Professional Women's Roundtable

The PoWeR of Connections

PWR's Interview with Kim Cermak, Speaker for Diversity & Inclusion Series

Monday, January 28, 2019 10:26 AM | Anonymous

On January 25, PWR's President, Beth Lawrence, interviewed Kim Cermak, our speaker and expert for the upcoming three-part Diversity & Inclusion Series. The series has been granted SHRM Credits (1.5 per event) for participants.

1. You seem to be doing a lot of things and have vast experience with many different types of organizations. Can you tell us a little bit about how you got started?

The pivotal job in my career was the 15 years I spent working as the Marketing Director and eventually National Sales Director for a cross-cultural training firm in Minneapolis, MN.  I had just returned from living in Luxembourg and did not even know the industry existed. At that time our work was primarily focused on supporting corporate families that were relocating internationally.  I was energized and fascinated by the constant development and growth that happens when working with people from different countries and cultures. Learning the theoretical concepts and research in the field provided a framework for me to process my own international experiences and understand myself and others better.  During that time I became increasingly curious about the impact of culture on religion and pursued my master’s degree in the area. This led to my interest in Eastern contemplative practices and my passion for yoga. Becoming a certified Bikram yoga instructor fortified my path to mindfulness and the need for more reflection in the workplace. In order to change perspectives we need to first stop and “be”.  This is not the norm in Western cultures where we are rewarded to “do”

2. You’ve lived outside of the US in a few places. Can you tell us how this influenced your methodology and your viewpoint?

Living in Bordeaux, France, as a foreign exchange student at age 20, was one of the most impactful experiences of my life.  It expanded my worldview, challenged many of the assumptions I had been operating from and was extremely humbling. My French was terrible when I arrived and l realized that learning another language and culture is so much more than learning the words and putting together sentences; it is about learning how another group of people think, relate and operate in the world.  We always infuse our programs with activities, simulations and discussion, as the more senses that are stimulated the deeper the learning. We don’t become more inclusive with just cognitive solutions. It is an experiential process of sensing and feeling, which eventually leads to behavior change. Traveling to new places is such a profound educational experience, as all the senses are stimulated.  

3. Why is it important to not only strive for diversity, but also inclusion?

There is a popular saying in the field of D&I.  “Diversity is being invited to the party.  Inclusion is being asked to dance.”   Seeking out individuals who will broaden the experience base and thinking patterns of a team or organization is step one.  Step two is providing the strategy, support, talent and commitment required to create the culture shift that allows them to feel engaged, see prospects for growth and contribute fully.

4. Your workshops strive to create an environment where everyone is empowered to bring their whole authentic self into the workplace. What was the catalyst for this? Has there ever been a negative effect of someone bringing their Whole Authentic Self to  the workplace?

After years of working with individuals, teams and organizations I have witnessed how the spirit dies, when we are forced to be someone other than ourselves at a place we spend most of our waking hours.  Every group has its own set of expected behaviors and they are usually out of our awareness unless we are not in the group; we then become excruciatingly aware of those behaviors. Not fitting in creates stress and often leads to clinging to the specific attitudes and behaviors that keep us out, as they are a cherished part of our identity.  Every individual has their own assimilation threshold and developmental process. Organizational Affinity Groups or Employee Resource Groups provide support for those on the path to figuring out and/or celebrating their own truth and often serve as change agents and education centers for organizations committed to an inclusive culture shift. Bringing our whole self to work allows us to operate at our highest and most creative potential and is needed for any organization to remain innovative and competitive.

5, Why is cross-cultural communication more important now than ever?

The 2018 Global Talent Competitive Index reports that collaboration between people with different values, knowledge sets, and perspectives, will play a key role in linking talent policies to global strategies. The report alsoconcludes, that we are often ill equipped, to collaborate with people who are different from us.  Globalization is here to stay, whether we are ready, or not. Add to the mix technology, which delivers information from around the world at exorbitant speeds often leaving us feeling overwhelmed, without the skills needed to compete and excel.

Employees need the skills to handle the changing immigration patterns, increased religious diversity, more fluid gender identification, people with differing abilities and broader age ranges in the workplace.

6. What can attendees expect to take away from each of the events in the series?

My hope is that each person will take away from the session what they came to learn and more.  The journey to becoming more inclusive is different for everyone. We all need to become more self-aware of our own assumptions and blind spots.  The life experience and perspective of every individual is different. Learning to listen better would be a great start!

Don't miss our 3-part series on Diversity & Inclusion, beginning on February 19. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit our events page.

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