From Diversity to Inclusivity with Dr. Kristen Donnelly

Mar 24, 2021

Dr. Kristen Donnelly wears many hats in her life, including being the COO for her family network of companies, Abbey Companies, which serves a variety of industries worldwide. Started by her father, Roger Nielsen, the torch has been passed to Kristen and her brother, Brian, who are eager to expand the mission of promoting excellence and providing great experiences for their customers and team members. Kristen is also Cofounder and one of The Good Doctors of Abbey Research, where she and her partner seek to educate and engage with empathetic and inclusive communities.

A social science researcher with over two decades of experience, Kristen is also a trained social worker with experience working in non-profits and faith communities. She holds two Master’s degrees from Baylor University and a Ph.D. from the Queen’s University of Belfast, and she is a passionate advocate for education worldwide. After completing her Ph.D., she realized that her passion for serving organizations and her skills as a researcher complemented each other perfectly, and Abbey Research was born.

In this episode, Kristen shares a bit about the history of her family business, how she fulfills the family’s mission statement, how her family relies on radical honesty to help them navigate trauma, and she shares some of the challenges they faced during COVID. Tuning in, you’ll also hear why she believes we should shift the focus from diversity to inclusivity and how not to use diversity as a performative marketing tool, as well as how language reflects your thinking and the importance of building an inclusive business lexicon. All this and more in today’s episode, so tune in today!


What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Kristen provides a glimpse into her family business history and how she became involved.
  • Hear about some of the products that Abbey Color makes, such as dyes for medical use.
  • How Kristen’s education and experience assists her in fulfilling her family’s mission statement.
  • Succession and gender roles: how the business responsibilities have been divided between her and her brother.
  • What role her mother plays and why Kristen says she is in charge of their hearts.
  • Rather than being indoctrinated into the business, she uses the term “intentionally shaped”.
  • The value of a unified way of thinking that also allows for a diversity of skills and insights.
  • Find out what the family business leans on to help them navigate trauma, including radical honesty and empathy.
  • Learn more about the day-to-day of the business, including daily family meetings.
  • Why Kristen says she made the intentional decision to raise companies, not children.
  • Some challenges Abbey Color faced during COVID: keeping staff safe and getting supplies.
  • Pivoting towards inclusive communities and how it fulfills the same family mission statement.
  • The global perception of diversity and why she believes we should shift the focus to inclusivity.
  • What Kristen believes business should do to activate the conversation without using diversity as a marketing tool.
  • Some of the biggest pushbacks she encounters from companies regarding active inclusivity.
  • Why Kristen believes language like “whiteness” or “fat” still makes people uncomfortable.
  • How language reflects your thinking; build your own lexicon and teach it to your employees.
  • Kristen talks about privilege, intention, and why we are all a little bit racist.
  • The power of labels; we only lose our humanity when we other those labels.

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