The Shark and the Ocean

How is this related to DEI?


Whew!'s Approach To DEI Consulting

Why DEI Matters

In today’s world, DEI can't be just a buzzword or a set of boxes to check.

Companies who want to be competitive must attract and retain top talent. Employees, customers and shareholders increasingly expect companies to address systemic bias and discrimination in a meaningful, sincere way. They are increasingly gravitating to those organizations that strive to create genuinely inclusive, nurturing environments.

Addressing the Challenges of Cynicism and Doubt Head On

The two main obstacles to implementing an effective Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) program are your company culture and your own employees. Why?

Because we're all exhausted and quite frankly cynical about DEI. And maybe we have a right to be. 

We've been trying the same things over and over again, and getting, at best, okay results.

Both employees and managers, even the ones tasked with spearheading DEI initiatives, even the most well-intentioned ones who want it to work, are tired.

We're all tired of filling out surveys and attending strategy meetings and trying to be vulnerable and open about our concerns, and then …   

nothing meaningful changes.

The Solution

Notice the italicized words:

nothing meaningful changes.

These words actually point to a vital key to success.

 Employees, managers and other stakeholders will do the work, yet again, even if they’re cynical. They will commit to pushing past their exhaustion and cynicism 

if they believe something meaningful will change.

Whew!'s goal is to sincerely give employees and other stakeholders valid reasons to believe in our process. We do this by incorporating what Desyree has learned in her thousands of hours working directly with psychotherapy clients.

Work related stress is a common experience that brings countless people to therapy. They share what's really on their mind and what it will take to make them more joyful, productive and engaged at work.

Whew! brings these insights to its DEI work. We help companies understand how employees feel and what impacts them most. We partner with companies to create the workplace environment and culture that employees truly want but are afraid to ask for.​

The Shark and the Ocean

The analogy of "the Shark and the Ocean" comes from a poem written by spoken word artist Kyle "Guante" Tran Myhre. Myhre's poem focuses on explaining racism, noting that the trauma of racism isn't like the shark, but rather its the entire ocean. 

In other words, racism isn't just isolated pockets of danger. Racism is so pervasive that it surrounds us all the time. Every day and everywhere, we are swimming in it; and it profoundly impacts us in ways we don't easily appreciate.

Whew! expanded on this idea and uses the concept of the "Shark and the Ocean" to help clients develop a deeper understanding of all kinds of core identity issues, as well as the business environment their organizations must navigate to be successful.

The ocean that shapes the core identity of both individuals and organizations is comprised of all the facets of society (from systems, institutions and media to community and family) that influence who we are, what we do and what we dream. 

We begin our work with clients by asking them to tell us their story? How they frame their personal narrative tells us not only about them, but about their ocean of influences. Clients narratives inevitably touch on the topic of core identity, which has a significant impact on all of us, often in ways we don't fully appreciate.

We all have a unique core identity profile, much of which is shaped by past and ongoing negative experiences associated with core identity factors (race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.). We can't just put these experiences in a box and separate them from our work. Core identity issues impact every aspect of our lives.

People have identities and narratives. So do organizations. The two usually are interrelated. You can't navigate the ocean that surrounds you or your company if you don't see and understand it. Whew's psychological approach to DEI helps clients do just that.​

Why Having Empathy Works

We emphasize empathy as something deeper than just a buzzword.

Empathy can be learned and gets easier with practice. 

Studies show that it can be a core resource for lasting professional and personal improvement. For example, empathy is a key factor in creating a truly diverse and inclusive workplace.

Asare, J.G. (September 25, 2018). Empathy: The key to a diverse and inclusive workplace. Forbes. Online:

DEI is about valuing all employees and stakeholders, making them feel seen, understood and appreciated. Empathy for ourselves (including those parts of ourselves we don't like) and empathy for others is the key to truly seeing, understanding, and appreciating.

The identity of an organization reflects its people. That's why Whew!'s DEI approach starts with developing empathy in individual people, who in turn will implement the organization's DEI goals. 

A Challenging Yet Simple and Effective DEI Approach

Develop Empathetic Individuals

Design Empathetic Institutions 

"We live in a cynical world, a cynical world; and we work in a business of tough competitors."

- Jerry Maguire, 1996

Learn More About How To Address the Challenges of Cynicism and Doubt Head On