When trying to foster a workplace that is equitable and inclusive for all, it is imperative for leaders to be well-trained in inclusive strategies. There is one key trait that all great leaders should possess. Some may call this trait the crème de la crème of all leadership traits: empathy. Empathy is our ability to put ourselves in the shoes of others and to understand what another person is experiencing. Leaders that are more empathetic may be more effective at fostering diverse and inclusive workplaces.

Our May lunch featured a “fireside chat” with the dynamic Dr. Angelique Johnson, founder and CEO of Vissionaireum, a strategic planning company that focuses on business coaching, building inclusive startup ecosystems and increasing access to capital. An “accidental entrepreneur,” Dr. Johnson shared how she is helping businesses become more empathetic and inclusive, which in turn helps them attract the capital and talent they need.

She talked about barriers to diversity, equity and inclusion, and how she advises clients to let go of biases, recruit (not simply invite) diverse voices to the table, and ensure those voices are heard once they take a seat. She discussed recommendations for becoming more inclusive and empathetic, and how she gets businesses to commit to the changes that are necessary to evolve. She also shared insights about how Louisville fares in these areas compared with other cities.

Dr. Johnson is also CEO and Founder of MEMStim LLC, a company that produces implantable electronics to treat neurological disorders. With a doctorate in electrical engineering from the University of Michigan, she has produced many patents, acquired funding from the National Science Foundation, and received millions in prestigious and highly competitive SBIR awards from the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Johnson’s expertise is sought out at the highest levels, including the U.S. House of Representatives Small Business Committee. She has served as a speaker for the eighth district of the Federal Reserve, the Royal Academy of Science International Trust, the International Chamber of Commerce and the United Nations Assembly on Women and Girls in Science. She lends her leadership to the Standing Council, NSF Engineering Research Visioning Alliance, the Kentucky Statewide EPSCOR Committee, the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering SBIR, the NSF NNCI External Advisory Board and Medtech Color.