DEIB Leader | Writer & Correspondent
Prasanna Ranganathan is a sought-after diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) leader, advisor and consultant; accessibility advisor; published writer; professional speaker; social media strategist; trainer and facilitator; interviewer; correspondent and columnist; documentary/docu-series producer; human rights investigator; and former lawyer with extensive international experience.
Prasanna has over 16 years of experience in DEIB and accessibility, working on DEIB in the legal profession, judicial appointments, public safety, the entertainment industry, and tech, as a consultant and within organizations. Most recently, he served as the Head of Diversity and Belonging at Shopify, building the company’s Global DEIB Strategy, creating DEIB programs, and leading a team of leads and specialists in DEIB data collection, DEIB learning, Talent systems, internal and external community building, partnerships, and storytelling.
He is a Consulting Producer on the 2021 docuseries Born for Business about entrepreneurs with disabilities (currently airing on NBC Peacock and Crave Canada) and an Associate Producer on the 2016 documentary film Dream, Girl about women entrepreneurs that premiered at the Obama White House. A social media strategist and red carpet correspondent, Prasanna has covered the red carpets at the 2019 Academy Awards and the 2014 Screen Actors Guild Awards, and designed social media campaigns for Oprah Winfrey, Arianna Huffington, DreamWorks, and Sony Pictures.
Prasanna has over 13 years of experience in human rights law and international development. He served as Senior Legal Counsel to the Honourable Justice Michael Tulloch on the Independent Street Checks Review and worked as Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice Canada and Senior Special Advisor at Federal Judicial Affairs Canada in the areas of human rights, international judicial reform, technical legal assistance, and judicial appointments. In these roles with the Government of Canada, Prasanna designed and managed justice sector reform programs in Jamaica, Turks and Caicos, Mexico, and Ukraine. After clerking at the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, Prasanna worked as a lawyer in private practice at MacPherson, Leslie and Tyerman LLP, with the Canadian Bar Association Young Lawyers Program and the United Nations in Ethiopia, and at the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission.
Proudly claiming his identity as an LGBTQ2+ racialized person with a disability (Prasanna is legally blind with a degenerative eye condition), Prasanna is a seasoned speaker on DEIB and accessibility, providing the annual Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) inclusion and accessibility workshop for all staff members, speaking at the TIFF Industry Conference, presenting on a panel at Masai Ujiri’s Giants of Africa Inclusive Leadership Forum, speaking on Parliament Hill at the Elevate International Summit, giving keynotes at the Global PR Summit and Social @ Home Conference, and delivering guest lectures at the University of Southern California Annenberg Inclusion Initiative on inclusive storytelling.
Prasanna is a screen time columnist for CBC Radio, a published writer with written work appearing in HuffPost and CBC Online, and a co-author of the 2022 vegetarian cookbook Made with Prema with his mother Prema Ranganathan, published by Rupi Kaur and Rakhi Mutta under their special project Likhari Authors. All of the profits from the cookbook will go to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. He is a founding board member of the Disability Screen Office (designed to make the screen industry more accessible and inclusive to persons with disabilities), a past board member of the Inside/Out Film Festival (the largest LGBTQ+ film festival in Canada), and a recent delegate of the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference.
Prasanna holds a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Political Studies and French from the University of Saskatchewan, a Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of Victoria Faculty of Law, and a Master of Laws (LL.M.) from Columbia Law School where he studied as a Canada-U.S. Fulbright Scholar, graduating with highest honors as a James Kent Scholar. Prasanna’s LL.M. graduate thesis and research on international human rights law was cited by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2014.
When it comes to inclusive leadership, it’s time to stop with the platitudes and start with the plans. Inclusive leadership is not simply about identifying biases and including different perspectives. Inclusive leadership underscores that a fundamental part of being a leader is prioritizing diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) in your organization, devoting the necessary time and resources to this work, and making DEIB work a key leadership competency for leaders across your business.
How you make and bring your DEIB commitments to life is one of the most important decisions you will make as a leader and, in this keynote, Prasanna helps audiences understand how they can do this work in an intentional, impactful and action-oriented way.
Because DEIB work is work and it’s work that leaders everywhere cannot ignore.
Portraying diversity on the one hand and merit on the other as oppositional forces has been the primary tool used to discredit diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) initiatives since the very beginning. Often manifested in corrosive questions such as: don’t you want to know you were the best person for the job and not hired because of diversity?, this false fight has been a strategic and systemic tool to ensure that historic and current systems of power, oppression and privilege remain intact.
In this keynote, Prasanna addresses and shatters this false fight head-on, by exploring the importance of diversity; what we can do individually and collectively to foster diversity and inclusion in our organizations while meaningfully addressing issues of underrepresentation; and how to combat the common myths and misconceptions around diversity and inclusion that keep us spinning our wheels.
The time for action is now and with this keynote, Prasanna will give you the tools to help you get there.
Representation matters. As storytellers, we have the power to not only reflect the world in which we live, but imagine the world we seek to build. This is an awesome power and responsibility and central to this work is a commitment to diversity and belonging.
In his keynote, Prasanna will explore the importance of diversity in storytelling and what we can do as individuals and organizations to tell more inclusive stories.
With a blend of personal stories, pop culture references and diversity and belonging best-practices, Prasanna will take you on a journey that inspires you to think about how to leverage the power of storytelling to build a bold new world that truly includes and reflects everyone across all dimensions of diversity.
The importance of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) in storytelling cannot be overstated. We know that inclusive stories can change the world. But do we recognize the power of storytelling to drive meaningful progress when it comes to DEIB?
In this session, Prasanna examines why and how DEIB professionals and business leaders need to leverage the power of storytelling to make change happen within their organizations and across industries, without relying on individual employee experiences of oppression to drive necessary action. He examines where storytelling currently stops when it comes to DEIB and where it needs to go if its full power and potential is to be realized.
As a legally blind professional with a degenerative eye condition, Prasanna is very clear: “there is nothing wrong with me. There is no flaw or defect in me that needs to be fixed. My disability arises in my interaction with the world around me that is designed for people who see.”
In this keynote, Prasanna will explore the social model of disability, accessibility, and inclusion and how we all have a role to play in ensuring that disability inclusion and accessibility are not just features or compliance mechanisms but animating approaches and design philosophies that inform all aspects of our work. Because for far too long disability inclusion has been left out of DEIB work and that needs to stop now.
Weaving his lived experience as a person with a disability together with his professional experience as a human rights lawyer and DEIB professional, Prasanna will share personal reflections and tangible advice on how individuals and organizations can create workplaces that are accessible, barrier free, and inclusive to people with disabilities.