“Pain changes people. I took the most painful moments of my life and turned them into businesses to make sure that never happens to anyone again,” diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) expert Cheryl Ingram says.
Ingram is the owner of Diverse City LLC, a consultancy company that specializes in creating effective and sustainable DEI policies and practices for businesses and organizations. Driven by her own experiences of feeling discriminated against and marginalized in the workplace, she was motivated to create her own set of work practices that could translate to meaningful change in any company. Ingram also owns a second company, Inclusology, an automated DEI platform that helps human resources professionals to build the world’s most inclusive workplaces.
The services are intended to be a true alternative to old-fashioned training approaches that leave companies with information but no practical implementation. “We strive for advocacy and change through our services, and continue to develop and foster relationships through building sustainable foundations of diversity and inclusion. We work to make diversity embedded in company structures, functional roles and teams, and not a separate entity,” Ingram’s Diverse City mission statement reads.
Ingram has established herself as a leading figure and true disruptor in the industry, and has been praised for the strides she has made in making significant change in numerous businesses. In 2017 she was awarded the Greater Seattle Business Association’s New Businesses of the Year award, and was recently picked as one of the Founders of Change by American Express in their 100 of 100 program. In September 2020, she also released a book called Soulful Words that made it to Amazon’s top-10 seller list.
In an interview with Disrupt Magazine Ingram reflected on a moment in sixth grade when she stood up for a young White boy who others were picking on for being a “dork.” With Ingram having a reputation for being a “cool kid,” she stood up for the boy and noticed this dynamic changed the way people treated him for the rest of the year. This was a turning point where Ingram realized she could use her voice to protect someone else.
Now, she is telling her story through the medium of film. “Being born and raised as a Black person in America comes with a set of challenges that the world doesn’t always prepare you to face,” Ingram says. The documentary is about successful Black female entrepreneur Ingram, and her journey as a diversity, equity, and inclusion consultant. “The journey she embarks on requires daily confrontations with White Supremacy, new learnings along the way and how she uses this knowledge to help create spaces of empowerment for other people.”
Due to be released this year, the documentary named You’re Smarter Than You Look shares the experiences of various Black professionals in growing up, confronting the working world and experiencing societal and systemic racism. In the trailer, one interviewee says “Why in history, you don’t teach us how to fight the justice system. Why in history, you don’t give us portrayals of us doing greater things as the same people who have done great things. But there’s so much more to our history … it’s like the more marginalized you are, the more limited your story is in this nation.” Another says, “Once I knew I could be black, queer and powerful, there was no non-negotiable about whiteness having any space in what I was going to do.”
You’re Smarter Than You Look has already garnered three awards at the Hollywood Gold Awards and has been officially selected for the Venice Film Awards and the New York Movie Awards.
Going forward, Ingram hopes the documentary is picked up by a major streaming platform, but more importantly, she hopes it will enlighten people about her work and the mission to create spaces of empowerment for Black people. “We’re no longer physically in chains, but mentally there’s chains on us … but we’ve got to be smarter. You’re smarter than you look.”
Watch the trailer for “Smarter Than You Look” here.