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Howard  Ross

Howard Ross

Diversity, Inclusion, Social Justice Advocate & Author, Founder of Udarta Consulting & Cook Ross, Inc.

Howard Ross

Diversity, Inclusion, Social Justice Advocate & Author, Founder of Udarta Consulting & Cook Ross, Inc.


A seminal thought leader on identifying and addressing unconscious bias, best-selling author Howard Ross is one of the nation’s most influential diversity consultants and workplace experts, specializing in corporate culture change, leadership development, unconscious bias, belonging, systemic racism and managing diversity and more. He is the author of ReInventing Diversity: Transforming Organizational Community to Strengthen People, Purpose and Performance, and the Washington Post best seller, Everyday Bias:  Identifying and Navigating Unconscious Judgments in Our Daily Lives. His latest book, Our Search for Belonging: How Our Need to Connect is Tearing Us Apart, breaks new ground in examining our nation’s growing polarization and tribalism, providing tools that help individuals and organizations bridge divides and create cultures of belonging that drive success, and is the winner of the 2019 Nautilus Book Award for Social Change and Social Justice.

As founder of Cook Ross Inc., Ross has lent his expertise to hundreds of organizations in 47 states and in 40 countries, implementing large-scale organizational culture change efforts in the area of managing diversity and cultural integration. His clients have included a range of academic institutions, professional services corporations, Fortune 500 companies, and retail, health care, media, and governmental institutions. In 2018, after almost thirty years, Ross transferred ownership of Cook Ross to Michael Leslie Amilcar. However, this is not a retirement, and instead, it is a rewiring as Ross will continue to invest, commit and create more inclusive organizations with Cook Ross. Ross has also delivered programs at Harvard University Medical School, Stanford University Medical School, Johns Hopkins University, the Wharton School of Business, Duke University and Washington University Medical School and over 20 other colleges and universities. As a testimony to his stature in the diversity field, Ross had the distinction of serving as the 2007-2008 Johnnetta B. Cole Professor of Diversity Professor of at Bennett College for Women, the first time a white man had ever served in such a position at an HBCU.

A noted writer whose content has always had appeal to broader business and general audiences, Ross’s work has appeared in the Harvard Business Review, the Washington Post, the New York Times, Fast Company Magazine, Diversity Women Magazine, Forbes Magazine, Fortune Magazine and dozens of other publications. He appears monthly on National Public Radio. Howard has served on numerous not-for-profits boards, including the Diversity Advisory Board of the Human Rights Campaign, the board of directors of the Dignity and Respect Campaign, and the board of the directors for the National Women’s Mentoring Network. A lifelong social justice advocate, Ross has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2009 Operation Understanding Award for Community Service; the 2012 Winds of Change Award from the Forum on Workplace Diversity and Inclusion; the 2013 Diversity Peer Award from Diversity Women Magazine; the 2014 Catalyst Award from Uptown Professional Magazine; the 2014 Catalyst for Change Award from Wake Forest University; the 2015 Trendsetter in HR by SHRM Magazine; and the 2016 Leadership in Diversity Award by the World Human Resources Development Conference in Mumbai, India.

Providing compelling insights that spark reflection, conversation and change, Ross is an authoritative speaker who applies deep expertise and the latest research. His presentations are rich with actionable takeaways for overcoming challenges and building cultures of belonging in an increasingly diverse world. Contending that “if you are human, you are biased,” Ross explains how our unconscious minds drive our behavior, and how we can harness that knowledge to become better leaders, teams, organizations and citizens.

Speaker Videos

Unconscious Bias

Exploring Unconscious Bias in Academic Medicine

Multicultural Marketing

Transforming Connection

Talk at Google: Everyday Bias

Overcoming Biases in Healthcare

We are Shifting From a World of Hierarchy to a World of Networks

Search for Belonging

Speech Topics

Overcoming Unconscious Bias: The Journey to Inclusion

Over the past 10 years, the study of unconscious bias has exploded into the diversity and inclusion field, built on breakthroughs in the neurocognitive sciences and hundreds of new studies. What insights do they provide into how we think and how that thinking shapes our workplace behavior? Are these insights being misunderstood or misused? And how can we examine the data—and our own biases—to prosper in an increasingly diverse and global workplace, society and competitive landscape? In this game-changing presentation, based on his best-selling book, Everyday Bias: Identifying and Navigating Unconscious Judgments in our Daily Lives, unconscious bias expert Howard Ross shares proven strategies that both individuals and organizations can use to create more culturally competent and inclusive organizations. Revealing new research, case studies and practical applications that have diversity practitioners re-thinking old strategies, Ross shows how we can overcome unconscious bias to truly transform the way we work on both a personal and organizational level. This highly reflective and often inspiring presentation gives participants the opportunity to explore their own relationship with bias and its presence in their own organizations—beginning the journey toward self-discovery that is at the heart of inclusion.

Unconscious Bias in Healthcare: If You Are Human, You Are Biased

Doctors, nurses and other health workers don't mean to treat people differently. Like everyone else, these professionals harbor stereotypes that they're not even aware they have. According to Howard Ross, this is normal human behavior, which research shows is more likely to surface when we’re stressed, multi-tasking and in tense situations. "If you're doing triage in the emergency room, for example, you don't have time to sit back and contemplate, 'Why am I thinking about this?' You have to instantaneously react." In this essential presentation for healthcare professionals, Ross explains the neurobiology behind our behaviors and provides tools to overcome individual and organizational biases. He also examines the connection between unconscious bias and health disparities and outcomes. Citing dramatically shifting U.S demographics and a world where the average U.S. hospital now serves patients and guests from 60 countries, this presentation underscores the urgency of developing greater cultural competency in our increasingly diverse and global healthcare landscape.

Participants will:

  • Understand the science, research, and impact of unconscious bias on cultural competency and health disparities
  • Recognize functions of the unconscious mind and their impact in the workplaceand on patient care
  • Apply new strategies for practicing more conscious awareness individually and organizationally

The Starbucks Diversity Emergency & Building a Bias-Resistant Workplace Culture

Starbucks has long been seen as an organization that values diversity and inclusion. But even they were vulnerable to an incident that made headlines and threatened their brand. What can companies do to build a bias-resistant workplace culture that supports their true commitment to diversity and inclusion? In this essential talk for corporate leaders, Howard Ross, one of the world’s seminal thought leaders on identifying and addressing unconscious bias, examines Starbucks as a case study in what can go wrong and what to do right. Asserting, as Starbucks has, that a widely-publicized day of training is just the beginning, he walks audiences through a four-part strategy to build a bias-resistant culture. With a depth of expertise gained during decades of driving corporate culture change, Ross shares valuable takeaways that they can be immediately implemented in any organization.

Political Tribalism in the Workplace: Are You Ignoring It At Your Own Peril?

For many, our workplaces have become the most diverse part of our lives—cutting across gender, race, religion, sexual orientation and now, increasingly polarized political divides.  What do we do when this divisiveness undermines work performance and jeopardizes organizational success? Drawing from his book, Our Search for Belonging: How the Need for Connection Is Tearing Our Culture Apart, diversity and unconscious bias expert Howard Ross explores the growing phenomenon of political tribalism in the workplace. Sharing successful examples from companies that have already taken on political tribalism workplaces, Ross explores key strategies and approaches to bridging differences, building a sense of community, and addressing tensions in ways that validate the humanity of people from all the different tribes.

Crossing the Political Divide

We are living in a world of almost unparalleled division, separation and tribalism. People are no longer disagreeing, but disavowing each other’s rights to an opinion. What is driving this polarization and how can we overcome it in our daily lives? In his new book, Our Search for Belonging: How our Need to Connect is Tearing Us Apart, Howard Ross examines this fractured landscape and finds a beacon of hope: the modern workplace. After all, we don’t choose who we work with. These relationships cut across race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, education levels and political perspectives—the very impetus needed for community and belonging to exist. Building upon a foundation of cutting edge research, Ross shares best practices from some of America’s most successful and admired companies. He also guides audiences through the eight pathways to creating a culture of belonging, including the specific behaviors that people in organizations can embrace in order to make them happen.  As one CEO said about Our Search for Belonging, “Howard Ross offers actionable steps on how we can begin to dismantle the walls between us for the benefit of our workplaces and our society. An insightful read for all leaders.”

The Six Elements of Inclusive Leadership

The growing relevance of diversity and the increasingly diverse demographics of our culture call for a new kind of leader.

Diversity and unconscious bias expert Howard Ross walks audiences through the essential traits, outlining the six elements of inclusive leadership:

  • How can leaders find their own “why” about diversity and inclusion, one that can inspire them to inspire others?
  • Team Focus. How does diversity impact team performance and what can you do as a leader to create effective inclusion on your teams?
  • Mindful Decision-making. What is unconscious bias and how does it impact leadership decision-making?
  • How can you leverage diversity and inclusion to inspire and expand innovation?
  • Cultural Competency. In a new age of globalism and diversity, leaders have to develop an understanding of how culture impacts employee values, beliefs and behaviors. It can also be an important element in understanding the needs of customers or clients.
  • Courage. How do we move forward in the face of criticism, challenges or people who resist the message of diversity and inclusion?

Reinventing Diversity for the 21st Century

Almost 40% of US residents are now people of color. Percentages of women and “out” LGBT people continue to grow. As more people with disabilities enter the workforce, accessibility issues loom. As always, generational dynamics create challenges. Yet most interventions and solutions that we are using have not changed in decades.

Based on his book, Reinventing Diversity: Transforming Organizational Community to Strengthen People, Purpose, and Performance, Howard Ross focuses on three major paradigm shifts that are needed to create a 21st century approach:

  • Moving from a U.S.-based, reparative framework to an understanding of cultural competency and global diversity. Are your diversity programs trying to “fix” problems of the past rather than addressing the emerging realities of globalism?
  • Moving from “blame and shame” to a deeper understanding of the unconscious mind and how that impacts people’s behavior. Are your diversity programs dividing people and using guilt to motivate them? Or, do you acknowledge that bias is driven by unconscious beliefs that we are not aware of?
  • Moving from “diversity events” to transforming organizational culture. Are your programs focused on events and training programs vs. activities proven to create long-term strategic change?

The Evolution of the Diversity Conversation – with Dr. Johnnetta Cole

Workplaces have always mirrored our larger society, facing the same issues, challenges and divisions.  In this thought-provoking presentation, Howard Ross and his colleague, Dr. Johnnetta Cole, President Emerita of Spelman and Bennett Colleges, examine the evolution of the racial and diversity conversation in America and its workplaces. What does it take to create real and lasting change? How have diversity and inclusion efforts advanced social justice and equality? With sights set on a future that will be increasingly diverse and global, these two diversity and inclusion veterans from very different personal backgrounds guide us through the challenges to come. At a time when the level of racial tension and polarization is so high, these two long-time colleagues present a hopeful example of how people can bridge across race, gender, and religion to create true ally-ship and organizational environments of inclusion, trust, and collaboration.