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Deepa Purushothaman

Women of color are an incredible collective force in the workplace: it's time to tap into their power.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leader | Former Senior Partner at Deloitte | Author of The First, the Few, the Only

Contact Deepa For Booking
Deepa Purushothaman | Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leader | Former Senior Partner at Deloitte | Author of The First, the Few, the Only
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

Women of color are ready to lead, but many of them are one of the first, few, or only women of color at their company. Deepa Purushothaman gives women of color the tools to discover and share their unique power at work: she was the first Indian woman to become Partner at Deloitte, and she learned what it takes to overcome the specific challenges that women of color face in corporate life. Her book The First, the Few, the Only is an urgent guide to help women of color prevent burnout, lean in, and speak up. Courageous and bold, Deepa has empowered millions of viewers as a TED Women speaker, and social justice legend. Billie Jean King says she will “build bridges, dismantle barriers, and change how we lead.”

“Deepa is a courageous and honest resource, empowering women of color to boldly venture into their full power.”

— Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code

Deepa Purushothaman is a global leader in the vital, on-going dialogue for workplace diversity, racial inclusion, and  leadership initiatives for women of color. She triumphed over her personal challenges of isolation and burnout as a high-level executive at Deloitte, and broke new ground for women of color as the first Indian American woman and one of the youngest people to make partner at the company. As Deloitte’s National Managing Partner of Inclusion, Deepa spearheaded its world-renowned program for recruiting and empowering women in the workplace.


Deepa is also the co-founder of nFormation, a company which provides a brave, safe, and new space for professionals who are women of color. She says that women of color are ready to “alter existing narratives, change the game, and lead in a brand-new landscape”—they just need the resources to get there.  


In her book The First, the Few, the Only: How Women of Color Can Redefine Power In Corporate America, Deepa shares the wisdom she gained from interviewing hundreds of other women of color across many different industries and cultural backgrounds. She teaches readers how to shed harmful messages in the workplace, navigate challenging corporate situations, and expand the future of what leadership looks like. Publisher’s Weekly called the book “empowering” and a “fresh, worthy addition” to our conversation about diversity.


Deepa has been featured in publications including Bloomberg BusinessWeek, the Huffington Post, and Harvard Business Review. She is a Women and Public Policy Program Leader in Practice at the Harvard Kennedy School. Indra Nooyi, the former CEO of PepsiCo, lauds the way that Deepa’s urgent work “has yielded a powerful collective narrative that business leaders would be wise to study closely.” 



“The way [Deepa] was able to articulate her experience as an Asian-American woman in the workplace impacted a lot of people at LiveRamp. We really appreciate her ability to put our feelings into words and address the systemic issues that we face every day.”


Speech Topics

DEI: Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion
The First, the Few, the Only How Women of Color Can Redefine Power in Corporate America
For too long, the corporate world has underestimated, dismissed, and pressured women of color to conform. Despite being one of the fastest-growing segments in the workforce, women of color are still underrepresented, often the first, the few, or the only ones in a department or company.
Deepa Purushothaman is on a mission to change this. As a former senior partner at Deloitte, Purushothaman experienced feelings of isolation and burnout that are all too common among women of color in the workplace. She met with hundreds of other women of color across industries and cultural backgrounds, eager to hear about their unique and shared experiences. In doing so, she has come to understand the collective setbacks facing WOC in the workplace—and the path forward for creating transformational change.
In this inspiring talk, rooted in the lived experiences of women of color, Deepa brings us a roadmap for how we can create a profound and lasting impact in our organizations—ensuring that everyone is heard, respected, and valued for who they truly are.
Leadership Looks Like Me Recruiting and Advancing POC in the Workplace
Growing up, Deepa Purushothaman saw very few role models that looked like her in the corporate world, but she refused to let it stop her from reaching her full potential. The first Indian-American woman to make partner at Deloitte, Deepa made a point of becoming a national inclusion leader within the organization, whole-heartedly invested in addressing the diversity gap from the top down, and helping clients do the same.
Deepa says that the idea that diverse talent is hard to find is a myth. We need to first expand our definition of what a leader looks like, and then consciously seek out diverse talent. Sometimes it's that companies are not looking for talent in the right places, but the truth is that they may not recognize the untapped potential in the talent that they already have.
This urgent presentation is two-fold: first, drawing from cutting-edge research and methodologies, it will help you evolve your definition of leadership and leadership rules—an early step to creating a company culture that fosters belonging and true inclusion. Then, it will give you concrete and actionable strategies for finding, retaining, and advancing people of color within your organization.
Corporate Culture
Reimagining Work Addressing Burnout and Workplace Trauma
The old rules of the work told us that in order to get ahead, we have to overperform and out-shine the person next to us. But this mentality is rapidly changing: we really do our best work when we reprioritize our mental and physical well-being so that we can avoid burnout and work with a real sense of purpose. In her high-powered career as a senior executive at Deloitte, Deepa Purushothaman encountered the challenges of performing and conforming to get ahead, and she knows what it takes to step back and build a psychologically safe workplace.
When Deepa overworked herself—with several of her doctors questioning if she “lived to work”—she knew it was time for her to redefine success on her own terms and put her health in the forefront. She wants everyone to be able to do the same; it’s possible to perform at a high level and take care of ourselves.
In this groundbreaking talk, Purushothaman reveals the ways we can tap into to our own voice, have courageous conversations about difficult topics, and unapologetically advocate for our health and wellness at work.
Women & Leadership
Reclaiming Authenticity How Women Can Lead with Inner Wisdom and Power
As women and young girls, we are given models of success and power that are largely male and white. The message is clear: to get ahead, we must shed who we are and embrace stereotypical, masculine qualities that have been assigned to leadership. We must deny our femininity, limit our empathy, and lead with our heads over our hearts in order to be a “great” leader.
Deepa Purushothaman offers a counter-narrative: rather than conforming to a rigid, impossible standard, women can tap into the power and wisdom that comes with being fully themselves. Drawing from her own experience as an Indian-American woman in the corporate world, Deepa offers captivating alternatives to the modes of leadership we’ve been taught.
We are most powerful as women when we remember where we came from and who we are, says Purushothaman. Carrying this inner wisdom may be the most important solution for what ails our world right now. This talk, inspiring as it is actionable, shows us how to reclaim our power.