This week, 352 hosted Soon Mee Kim, Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Leader at Porter Novelli. Soon Mee kicked off the conversation by announcing it’s her last day in this role. She was recently appointed as Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer at Omnicom Public Relations Group, the parent company of Porter Novelli.

Below is a brief recap of the Off the Record conversation, which was moderated by Kacie Lett Gordon, SVP of Strategy at 352:

Creating an Environment of Inclusion – Where do you Start?

Soon Mee provided attendees with clarity by defining how a successful Global DEI practice is embedded within internal and external functions of an organization. From an internal perspective, DEI work is infused within innovation, go-to-market strategy, and talent acquisition. Externally, DEI can take the form of crisis management and client communication strategy.

How’s that exclusion working for you? How’s that sameness working for you?

Candidly, Soon Mee shared that basic inclusion starts with “I” or at the individual level. For inclusion to happen, one has to have a basic sense of dignity and humanity, coupled with a desire to grow. As a start point, Soon Mee suggested taking an inventory of the diversity (or lack thereof) within immediate friend groups and evaluating the kinds of media being consumed. Both of these can indicate how much exposure one is getting to alternate perspectives and other cultures, which challenges stereotypes.

The Upside to Cancel Culture

“Cancel culture. I love cancel culture!” said Soon Mee. “When and if I’m ever cancelled, I’ll be really sad […] everyone deserves an opportunity for redemption. People should be called out! That sense of accountability is really important. Let’s not pretend canceling has not been happening this whole time.”

Soon Mee elaborated by sharing that versions of cancel culture like, “You’ll never work in this town again,” used to take place behind closed doors, but now these moments are all public on digital platforms. The power of canceling what others deem as bad behavior has been more evenly distributed. “I do feel like people should be held accountable for doing the right thing,” said Soon Mee.

Guiding Principles Beyond a Plaque

One of the first things that Soon Mee set up at Porter Novelli was a set of company values that served as more than just a plaque on the wall. Kacie and Soon Mee discussed leveraging values as a facilitation tool. While developing and defining values can feel “fluffy” to certain personalities, during moments of tension, they can serve as rules of engagement from an operational standpoint.

Company values and DEI practices are moral and business imperatives because they establish a common language between organizations, customers, and employees. “Treat your employees as people first. How are we addressing mental health and emotional wellbeing? So many communities are really struggling. Black professionals are experiencing a low-grade depression with the trauma that is being experienced and re-lived. People need space and resources. It’s so important,” said Soon Mee.

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