a woman from Iran who formed a construction engineering firm. (Link to list of all winners.) Additional link: my own award interview.

I feel this kind of recognition is very important. Not only does it encourage those doing the often difficult diversity work to stay diligent, it also signals to the larger community that rigorously pursuing diversity is very critical to economic growth and success in our communities.

The lifetime achievement award was given to retired University of North Carolina basketball Coach Dean Smith. What is special about Coach Smith is that he strongly supported diversity without a lot of fanfare simply as a core value of his life and coaching philosophy. He was a leader in college sports for racial integration of college teams, and was known for individually focusing on every single player he coached to help them maximize their growth both as an athlete and a person. Assisting others to reach their full potential, particularly within a difficult environment, is a key facet of diversity and inclusion.

I also commend PNC Bank for stepping up as the lead sponsor for these awards. The PNC senior leader for all of Eastern North Carolina, Regional President Paula K. Fryland, was present to help hand out the awards as well as deliver a brief keynote address. Paula succinctly articulated the importance of diversity and inclusion as a core value of PNC and the tie to business success. She mentioned the importance and pursuing diversity with clients, employees, supplier and the community, and highlighted four PNC initiatives:
• Their 34 employee resources groups with over 6000 participants for engaging their workforce.
• Education efforts across all levels of PNC so that everyone understands the compelling business rationale for diversity and inclusion initiatives
• Recognizing the various diversity constituency months throughout the year to further engage employees and the community
• Investing financially in philanthropic such as their recent significant investments in North Carolina for early childhood education.

Even within the LGBT community, PNC Bank does follow through with their strategy; they are a corporate sponsor of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), which promotes business development of LGBT-owned business in the US and globally.

PNC Bank and Triangle Business Journal – well done!