Kimberly S. Reed: Building Her Legacy on Kindness

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By Evan J. Cutts

Kimberly S. Reed, M.Ed., CDP, is an award-winning Global diversity, equality, and inclusion strategist, public speaker, and founder of Reed Development Group, LLC (RDG). Kimberly has cultivated a results-focused brand of eminent credibility and expertise in developing innovative talent strategies that expand into the company’s diversity DNA and revenue imperatives. Driven by a commitment to kindness and equality, Kimberly leads Reed Development Group in hopes of leaving behind a legacy of empowerment so everyone feels unstoppable in their careers and lives.

Kimberly earned a Masters of Education, Adult Organizational Development and Public Policy and holds from certifications in Training and Development, Communication and Conflict from Temple University. Additionally, she received certification in Global Organizational Leadership, Human Resource Management from Temple University’s Fox School of Business. Kimberly’s thought leadership has been featured on FOX News, 6ABC, Huffington Post Business, TechX365, Clear Channel, IHeartMedia and others, for her leadership in diversity, advocacy on women and minorities in leadership, business, and entrepreneurship. In the following Q&A, she shares her philosophies on diversity and inclusion, what she’s learned during a career spanning two decades, and more. Make sure to keep an eye out for her highly-anticipated book set for publication April 2020.

Kimberly S. Reed. Founder and Diversity, Inclusion, and Equality Strategist at Reed Development Group, LLC. (Courtesy of Kimberly S. Reed)

Kimberly S. Reed. Founder and Diversity, Inclusion, and Equality Strategist at Reed Development Group, LLC. (Courtesy of Kimberly S. Reed)

EJC: Can you tell me more about your role as Global Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion Strategist at Reed Development Group? 

KSR: As Global Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion Strategist at Reed Development Group, I have the opportunity and blessing to work with Global Fortune 500, 100, and 50 organizations, as well as universities, nonprofits, and small businesses, to ensure that they are not only identifying and attracting women and people of color but they are also developing and retaining them.[At RDG], we work to ensure there is a trajectory towards the E- and C-suite for these very talented groups of individuals by building strategies. We go into an organization to listen, perform diagnostics, and provide our assessment. Then we either blow up the old strategy, so to speak, revitalize it, or enhance the strategy that’s already in place. Many companies today are really understanding the importance of diversity and inclusion for the growth and innovation of the business.

What does it take to transform an organization’s D&I DNA?

For diversity and inclusion to be in any organization’s DNA requires three things: culture, innovation, and business. Culture is the number one ingredient to that secret sauce; it encompasses inclusion and equality. Without culture, people won’t stay. They won’t feel empowered or motivated and they won’t feel good about the company’s brand eminent. The second ingredient is innovation because diversity is innovation. Having different voices at the table creates new ideas and new pathways to explore. Finally, a company must acknowledge that diversity and inclusion are good, astute business. Diversity and inclusion are not an exception or just something that we should be doing, it is a business imperative. In order for diversity and inclusion to be a part of a company’s DNA, its strategy must be deliberate, valued, seen, learned, and evolutionary. Without those points, it won’t be successful.

My philosophy around diversity is this: diversity is the fusion of action and innovation. Diversity is not a corrective action and we have to stop creating and integrating it as such. That is why it is not sustainable in organizations today. As I said before, diversity is astute business. Diversity has power, morality, human capital, innovation, revenue, performance, and competitiveness under its umbrella. Inclusion is equality, not exception. Meaning when we practice inclusion and embrace our differences we open the door to utilizing those unique differences as a part of our competitive advantage.  

As a professional who has found success in a variety of industries ranging from academia and nonprofits to pharmaceuticals and financial services, what skills did you need to leverage to navigate those environments?

In the corporate sector, I was not savvy enough yet due to my experience. When I was in my 20s and early 30s working for some of the most influential brands in the world, my [professional] experience was different. Navigating those environments was more about my talent and education than my soft skills. Looking at my career during my 30s and 40s what became crystal clear to me was the importance of emotional intelligence. As a counselor, advisor, external Chief Diversity Officer to many organizations, I needed to have emotional intelligence. That also meant I needed to have self-awareness, empathy, and cultural intelligence. I would add that communication skills are important too, but that falls lower on the list because I am blessed to be a professional speaker. That said, emotional intelligence and cultural intelligence have to grow from within. Those skills grow through experience, through failure quite frankly. 

How has the practice of diversity/inclusion work changed in the past decade? In your opinion, what factors have pushed these changes? 

I’ve been involved in the diversity and inclusion space for the last twenty years. I’ve seen it evolve from equal employment opportunities to affirmative action; I’ve also seen the very rigid diversity quotas and imperatives to what it is today. Today, more and more organizations are trying to incorporate D&I into their DNA. As important, is the fact that our workforce is becoming more diverse. There are more women and people of Color in STEM for example. These groups are also graduating with master’s degrees or higher at larger rates than before. So corporate leaders are becoming more aware in this regard and are shifting paradigms with the workforce. 

Having built a 20-year career on successful Global D&I strategy, what do you envision your legacy to be?

You know, I was thinking about this when I was writing my book. It’s dedicated to my mother Barbara E. Reed and my grandmothers. Everything I do, I take to the max every single day—at least I try to—in the memory of my mother Barbara E. Reed and my grandmothers. When I think of my legacy I want people to think that Kim was kind. That I was a forever-advocate and committed to ensuring that people had opportunities to see their potential, to feel their potential, and to know their potential. As importantly, I want them to know that they are unstoppable. So whatever happens, I hope that I contributed to that commitment in some way because that was what was poured into me throughout my entire life; it was the extraordinary example of my mother, and grandmothers and father instilled in me to give. Our kindness matters, that’s what they taught me. Our kindness is the rocket fuel for us to do good in this world. If I can teach people that lesson and provide people opportunities to feel and know it in global companies or nonprofits, that is what I want to do.