Going Beyond the Echo Chamber at the 2017 Women’s Leadership Forum

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When it comes to creating diverse teams, it’s not enough to have good intentions. To succeed, organizations must be willing to have hard conversations between people who may have profound disagreements over how they view the world.

Rather than shying away from these disputes, leaders of truly inclusive organizations create space for their colleagues to bring their unique perspectives to the table. The end result is an atmosphere in which employees of all backgrounds are comfortable speaking their minds, secure in the knowledge that their coworkers will respect their right to do so.

At the third annual AppNexus Women’s Leadership Forum, we’re devoting the middle portion of the day to helping guests create more inclusive environments at their own organizations. “Include” is the second of three themes we’ll be focusing on throughout the event, alongside Inspire and “Take Action.”

Together, we’ll go beyond social, political, and identity lines to find common ground and create real change. Here are three of the industry leaders who will be driving these challenging conversations at our New York City offices November 9th.


Wade Davis, Feminist, Former NFL Player, Inclusion Consultant and Writer


Wade Davis is a professional sports pioneer and the National Football League’s first ever LGBT inclusion consultant. Davis came out as a gay man in 2012, following a professional football career that included stints with the Tennessee Titans, the Seattle Seahawks, and the NFL’s Washington franchise. In his current work with the NFL, Davis leads training sessions and national engagement programs, including the High Five initiative, which connects professional athletes with LGBT youth. Davis is also an ambassador for the United Nations’ #HeForShe initiative and a member of the executive staff at You Can Play, an advocacy organization for LGBT inclusion in sports.

At this year’s Women’s Leadership Forum, Davis will discuss the role that men play in creating more diverse and inclusive organizations. Throughout his talk, he’ll shed light on why it’s so important to bring men into the conversation and provide advice on how male allies can create positive change for female peers at the individual and company-wide level.


Emily May, Co-Founder, Hollaback! and The People’s Supper


As co-founder of Hollaback!, Emily May has been working for over a decade to stamp out online and in-person harassment. Created in 2005, Hollaback! provides workshops and training sessions aimed at teaching people about harassment in its many forms and how they can engage their communities to prevent it. Following the 2016 presidential election, May launched The People’s Supper, an initiative that seeks to heal a divided nation by bringing together people of diverse backgrounds and belief systems. To date, The People’s Supper has hosted more than 200 dinner parties across the country.

During her presentation at the 2017 Women’s Leadership Forum, May will explain that in order to create real change, companies must go beyond gender lines to include those with different perspectives and beliefs across a range of social issues – including politics, religion, and identity. Her talk will highlight the ways that leaders can go beyond their own echo chambers to facilitate meaningful conversation across their organizations.


Maysoon Zayid, Comedian, Actress, Disability Advocate, Writer


Maysoon Zayid is a multi-talented performing artist with a complex identity and a gift for using humor to break down stereotypes. As she put it in her 2013 TED Talk on living with cerebral palsy, “If there was an oppression Olympics, I would win the gold medal. I’m a Palestinian, Muslim, I’m female, I’m disabled, and I live in New Jersey.” In just under four years, Zayid’s presentation has now been viewed more than nine million times. As an actress and comedian, Zayid has appeared on Comedy Central, HBO and MTV, and she held a feature role in the 2008 Adam Sandler film, “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan.” In 2003, she co-founded the New York Arab-American Comedy Festival as a counterweight to the negative images of Arabs presented by the media.

On November 9th, Maysoon will speak with Xian Horn, writer, disability activist and longtime ReelAbilities speaker, about what it means to be a role model and how attendees can use comedy as a tool for leadership success.

As we noted at the beginning of this article, “Include” is the second of three core themes we’ll be tackling at the 2017 AppNexus Women’s Leadership Forum. Over the coming weeks, we’ll dive into the third and final theme, “Take Action,” and provide additional details on what attendees can expect when they arrive at our New York City offices November 9th.

Until then, you can visit the Women’s Leadership Forum website to learn more about the event.

Filed under AppNexus Updates.

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