On this episode of Diversity Be Like, host Sequoia Houston talks to Cherena Fox and Keionna Baker, Cofounders of The Elephant in the Room, an organization that specializes in DEI training and helps employers recognize bias in the workplace!

Show Notes

About Our Guests

Co-Founder, Elephant in the Room

Keionna manages and leads community growth and digital media marketing at Louisville’s prime entrepreneurship and co-working space, Story Louisville. She curates an online decor community, D.A.W.S decor, and founded the wellness casual apparel brand, K+Luna Apparel. She cofounded The Elephant in the Room, a DEI consulting company, in 2019, focused on changing workspaces by changing work culture and addressing race in the workplace.

Co-Founder, Elephant in the Room

Cherena is the Business Growth Manager and Director of the Just Boss Up program for GEDDI. She's also a social media content creator and admin of 2 parenting communities with membership of over 15,000. Airplane Mode, is her biggest community where moms join to gain a positive mommy tribe, resources, advice, help and more. Before Cherena's creative career path, she worked as a high school instructor in alternative schools and programs within JCPS. She donates her time and works closely with local non-profit Sowing Seeds with Faith, as a consultant.

3 Key Points

  1. Cherena and Keionna started Elephant in the Room with the mission of changing the taboo feel that surrounds conversations of bias and race-related issues in the office.
  2. Younger generations are beginning to put importance on what a person has created or accomplished rather than what a person looks like.
  3. Diversity is about so much more than black and white. Finding diversity of thought means you have to bring in people from all demographics, ages, races, and sexual orientations.

Episode Highlights:

  • Cherena and Keionna have known each other since high school and came up in the educational and entrepreneurial world in Louisville
  • As black women, Cherena and Keionna were able to take their experiences to create The Elephant in the Room
  • It became evident that diversity and inclusion exercises were largely being led by white males
  • With the support of their boss, Cherena and Keionna put their team through The Elephant in the Room experience
  • Race-focused conversations tend to feel very taboo, so The Elephant in the Room tries to change that environment
  • All three of these women have experienced some sort of ageism in relation to their professional experience
  • Being young should act as a benefit to any situation rather than a hindrance or negative bias
  • Keionna has noticed that her age and gender have been deterrents in the advancement of her career
  • Cherena always chooses to look at things from a glass-half-full perspective and does not let biases affect her
  • People have a hard time getting over how old someone looks compared to the experience that they have
  • The world is seeing a push from younger generations to be unapologetically themselves in all aspects of life
  • Everyone who is great at what they do shows up as themselves because people are aware of their work
  • Managers and HR professionals are left with the task of deciding where to draw the line between being yourself and acting professional
  • People make the mistake of thinking that bringing in a black person solves the diversity issue
  • Keionna has chosen not to work at companies that focus on characteristics that have nothing to do with performance
  • It’s important for people to know that their appearance can distract from what they are trying to accomplish
  • There are certain body parts and articles of clothing that should not be showing at work
  • As a society, we have to do a better job of educating everyone not to judge a book by its cover
  • By teaching these skills to others, employers have the chance to learn things twice
  • Keionna and Cherena find it concerning when people claim that they don’t see color
  • The color of someone’s skin plays a huge part in who someone is and what experiences they have lived through
  • There shouldn’t be a problem with acknowledging someone’s race as long as that doesn’t cause you to treat someone differently
  • If you are coming from a good place, there shouldn’t be hesitation with having uncomfortable conversations
  • Employers need to determine how far out of their comfort zones they are willing to go to meet people that are different than them
  • The Elephant in the Room helps employers figure out where they need to go to diversify their companies
  • Sometimes it’s as easy as searching #blackintech on LinkedIn to find black people in tech
  • Through their training program, Keionna and Cherena help companies gain a new perspective
  • Most people aren’t that bad, they just don’t know what they don’t know
  • As a lasting legacy, Keionna want people to remember that they tried to make a difference
  • Cherena wants people to remember that they did their thing unapologetically and gave it their all
  • It’s so simple, yet powerful, to tell people to just do something and figure it out along the way
  • Don’t be afraid to be the first when it comes to things that your family has done

Tweetable Quotes:

  • “We receive education differently. We also put it out there differently too...I think that age piece of it is kind of like what we have to give back.” - Cherena Fox
  • “With youth, they always expect that you know a lot less or that you’re not as experienced.” - Cherena Fox
  • “We just have to start teaching people how to treat people regardless of what things look like. We all have a bad habit of judging a book by its cover.” - Cherena Fox
  • “If you didn’t see color, you actually wouldn’t tell me that you didn’t see color.” - Keionna Baker


Resources Mentioned: