DEI Journey: Interview with Kim Tran, Ph.D
The DEI Journey series spotlights the folks behind the work here at ReadySet. The team comes from different backgrounds and areas of expertise, and we’re excited to share a bit more about ourselves with you.
What do you bring to your work as a DEI practitioner?
My background is in community organizing, so I am consistently interested in the same questions: Who is the most impacted by inequity? What am I missing--what is this organization overlooking--because of privilege? How do we implement programming, training and structures that can make the work of diversity and inclusion, obsolete? In other words, how do we actually alleviate oppression in the place we go to everyday-work?
What has most surprised you in your DEI work and journey?
To be completely honest, I didn’t know what to expect when I began working with ReadySet. I’ve been an anti-oppression consultant for 12 years, but diversity and inclusion are fairly new to me. The most surprising thing has been seeing how far some folks will go to achieve not just equity, but a semblance of social justice within their organizations. Some of our partners are doing groundbreaking work, and I didn’t necessarily think that was possible when I began working with ReadySet.
What might surprise folks to learn about you?
Oh boy, I’m always stumped by this question. Folks are generally surprised to learn I love action movies. The really bad ones are my favorite! The work I do is nuanced; I’m always talking about white supremacy, heteropatriarchy and complicity with them. When I’m just hanging out I love the idea of a clear good guy and bad guy. I adore a good win.
What book or books should folks read in order to better do this work?
The following are books I think are revelatory. They tend to frame my work, but really are just lenses for how I see the world.
Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde
This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color edited by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria E. Anzaldúa.
Discourse on Colonialism by Aimé Césaire,
A Broken Bargain for Transgender Workers by the Movement Advancement Project
But Some Of Us Are Brave: All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men edited by Akasha Gloria Hull, Patricia Bell-Scott, and Barbara Smith
Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex by Kimberle Crenshaw
Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins
Color of Violence: The INCITE! Anthology
Feminist Geneaologies, Colonial Legacies, Democratic Futures edited by Chandra Talpade Mohanty, M. Jacqui Alexander
Freedom with Violence: Race, Sexuality, and the US State by Chandan Reddy
What’s something that’s often overlooked, but important for companies and organizations to get right?
Prevention is secondary. Willie Jackson and I developed the Ally Skills Training at ReadySet. A lot of it is based on my research. One of the key findings is the ubiquity and unpreventable nature of marginalization. We live in a toxic soup of racist, patriarchal ideology. And while we must take steps toward prevention and general equity, we also need to find real ways to address things like microaggressions when they come up because they inevitably do. Learn how to say sorry first, then work toward making apologies structurally obsolete.
What are you most proud of?
I’m really proud of the people who take this work seriously. There’s a lot of noise in the DEI world, but some folks really shine. I’m proud to know and work with some of them.
What worries you?
The preoccupation with data. The numbers only get you so far. We already know marginalized people experience exponentially high rates of discrimination. The fact that so many folks need to see studies is disconcerting. I wish more people in leadership positions just believed folks who work for them.
What’s your superpower (or area of expertise) as a practitioner in this space?
Racial equity and LGBT inclusion. I specialize in what I like to call the end of the acronym: trans, intersex and nonbinary inclusion. That’s pretty rare depending on your network.
How can leaders better support DEI work and initiatives?
Lots of folks who do this work in house spend 80% of their time getting executive buy in. That’s really tough. If leaders simply trusted the people the folks in DEI roles that they hired to do the programming, training and development, we’d see tremendous change.
Who or what inspires you?
Movements. This is a really important moment, especially in terms of solidarity. I took a lot of solace in the recent Wayfair walkout. I think those folks are an example of the sea change today. That it means to be a politically active tech workforce today is really changing. I’m excited at the prospect of activated workers who are building bridges to and with larger social protest movements.