CEO Chat

Ashley T. Brundage, President and CEO,

Empowering Differences Inc., Tampa, FL

Q. What did you want to be when you were a little kid?

A. I wanted to be a flight attendant because I thought that was the best and only way for a woman to see the world. I was wrong about that for sure as even though society was trying to tell me what jobs women can have, I decided to go against the grain!

Q. What does your company do?

A. We are a leadership training and consulting company that is research-based on empowerment and how empowerment is impacted by the top 10 most common differences we have as humans. Our research study went across 27 countries and 18 languages to measure 1,000 people’s perceptions of empowerment, differences and leadership actions. We leverage our proprietary survey platform to provide data analytics for a team’s employee engagement as well as leadership action recommendations based on our empowerment algorithm. We also host events allowing people to connect through differences and empowering actions, including our annual Voyage of Empowerment conference, which is coming up Sept. 16-21, 2023.

Q. How long has your company been in business?

A. Our organization was officially launched at the end of 2018. We were certified by the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce shortly after that in 2018 as an LGBT Business Enterprise. Our firm also is certified by Disability:IN as a DOBE (Disability Owned Business Enterprise) and certified as a woman-owned business from the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).

Q. Can you tell us about why and how you started the company?

A. I saw the need to formalize my training and speaking business when I realized my company wasn’t being counted economically toward the overall numbers and buying power for minority-owned certified businesses.

My inspiration surrounding doing research on empowerment was found when I was forced to overcome harassment, discrimination and homelessness in 2010. After facing discrimination during a job interview for the first time in my life since I was openly living as a woman of transgender experience, I got online and searched how to overcome obstacles, and then I found an article about empowerment. This prompted me to dig deeper into what empowerment truly means to people, and I started building a self-assessment of open-ended questions to help build more confidence and awareness.

I got a job as a part-time bank teller in 2011 and began to grow in my career, leveraging my research. I became the national vice president of diversity and inclusion for PNC Bank in just four years, and that was one of the factors that led me to expand my research across all the differences we have. I left my post at the bank to go full time to run my company a year after releasing my two books and leadership learning platform.

Q. Hat has been your biggest business challenge in the past year?

A. The biggest challenge was just getting out of my own way. I put up tons of barriers as to why I couldn’t leave my full-time role at the bank. I addressed this issue by focusing on empowerment of others because that is one of the best ways to showcase the power of my program and leadership development platform.

Q. What is one thing that makes you stand out from your competition?

A. No one else in the world can measure how empowered people are for their differences in less than two minutes in a live session. The survey, framework and execution are all tied to our uniqueness surrounding empowering differences from our research.

Q. What do you wish you had more time to do?

A. It would be nice to spend more time with my two teenagers, but that has more to do with the fact that they are teens and have other priorities, as many of them do. I am excited when they take part in some of my events or client engagements, like this summer when we had the summer of empowerment with my 16-year-old son, Blake.

Q. What’s your favorite place in the world you’ve ever visited, and why do you love it?

A. Thailand! I have family there, and it is the most amazing place. The people in Thailand are so respectful to each other.

Q. What is one piece of business advice you would offer your LGBTQ+ peers?

A. Be out and proud, and as vibrant as you can, since many people around the world and right here in the USA don’t feel safe being LGBTQ+. Being seen in a world where we are not all accepted will bring that visibility to some people who need to see that regardless of their situation or perspective.

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