Dr. Leeno Karumanchery Headshot

Dr. Leeno Karumanchery

Chief Diversity Officer

Company: MESH Diversity
Role: Session Presenter

A trained sociologist with a PhD focused in equity studies, Dr. Leeno Karumanchery is chief diversity officer at MESH/diversity and is recognized as one of North America’s preeminent diversity and inclusion experts. Leveraging his 25+ years of work in the field, Leeno combines his extensive training and coaching experience with his expertise in D&I, emotional intelligence and neuro-linguistics to help leaders and teams embed inclusion in a manner that is meaningful, relevant, growth-focused, sustainable and pragmatic. He is focused on supporting organizations interested in bringing Diversity IntelligenceTM into the mainstream of their culture and approach.

Leeno’s keynotes have been described by clients and audiences as incredible, dynamic, life-changing and world class. His engaging style and neurolinguistics approach to communication allow him to deliver complex EQ- and diversity-based principles to diverse audiences in a manner that is understandable, enjoyable and actionable.

Widely published in the field, Leeno is co-author of “Removing the Margins” (CSP, 2000), and “Playing the Race Card” (Peter Lang, 2004), both critically acclaimed texts in the field of diversity and inclusion organizational learning. His forthcoming book, “The Old Black Lesbian Elephant in the Room: Why Diversity Does and Does Not Work in Organizations” (Archway 2019), digs into how diversity and inclusion programs can be effectively designed and implemented.

But that’s really just the surface layer of his credentials to speak to an audience on this topic. Leeno immigrated to Canada at the age of one-ish, not old enough to have developed a sense of self or identity (let alone ethnic identity), but not so young that he would have been immune to the stark change in his everyday life. Born into a family of wealth and privilege now thrust into poverty and social exclusion, he lived the various traumas of their unique immigrant experience through his family.

The intersection of the intergenerational trauma wrought by hundreds of years of British rule in India, with the class privileges of a wealthy Indian family that wouldn’t dream of working in the fields for a living, culminated in daily calls to stay out of the sun lest he get dark. He learned his place early. He didn’t realize then that the darkness of skin was a class distinction to his mother, it just flowed into the everyday experience of racism that would mark his young life. It was very easy to understand. He learned, subconsciously, that brown is bad, and dark brown is really bad—creating his earliest memories of what marginalization felt like.

Leeno still experiences the occasional interaction that tells him some people will never truly see him as belonging here. His maleness, brownness, heterosexuality, memories of an impoverished childhood buoyed by unconditional love—these unique strands of his own diverse tapestry are what drove him to study social justice and equity, and what inform both his personal humanity and his approach to helping others engage inclusion.

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Photos by Sarah Morreim Photography
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