‘Queer Eye’s Karamo Brown just launched a free DE&I course—his best tips for an inclusive workplace

Karamo Brown
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"Queer Eye" star Karamo Brown earned the title 'culture expert' on the hit Netflix reality show, where he helps guests make lifestyle changes through coaching and 'cultural conversations.' Now Brown, who also has a daytime talk show launching on Sept. 19, is adding a new title under his belt: workplace DE&I coach.

Brown, 40, is no stranger to issues surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion. He says he's dealt with microaggressions "my entire life, in my entire career."

"You walk into a space, and somebody will comment about how you look, what you're wearing, how your hair looks, or make a comment about how you said a word," Brown tells CNBC Make It. "It never ends. Someone will even comment like, 'oh, we've never seen a person like you in this space before.' And it's like, are you saying that to me to make me feel empowered? Or are you saying that to intimidate me and make me feel like I don't belong in this space?"

Unfortunately, microaggressions and discrimination remain big issues for professionals in today's workforce. A recent study from SurveyMonkey, in partnership with Fortune, found that 60% of Americans have witnessed or potentially witnessed microaggressions on the job. 

To combat this, many companies pledged to implement DE&I initiatives at the start of the pandemic, but two years later, many of these plans have yet to translate with employees. This prompted Brown to partner with Australia-based learning solutions platform EdApp by SafetyCulture, to launch a free, 8-lesson diversity, equity and inclusion training course.

Based on the course, here are three ways managers and employees can ensure their offices have a safe, inclusive culture.

Check your unconscious bias

According to the University of California San Francisco, unconscious bias, or implicit bias, is a "social stereotype about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness." These associations are usually influenced by someone's upbringing, experience or society.

Brown says unconscious bias "affects us all," and that people should do a "deep dive" within themselves to discover the root of these stereotypes in order to change.

"We don't realize that because of our upbringing, and because of what the media has shown us, we look at a community and we say, 'oh, they're like this.' And that's when those stereotypes come into play," Brown says. "That's when we see people not getting the opportunities they deserve because they've been categorized."

"You have to challenge yourself and ask, 'Why do I feel this way? What happened to make me think that every person in this group is a certain way?' Because until you tackle that, we're going to see you making the same mistake ... being unsupportive, and not being the ally you need to be."

Promote positive mental health

For many people, diversity, equity and inclusion pertain to things like race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and/or physical ability. But Brown says that mental health also plays a huge role in inclusivity.

"If your mental health is not right, you will end up accepting things that you should not accept. You'll keep yourself in spaces that are unhealthy because you don't believe that you deserve to be in something healthier for you. You allow microaggressions to happen."

Brown recalls that when his mental health was "not right," he'd find himself being unauthentic in the workplace, doing things like code-switching and accommodating to make others feel comfortable. 

"It's really important for people to check in on their mental health because it does affect what spaces they are in and how they accept what's happening in those spaces. After I worked on my mental health, I realized that I didn't need to protect myself, I just needed to work on my self-esteem. And then I knew that when I walked into a space, I didn't need to change who I was. I could walk in authentically.'

Don't be complacent 

Successful DE&I initiatives require a commitment from business owners, managers and employees to continue the work for the long haul. According to Brown, this starts by holding yourself, and others, accountable.

"All of us need to make sure that we tell our companies, 'I know you championed this in 2020, but we're not hearing anything.' Never let it slide under the rug. Never let up. And while you're not letting up, always speak from your heart."

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Making $1,000 a month teaching my community to swim
Making $1,000 a month teaching my community to swim