Diversity Conference Sure To Be a Conversation Starter

By Rebecca R. Hastings, SPHR Jul 21, 2008

When a group of change agents gather in one of America’s most historic southern cities, interesting conversations are likely to ensue.

The setting is the SHRM Diversity Conference & Exposition to be held at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis hotel in Atlanta from Oct. 27-29.

Lisa Ling, host of National Geographic Channel’s “Explorer,” special contributor for “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and former co-host of Barbara Walters’ hit daytime talk show “The View,” is scheduled to be the opening keynote speaker. Ling has traveled around the world in search of the truth behind some of the most challenging issues of the day, including female suicide bombers, gang rape and the trafficking of teens. “I want to raise consciousness about issues and stories that don’t always make the headlines,” she says on her blog.

The second keynote will be delivered by Frans Johansson, author of The Medici Effect. His book, inspired by the Medici banking family in Renaissance Italy, explains how those who find opportunities to “intersect” with people from other fields are more likely to generate ideas which turn into groundbreaking innovations. He says three driving forces—the movement of people, the convergence of scientific disciplines and the leap in computational power—are increasing the number and types of intersections we can access.

Bill Strickland, president and CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corp., will close the event by sharing his unique insights on leadership. Strickland set out in 1968 to provide a better environment for at-risk kids in the Pittsburgh area by opening a ceramics studio in a run-down row house. His simple vision, inspired by his high school art teacher, has grown into a 62,000 sq.-foot facility where Pittsburgh teens can learn clay making, photography, culinary arts and more.

A special session on “Global Diversity and Inclusion Issues in the 21st Century” features panelists Steve Bucherati, chief diversity officer for The Coca-Cola Co., Dr. Rohini Anand, senior vice president and global chief diversity officer for Sodexho USA, and Deborah Dagit, executive director of diversity and work environment for Merck & Co.

Attendees can further enhance their professional development by registering for one of three optional pre-conference workshops:

  • Grace Odums, a Philadelphia-area consultant, will share a 10-step process for becoming, and remaining, a true strategic partner to the CEO and other members of the C-suite.

  • Dr. Edward E. Hubbard of California-based Hubbard & Hubbard Inc. will illustrate how to create a strategic diversity return on investment plan.

  • Mary Jane Sinclair of Sinclair Consulting in New Jersey will describe how to start a diversity initiative from scratch.

First-timers should make attending the conference orientation session, scheduled for Oct. 27, a priority to learn how to get the most out of their conference experience.

Abundant Networking Opportunities

The ability to have courageous conversations is lauded by some diversity experts as a key business skill. Attendees will have ample opportunities to practice this skill as they network with fellow diversity and human resource practitioners during the two-and-a-half day event. The always popular Diversity Doctor Networking Breakfast should not be missed.

New this year is an opportunity to participate in SHRM’s first ever conference book club, to be held Sunday afternoon. Visit the “conferences” tab on the SHRM web site—www.shrm.org—for complete details.

The conference hotel is located just minutes from the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, where Dr. King is entombed, as well as Centennial Olympic Park and the Georgia Aquarium. Visitors can also taste Coca-Cola products from around the world at the New World of Coca-Cola, just a few city blocks from the hotel.

SHRM members who register by Aug. 1 can attend for $1,025. Non members who register by the same date pay $1,270 unless they join SHRM at the same time, in which case the combined fee is $1,170. Between Aug. 2 and Sept. 26, the member fee is $1,130, while nonmembers pay $1,375. Registration is also available onsite.

Rebecca R. Hastings, SPHR, is online editor/manager of SHRM’s Diversity Focus Area.


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