13 Diversity and Inclusion Books Executives Should Read in 2023 - Senior Executive

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Books on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) 11 min

13 Diversity and Inclusion Books Executives Should Read in 2023

These books, recommended by diversity leaders across industries, detail how to define racism, how to uplift women of color, and how to be impactful leaders.

by Taylor Odisho on February 17, 2023


  • Carolyn Tandy, chief diversity and inclusion officer and senior vice president at Humana, shares the book she gifted everyone on her team this year.

  • Lily Zheng, DEI strategist and author of “DEI Deconstructed: Your No-Nonsense Guide to Doing the Work and Doing It Right,” shares their recommendation.

Experience may be the best teacher, but books are the quickest path to learning the many lessons we don’t have the time to endure. We spoke with DEI leaders across industries for recommendations. They delivered options that touch upon the many facets of DEI, impressing upon us how to define racism, how to uplift women of color, and how to be impactful leaders.

Whether you’re learning how you can build a more inclusive work environment or searching for the next DEI book club read at work, we’ve got you covered. 

Here are 13 diversity books your colleagues recommend you read in 2023.

Senior Executive DEI Think Tank is a criteria-based membership community for chief diversity officers and senior-level DEI leaders at large organizations to share difference-making tactics, trade valuable resources, and seek the counsel of experienced peers in a private, confidential setting.

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1. “Diversity on the Executive Path: Wisdom and Insights for Navigating to the Highest Levels of Healthcare Leadership” 

  • Author: Diane L. Dixon
  • Pages: 176
  • Summary: To uncover what it takes to become a leader at the highest level, through a series of interviews, Diane L. Dixon shares how 12 racially and ethnically diverse CEOs are closing the racial gap in C-suites at hospitals and health systems to strengthen their organizations’ cultural competence and improve health equity. The end of each chapter invites readers to reflect on their experiences and identify meaningful practices for success.
  • Recommended by: Deb Grimes, chief diversity officer at Ochsner Health
  • Why it’s a must-read: “It gives a great explanation regarding how minority health care leaders face hardship when seeking leadership roles.”

2. “Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder

  • Author: Arianna Huffington
  • Pages: 368
  • Summary: After a health scare caused by exhaustion, Arianna Huffington, the co-founder of the Huffington Post, found herself redefining what success looks like. To truly thrive, you have to take care of yourself, spend time with your family, draw on your intuition, and exercise empathy and compassion.
  • Recommended by: Rocki Rockingham, chief human resources officer at GE Appliances
  • Why it’s a must-read: “Thrive” came highly recommended by Rockingham. She says, “Burnout is real. For companies to be successful, we have to ensure employees have reasonable workloads and the opportunity to recharge. Arianna’s story is an eye-opener on the risks of not having the balance you need in your life.”

3. “How to Be an Antiracist

  • Author: Ibram X. Kendi
  • Pages: 320
  • Summary: In Ibram X. Kendi’s follow-up to his National Book Award-winning “Stamped from the Beginning,” he uses history, science, and ethics to discuss different forms of racism. He also interpolates his life experiences, creating a deeply personal, cerebral insight into how to actively choose to be anti-racist.
  • Recommended by: Alicia Vaz, diversity, equity, and inclusion leader at Cox, Castle & Nicholson
  • Why it’s a must-read: Vaz recommends the book partly because of its approachability. “It’s talking about implicit biases in a way that is easier for the average person to accept that they are part of this systemic problem that we have in society, but it’s not because they’re a bad person. It’s because this is something that we are ingrained with that we need to help ourselves grow out of and become less biased.”

4. “Lead to Win: How to Be a Powerful, Impactful, Influential Leader in Any Environment” 

  • Author: Carla A. Harris
  • Pages: 240
  • Summary: What does leadership look like today? Carla A. Harris explores this question, outlining eight ways to be intentional with your day and your life through being authentic, building trust, creating other leaders, finding clarity, driving diversity, honing in on innovation, leaning into inclusivity, and finding your voice. She also shares how you can become a totally capable and powerful leader.
  • Recommended by: Tony Jeffreys, diversity and inclusion leader and vice president at Fidelity Investments
  • Why it’s a must-read: “Carla worked for Morgan Stanley as an executive and she’s wonderful around diversity and inclusion,” says Jeffreys. “She broke glass ceilings in corporate America and is a trailblazer in diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

5. “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism

  • Author: Dr. Robin DiAngelo
  • Pages: 192
  • Summary: Antiracist educator Robin DiAngelo discusses how white fragility, which is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and by behaviors like argumentation and silence, develops and protects racial inequality. She offers what we can do to engage in a more beneficial, progressive way.
  • Recommended by: Kevin Walters, director of diversity and inclusion solutions at SilkRoad Technology and a member of the Senior Executive DEI Think Tank
  • Why it’s a must-read: Robin DiAngelo presented this book to Walters, following a presentation at Walter’s former workplace. Now he’s recommending it to you. “This book is impactful and stirs critical thinking in a digestible but confrontational way. I highly recommend [‘White Fragility’] because it is thought-provoking and spells out the what and why behind racial inequality across societal systems.”

6. “Inclusion: Diversity, The New Workplace & The Will To Change

  • Author: Jennifer Brown
  • Pages: 330
  • Summary: Diversity and inclusion expert Jennifer Brown shares proven strategies for empowering members of your organization by utilizing their talents and potential, leading to positive organizational change.
  • Recommended by: Deb Grimes, chief diversity officer at Ochsner Health
  • Why it’s a must-read: In addition to “Diversity on the Executive Path,” Grimes recommends “Inclusion” because “it gives a great business case for organizations focusing on inclusivity.”

7. “Inclusion on Purpose: An Intersectional Approach to Creating a Culture of Belonging at Work

  • Author: Ruchika Tulshyan
  • Pages: 296
  • Summary: This book explores how to create a truly inclusive culture through the lens of women of color, who are at the center of gender and racial bias. Ruchika Tulshyan exemplifies how leaders and organizations can use their platforms and privilege to identify and expose biases. She also emphasizes the criticality of building a diverse and inclusive culture now.
  • Recommended by: Celeste Narganes, the vice president of diversity, equity, and inclusion at Marqeta, and Lily Zheng, author and DEI strategist
  • Why it’s a must-read: “Ruchika is a multicultural and global leader herself…so she’s able to almost infuse global cultural aspects into how to look at diversity, inclusion, and belonging and in a way that’s not U.S.-centric, which I think in many, many cases, we kind of fall back on,” says Narganes. “Inclusion on Purpose” is also recommended by Zheng, whose book, “DEI Deconstructed: Your No-Nonsense Guide to Doing the Work and Doing It Right” was included in last year’s list of must-read books

8. “This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do The Work” 

  • Author: Tiffany Jewell
  • Pages: 160
  • Summary: This book takes readers on an anti-racism journey. It has more than 50 activities, exploring topics that ask you who you are, what racism is, why it exists, what you can do to disrupt it, and much more.
  • Recommended by: Kevin Walters, director of diversity and inclusion solutions at SilkRoad Technology
  • Why it’s a must-read: In this second recommendation from Walters, he shares that he originally purchased the book for his preteen daughter but later decided to incorporate it into his work training and development. “I would recommend this book to other DEI leaders and chief diversity officers because it simplifies an uncomfortable topic with actionable items that even an adult can understand. I am being facetious because sometimes as adults we unconsciously overcomplicate difficult topics because we may fear being equipped with the tools to make the changes. This book is a great guide for anyone who wants to learn what and how to make changes when it comes to anti-racism.”

9. “From INTENT to IMPACT: The 5 Dualities of Diversity and Inclusion

  • Author: Monica Diaz
  • Pages: 283
  • Summary: Monica Diaz, a diversity and inclusion executive and expert, offers a unique, five-pronged approach to transforming mindsets and dramatically evolving the workplace. Diaz’s “5 Dualities of Diversity and Inclusion” are:
    • 1. Connect and learn
    • 2. Think and know
    • 3. Risk and invest
    • 4. Pain and possibility
    • 5. Perform and innovate
  • Recommended by: Carolyn Tandy, chief diversity and inclusion officer and senior vice president at Humana
  • Why it’s a must-read: Tandy gifted “From INTENT to IMPACT” to everyone on her team this year because the book “covers Monica’s experience as a DEI practitioner in a real and sometimes humorous way that is highly relatable.” She says, “Beyond being relatable, the book offers actionable recommendations for making change within your organization based on existing behaviors.”

10. “The Conversation: How Seeking and Speaking the Truth About Racism Can Radically Transform Individuals and Organizations

  • Author: Dr. Robert Livingston
  • Pages: 368
  • Summary: If you’re at the start of your anti-racism journey, this book can serve as a guide. Dr. Robert Livingston, a social psychologist and a leading expert on the science underlying bias and racism, addresses three questions: What is racism? Why should everyone be more concerned about it? What can we do to eradicate it? He answers these questions by walking the reader through difficult conversations and drawing upon examples from pop culture as well as his lived experience.
  • Recommended by: Rocki Rockingham at GE Appliances and Celeste Narganes at Marqeta
  • Why it’s a must-read: Rockingham says, as GE Appliances takes its leaders through unconscious bias training, “‘The Conversation’ is a good follow-up addressing racism overall and how to go after the biases that exist in companies and our society.” Narganes adds: “It’s almost like ‘The Conversation’ leads you to have a broader awareness that leads you to do things differently, which leads ultimately to different outcomes.”

11. Say the Right Thing: How to Talk about Identity, Diversity, and Justice

  • Authors: David Glasgow and Kenji Yoshino
  • Pages: 240
  • Summary: “Say the Right Thing” outlines seven principles for engaging in conversations about identity in a number of settings, including work, a dinner party, or online. Yoshino and Glasgow provide language that can lead to meaningful, empathetic dialogues.
  • Recommended by: Anna Brown, chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer at Mass General Brigham
  • Why it’s a must-read: “It‘s an excellent read with practical advice about how to have conversations with greater compassion and understanding,” says Brown.

12. What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing

  • Authors: Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey
  • Pages: 304
  • Summary: Oprah Winfrey and brain and trauma expert Dr. Bruce Perry discuss how our earliest life experiences shape who we become as adults. The book shifts the question we ask ourselves from “What’s wrong with me?” to “What happened to me?,” leading to resilience and healing.
  • Recommended by: Trina Parks, executive vice president and chief corporate diversity and inclusion officer at RWJBarnabas Health
  • Why it’s a must-read: “Trauma-informed care (TIC) uses a multipronged framework that includes understanding and recognizing trauma, adversity, and their combined impact on health and behaviors,” Park says. “Providers and staff must know how to respond to patients who have experienced adverse childhood trauma. This will dramatically improve our approach and direct interactions with our patients, leading to the delivery of more compassionate care. If accomplished, we will build trust and establish physical and emotional safety for our patients and staff.”

13. “Inclusalytics: How Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leaders Use Data to Drive Their Work

  • Authors: Victoria Mattingly, Sertrice Grice, and Allison Goldstein
  • Pages: 204
  • Summary: The authors use a series of interviews and their experiences as DEI consultants and in organizational science to demonstrate why DEI leaders need to take a data-driven approach to their work. They also show how with a step-by-step guide “you can use to validly and reliably gather, measure, track, and utilize data to determine, set, impact, and measure the effectiveness of your DEI strategy and interventions.”
  • Recommended by: Michelle Wimes, chief equity and inclusion officer at Children’s Mercy Kansas City
  • Why it’s a must-read: Wimes, who is featured in “Inclusalytics” and “The Waymakers: Clearing the Path to Workplace Equity with Competence and Confidence” by Tara Jaye Frank, says: “Proud to say that I am quoted in two of these powerful books that have been released in the last year… Want to make real progress? Want to move past performative diversity? Do yourself a favor and pick up these two books…and ensure DEI continues to THRIVE!”

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