Diversity Conference Features Nobel Winner, TV Star and Slew of Experts

By Rebecca R. Hastings, SPHR Jul 9, 2012

Business leaders know they must be able to inspire employees to reach higher, work smarter and embrace new possibilities. HR and diversity leaders can find the tools and resources they need to maximize employee results during SHRM’s 2012 Diversity & Inclusion Conference & Exposition, to be held Oct. 22-24 in Chicago.

Shirley Davis Sheppard, Ph.D., SHRM’s vice president of diversity & inclusion and workplace flexibility, will launch the event with a high-level overview of groundbreaking diversity and inclusion initiatives, including a special announcement about diversity standards.

The “game changer” sessions are back by popular demand and will provide attendees with the opportunity to learn from senior executives from Nationwide Insurance, Girl Scouts of America, Facebook, Weyerhaeuser and Xerox. Speakers featured in these sessions will share the strategies, setbacks and successes they faced in developing their diversity and inclusion programs and will provide real-life examples attendees can take back and use in their own organizations. These executives truly understand that turbulence and change are the “new normal” in today’s global business climate.

Speaking of turbulence, 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner and columnist for the Newsweek Daily Beast, Leymah Gbowee, will share her journey from hopelessness to empowerment and transformation in the opening keynote session. Gbowee is known for gathering a coalition of Christian and Muslim women to protest Liberia’s ruthless president and rebel warlords—actions that were featured in the documentary “Pray the Devil Back to Hell.”

After a round of concurrent sessions on topics ranging from religious diversity to social networks, attendees will get their first glimpse of solutions and resources targeted to the needs of diversity and inclusion professionals when the exhibit hall opens with a networking reception.

Day two of the conference includes sessions on topics such as cognitive diversity, microinequities and generational diversity as well as two notable keynote speakers.

Candi Castleberry-Singleton, chief inclusion and diversity officer at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC)—a $10 billion, 20-hospital global health system and health plan with 55,000 employees—will share UPMC’s journey to inclusion, including its Dignity & Respect Campaign and Cultural Competency Initiative.

After the conference prize drawing in the exhibit hall, John J. Medina, a developmental molecular biologist and author of The New York Times best-seller Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School, will take the stage to explain—in his unique way—how the brain influences the way people work.

That evening, interested attendees can build new connections and share learning experiences by signing up for Meet to Eat dinners organized by SHRM.

Two rounds of concurrent sessions, covering topics such as cultural competence, global talent management, personality-related diversity and social networking, will be offered on the final day of the information-packed event.

The fourth and final keynoter of the conference, Jose Rene Martinez—better known as “J.R.” to anyone who followed his winning appearance on season 13 of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars”—is an actor and retired U.S. Army soldier who suffered smoke inhalation and severe burns to more than 40 percent of his body after getting trapped inside a burning Humvee in Iraq. He travels the U.S. speaking on resilience and optimism—messages every diversity and HR professional needs to hear.

Those new to the field will want to register for the optional full-day, pre-conference session, “The Diversity Practitioner of the 21st Century: What New Practitioners Need to Know,” on Oct. 21, 2012, facilitated by Davis Sheppard and Eric Peterson, SHRM’s manager of diversity and inclusion.

A second full-day, pre-conference offering, “The Inner Work of Diversity Professionals,” led by Howard J. Ross, founder and chief learning officer at Cook Ross Inc. and author of ReInventing Diversity: Transforming Organizational Community to Strengthen People, Purpose and Performance (Rowman & Littlefield, in association with SHRM, 2012), will help diversity professionals uncover barriers to their own success.

Attendees certified by the HR Certification Institute can earn strategic, international and general recertification credits.

As always, the popular SHRMStore will be available with a wide range of additional resources, including books available for signing by select speakers. Attendees can visit the social media lounge and participate in other networking opportunities as well.

Details about the conference can be found online at www.shrm.org/Conferences/Diversity. Attendees can take advantage of a two-for-one-price conference deal by extending their stay to attend the SHRM Workflex Conference, “Re-Imagining the Workplace,” which will kick off Oct. 24, 2012, at the same hotel.

Rebecca R. Hastings, SPHR, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.


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