Standing Up Against Harmful Behavior At Work: There’s A New Conference For That

Written by Dana Sanchez

Karen Fleshman believes that becoming more inclusive is a learnable skill, and one that will have increasing value in the marketplace.

As more and more people speak out about discrimination and harassment at work, Fleshman saw a need for giving companies and workers the skills to deal with problem at its root — and practice finding solutions.

Fleshman has founded a new conference, entitled “Backbone: Courage for a Changing Workplace.” The conference title seems to answer a question and a pose a challenge simultaneously: Do you have the backbone to stand by workers’ sides when they speak out about discrimination and harassment  — even when it gets real uncomfortable?

The conference, “Backbone: Courage for a Changing Workplace,” is scheduled for 9 a.m. to  6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 10, 2018 at The Laundry, 3359 26th Street, San Francisco, Calif.

Fleshman speaks, writes, and offers training and coaching. Her company, Racy Conversations, helps people and companies understand how conscious and unconscious biases work. She helps companies develop inclusive cultures where all viewpoints are welcomed and valued. Fleshman dedicates much of her time to police accountability activism.

Recruiting is only part of the diversity equation, Fleshman says on her website. Inclusion is equally if not more important. Without it, “the best employees will become entrepreneurs or find another employer where they feel valued.”

Three hundred Black, Latinx, and Native American engineers working in tech were polled in 2016 by Jopwell, and 69 percent reported experiencing racial bias, according to Fortune.

It’s imperative to change workplace culture so people of color can thrive, Fleshman said. Millennials are the most diverse generation in U.S. history, with 44 percent from underrepresented groups. By 2044, people of color will make up the majority in the U.S.

Workplace culture drives turnover, significantly affecting the retention of underrepresented groups, and costing the industry more than $16 billion each year, according to a 2017 Kapor Center Study.

To change workplace culture, Fleshman said, “we need to authentically address race in a guilt- and shame-free manner.”

The conference, “Backbone: Courage for a Changing Workplace,” will show those in attendance how to address harm and build an inclusive culture at work. It’s for diversity and inclusion stakeholders, human resource and culture professionals, and people who are underrepresented in the workplace. Here’s a description of the conference in Fleshman’s words:

We will focus on the realities of addressing harm in the workplace – and what we can do to create inclusive culture. You will learn by doing in a group of peers led by expert facilitators. People of all ages and stages of career, all races and ethnicities, all genders, all sexual orientations, of different abilities, religions, and veteran status are welcome and will be seen, heard, and understood.

You will observe an actual workplace incident, and practice how to investigate, present your recommendations, establish accountability, and rebuild culture. You will practice speaking out directly and unapologetically and giving and receiving feedback.

We’ll share our stories about what works to help people feel safe and valued at work, and develop the qualities we need to lead in our changing workplace. You will take a break for self-care and reflect on how to apply what you learn at work and develop a network of supportive people.

You will leave knowing what to do the next time a challenging situation occurs in your workplace.

These are some of the experts and facilitators scheduled at the conference, “Backbone: Courage for a Changing Workplace:

    • Amanda Townsend, Founder, Unlimited Coaching
    • Elaine Marino, Founder, Equili
    • Collette M. Luckie, President, Cornerstone Consulting
    • Demarris Evans, Esq., Attorney and Mindfulness Expert
    • Felicia Medina, Esq. Partner, Medina Orthwein LLP
    • Joshua Klipp, Esq., Founder, Carpe Novus Consulting
    • Josuel Plasencia, Cofounder, Project 99
    • Joy Walters Sybesma, People Operations, KARGO
    • Karen Fleshman, Esq. Founder, Racy Conversations
    • Lynne Maureen Hurdle, Founder, The Conflict Closer
    • Michelle Kim, Cofounder, Awaken
    • Mindy Gulati, Esq., Founder, Fundamental Advisory
    • Monet Wilson, Diversity & Inclusion Facilitator & Recruitment Specialist, Year Up
    • Neha Sampat, Esq. Founder, GenLead|BelongLab
    • Shawnee Benton-Gibson, LMSW, Founder, The Griots Healing Circle
    • Salvatore Manzi, Founder, Redesign Your Reality
    • Yulkendy Valdez, Cofounder, Project 99
    • Torin Perez, Inclusion Expert
harmful behavior at work
Experts and facilitators at the conference, “Backbone: Courage for a Changing Workplace,” scheduled for April 10, 2018 in San Francisco. Source:

For more information or to sponsor the event, email Racy Conversations Founder Karen Fleshman at or call at 917-686-2041.