Leading With Empathy & Allyship Show

What Allies Can Do During Black History Month With Rachel Williams, Lionel Lee, & Almaz Negash

Leading With Empathy & Allyship promo with the Change Catalyst logo and photos of host Melinda Briana Epler, a White woman with red hair and glasses, Rachel Williams, a Black woman with long black hair and glasses, Lionel Lee, a Black man with glasses, and Almaz Negash, a Black woman with short hair and red jacket.

Join Change Catalyst Founder & CEO Melinda Briana Epler with a conversation on ‘What Allies Can Do During Black History Month’ with Rachel Williams, Head of Equity, Inclusion & Diversity at X- the moonshot factory, Lionel Lee, Head of Diversity Engagement at Zillow Group and Almaz Negash, Founder & Executive Director at the African Diaspora Network.

In this episode, we talk about

  • How Black History month goes far beyond a month of celebration.
  • How Black history should be part of American history program in school.
  • The importance of reflection on policies and KPI within communities and workplaces.

The live show is made accessible thanks to Interpreter-Now and White Coat Captioning.

This episode is sponsored by AppDynamics – builders of the world’s only full-stack Business Observability platform. Join their team to help businesses thrive by turning performance into profit. Learn more at www.appdynamics.com/company/careers.

Additional Resources



  • “People talk about us without us. We need to be at the table. When people talk about our future, we must be at the table… Where are they talking about the continent, when I am from the continent, and I’m not even at the table?” – Almaz Negaz, Founder & Executive Director at The African Diaspora Network
  • “When I am talking about reflection, I’m talking about reflecting on yourself and your experience, and how you’ve interacted with the Black community.” – Lionel Lee, Head of Diversity Engagement at Zillow Group
  • “I would do away with the current set of history books we have all been learning and actually incorporate Black history as a part of American history because it is. To me, that acknowledgment would go a long way in actually helping with some of our equity, inclusion and diversity strategy, or the things and ills we are seeing inside the company and out in the world. Because you would have grown up knowing we are in fact builders and the foundation of this country. We are not separate. It is not a separate month or a separate education.” – Rachel Williams, Head of Equity, Inclusion & Diversity at X, the moonshot factory


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Guest Speakers
Rachel Williams, a Black woman with long black hair and glasses,

Rachel Williams
Head of EID Talent Strategy at X – the moonshot factory

Rachel Williams is a Bay Area native with more than 20 years of experience in Silicon Valley. Her experience spans human resources – recruiting, strategic employee relations and engagement, organizational change, culture & learning development, inclusion programming and implementation. Rachel is currently the Head of Equity Inclusion & Diversity Talent Acquisition for X – the moonshot factory. X creates novel technology solutions to address the world’s most challenging problems.
Prior to X, Rachel held roles as the first Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion at StubHub where she focused her efforts on bringing equity to the company’s workforce, workplace and marketplace to drive inclusion.

Rachel is passionate about developing unique programming to help build a culture of openness and belonging that embraces diversity as a dimension of a company’s overall talent strategy. Prior to StubHub, Rachel was the first Head of Diversity & Inclusion and Corporate Recruiting at Yelp. Building Yelp’s diversity initiatives from the ground up to accelerate action, which led to a 10 percent increase in women in technical roles, as well as the creation of numerous employee resource and affinity groups that had more than 75 percent employee participation, among other accomplishments.

In addition to her roles within various corporations, Rachel lends her time to advise organizations dedicated to the improvement of diversity, equity and inclusion. As an early advisor to Diversity Advocates, a Kapor Capital empowered group that seeks to advance inclusion by providing resources, knowledge, and network to do pioneering work. As an Advisor to Village Capital, Rachel met with several founders of color to help with strategy and provide impactful feedback.

Rachel has spoken on her work and thought leadership at numerous conferences and universities like: Tech Inclusion Conference, SXSW, the White House, North Carolina A&T, Harvard Business School, Stanford Business School, Northwestern Kellogg School of Management and MIT Sloan. Rachel graduated from UC Berkeley (Go Bears!) and enjoys spending time with her more than 300 family members whenever she can.

Lionel Lee, a Black and Korean man with a shaved head and glasses.

Lionel Lee
Head of Diversity Engagement at Zillow Group

Lionel Lee is the head of diversity engagement at Zillow Group. He provides career development support to underrepresented employees and works with executives to foster equity and belonging practices to improve employee experiences. He also serves as a connector between employees and community organizations. Prior to joining Zillow Group, he ran a talent acquisition company, sourcing candidates across the technology industry.

Helping communities has been a constant throughout Lionel’s life. He created and developed community groups that promote health and wellness. He has worked with HIV/AIDS education groups, substance abuse addiction organizations as well as health groups for youth. Lionel also founded Yi Sport Tae Kwon Do, a school in Seattle that produced 54 U.S. Junior Olympic gold medals.

Lionel immigrated to the United States from Korea at age 5. His experiences growing up in South-Central Los Angeles and later in the projects of Honolulu, Hawaii, helped nurture his passion for community-building.

Almaz Negash, a Black woman with short hair and red jacket.

Almaz Negash
Founder & CEO at African Diaspora Network

Almaz Negash is named as one of the 100 outstanding Silicon Valley Women of Influence for her work in social innovation. In 2010, Almaz founded the African Diaspora Network (ADN) to inform and engage Africans in the diaspora and facilitate direct collaboration with social entrepreneurs, innovators and business leaders to invest and improve the lives of everyone on the continent and the communities where we live. Under her leadership and vision, ADN is now the home of The African Diaspora Investment Symposium (ADIS), an annual convening in Silicon Valley, Builders of Africa’s Future, and Impact & Investment Forums.

Currently, Almaz is exploring ways to provide access to capital to Black led startups and SME’s via the newly program called: Builders of America’s Future. Whether creating market driven solutions to reduce homelessness and mental health with Pay for Success (a.k.a. Social Impact Bond) – a more than $28 million project in Santa Clara County, supporting women to gain financial security through microenterprise development, international trade, or engaging former heads of states on Global Leadership & Ethics, she’s a committed and inspiring social change agent.


Transcript coming soon.

About the Host

Host: Melinda Briana Epler

Melinda Briana Epler has over 25 years of experience developing business innovation and inclusion strategies for startups, Fortune 500 companies, and global NGOs.

As CEO of Change Catalyst, Melinda currently works with the tech industry to solve diversity and inclusion together. Using her background in storytelling and large-scale culture change, she is a strategic advisor for tech companies, tech hubs, and governments around the world. She co-leads a series of global solutions-focused conferences called Tech Inclusion, where she has partnered with over 450 tech companies and community organizations and hosted 43 solutions-focused diversity and inclusion events around the world.

Previously, Melinda was a Marketing and Culture Executive and award-winning documentary filmmaker – her film and television work includes projects that exposed the AIDS crisis in South Africa, explored women’s rights in Turkey, and prepared communities for the effects of climate change. She has worked on several television shows, including NBC’s The West Wing.

Melinda is a TED speaker. She speaks, mentors and writes about diversity and inclusion in tech, allyship, social entrepreneurship, underrepresented entrepreneurs and investing. She has spoken on hundreds of stages around the world, including SXSW, Grace Hopper, Wisdom 2.0, the World Bank, Obama White House, Clinton Foundation, Black Enterprise, Google, Indeed, Capital One and McKinsey.

In The Press

Watch Melinda’s TED Talk

Speaking Engagements

Change Catalyst Co-Founder Melinda Briana Epler has spoken across the globe in hundreds of venues and virtual events. Empathy, Allyship, Advocacy, Microaggressions, Inclusive Leadership, and Building Inclusive Teams are just some of the topics Melinda has spoken on. Let us know about your next speaking engagement needs! Melinda has also spoken on how to build organizational capacity to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion, such as how to lead behavior change or how to build allies and advocates.


This show has given me clear opportunities to learn in the midst of 2020’s numerous social and personal challenges, including engaging remote content. I’ve learned new terms, heard new voices, diversified my interests and internalized personal narratives that have inspired me to get more active.

The show shaped my scope of reasoning on the dynamics in the corporate world, brand building, harmony across board with team mates. Your series has helped me feel less alone and less daunted by the challenges I face as a leader at a company that is used to moving fast with decisions and making swift progress across the board. I so earnestly want to grow and deepen my perspective when it comes to diversity and allyship; it’s not always clear how to do it. This series has felt like a path I can follow and revisit and draw strength and insight from. Thank you.

I watched many of your live shows in 2020, and I learned something from every discussion. They were inspiring on many levels. Early on during the pandemic (especially), the show also provided me with a sense of community that I was sorely needing. Thank you.

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If you’re looking for a way for remote teams to continue their learning and professional development, we’re now offering virtual allyship, inclusion and leadership trainings. We’ve also continued our consulting practice virtually. AND we now offer hourly coaching. Let us know if you’re interested in learning more!
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