There’s no doubt that 2021 has seen many game-changing professionals who went above and beyond in amplifying diverse representation across several industries. From those who established inclusive learning strategies with major companies to those who founded powerful organizations bringing communities together.
As we approach the end of this year, we are happy to share with you our top 5 must-follow influential professionals of 2021 — people who have proven to be successful in uplifting diverse communities at work.
CMO & Founder – HUE
After several years of working in brand innovation and development with big companies like Johnson & Johnson, Khawaja founded a fast-growing social impact brand and nonprofit organization called HUE. HUE is powered by a tech-enable, two-sided marketplace design to amplify voices of color and increase visibility for marginalized individuals.
Khawaja focuses on three pillars of success within his line of work: human-centric design, consumer-centric and data-driven content, and purpose-driven brand building and growth.
He was awarded Change Maker of the Year 2020 at the Drum Awards for Social Purpose, and his organization has recently established a strategic partnership with Walmart, which will be supporting HUE’s mission to elevant more BIPOC leaders in the industry.
2) Keni Thacker
Founder & Chief Creative Officer – 100 Roses From Concrete
Thacker, a 2021 Adweek Creative Visionary Award Honoree, brings 10 years of experience and authenticity into DEI practices. Not only does he have a powerful and influential voice on LinkedIn, through his empowering posts for the community, but his passion for young BIPOC talent comes forward naturally.
In summer 2020, Thacker established the GROWTH Initiative – a virtual agency experience for multicultural college students where they get hands-on experience working on marketing campaigns with assigned clients. He has received major recognition and exposure thanks to his authentic presentation and mentorship persona.
“Real, community-oriented DEI practices are all about putting in the work and building programs, practices, policies, and partnerships that will be sustainable and will continue to propel the DEI in the right direction. Truth, empathy, growth, collaboration, and connection must be the nucleus for the organization to walk the talk truly,” shared Thacker. In short, sustainable and impactful DEI practices must not be self-serving or performative.
3) Ericka Riggs
Chief DEI Officer – Omnicom Specialty Marketing Group
After spending years as a Foundation and Inclusion Director with the Advertising Club of New York and being a 2020 Nancy Hill Award recipient, Riggs brings real compassion, empathy, and togetherness into the DEI realm. What makes her so influential is her constant support and promotion for other DEI practitioners, influencers, champions and professionals via her social media platforms. She shares stories and narratives that are heartwarming and relatable. Riggs also makes sure to show the world that she is a caring human being and a thoughtful leader who wants every person to win.
She proudly serves as a Board member and mentor for OmnicomWomen, 100 Roses from Concrete, 4A’s DEI Steering Committee, #WeAllRise, Circle of Chang, and the 2020 MOBE Symposium Advisory Committee.
4) Jessalin Lam
VP Member Development & Diversity – IAB
From being a Director in Precision Marketing Academy with Nissan United to co-founding Asians in Advertising, Lam is truly a jack of all trades within her specialties of learning and development, multicultural marketing, relationship building, and inclusive leadership. Her success has been notable as a speaker and panelist in colleges, Google Workshop, Ad Club of NY, and 4A’s Multicultural Advertising Internship Program.
Recently, Lam was kind enough to share with us her thoughts on what practitioners can do in this current climate of DEI practices. “When it comes to DEI,” she says “there are many areas we need to improve on to be more successful in the long-term. The ones top of mind are:
- Integrating DEI into everything you do, including learning and development to recruit and retain talent and fostering a learning culture
- Collaborating as consultants by aligning DEI with your business goals and strategy with clear KPIs and success metrics, and
- Ensuring your DEI team structure is provided with resources and budgets.”
Lam is a people connector who loves to cultivate learning cultures to allow people to thrive and seize their potential with a growth mindset. Aside from being a 2021 Nancy Hill Award Recipient, Lam has been featured in many publications including AdAge and ThinkLA.
LinkedIn Career Expert & Global Communications – LinkedIn
Culture & Economics Contributor – SiriusXM
McCaskill was named one of PR Week’s “Top 40 Under 40 PR Executives,” and you may recognize him from video learning content pieces published by LinkedIn. As an influential DEI practitioner, McCaskill manages strategies to help the global LinkedIn community understand how the platform creates economic opportunity for every member. He does so through his charismatic personality, progessive knowledge of DEI issues, and storytelling approach of inclusive narratives.
One of Andrew’s greatest works is his release of the LinkedIn Learning course Diversity and Inclusion in Marketing: Inclusive Language for Marketers which has been used by over 11,000 professionals so far.
We highly encourage business executives, practitioners, and organizational leaders to follow these influential professionals for their expert perspective and business approaches to empowering equity in the workplace. Consider how your company can benefit from their learning, insights, knowledge, and strategic approaches, and don’t be afraid to reach out when you have your own questions and perspectives to share.