By Dan Egol
My entire life, I have thrived in predominantly white, straight, and competitive spaces where I masked my differences to get by. It wasn’t until I began working at Cook Ross (CR), a diversity & inclusion consulting firm, that I began to understand the transformative power of inclusion. Whereas before I often encountered ethnic and homophobic slurs from peers, Cook Ross’ inclusive environs facilitated a renewed appreciation in my home culture that fuses Cuban and Israeli traditions as well as in my queer identity. Because CR honors rather than alienates diversity, I recast the strengths of my background from survival tactics to organizational assets. Adaptation and bridge building skills formerly leveraged to blend into the majority became means to forge relationships across difference, solve problems collaboratively, and execute strategy. Supported by a multidimensional team, I creatively fused my worlds, leading the firm in Hebrew prayers during a Passover Seder, using Spanish with Latin America-based clients, and representing CR in conversations with LGBTQ recruits. By taking advantage of opportunities to meaningfully harness language, interpersonal, and analytical skills anchored in my background, I learned to view my lived experience as a source of leadership. Now, I want to facilitate that kind of transformation for others; thus the Inclusion NextWork was born.