Marilyn Tam urges Vermont employers to embrace workplace diversity

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Marilyn Tam urges Vermont employers to embrace workplace diversity

Mon, 09/28/2015 - 5:51am -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine Nearly 400 Vermont employers came together Friday at the Sheraton Burlington to hear an inspiring message from global business leader and humanitarian Marilyn H Tam about the importance and value of workplace diversity. Tam addressed the rapidly changing faces of the nation and the world—including Vermont—as well as the shifting age of workers and the dramatic rise of women-owned companies. Tam was the keynote speaker at the second annual Vermont Business Roundtable Executive Leadership series breakfast. Her talk, “Diversity: How to Reap Vermont’s Rich Harvest of Culture, Creativity & Community,” connected such diverse themes as life purpose and work-life balance with how to accelerate change in the workplace to achieve greater diversity.

A former CEO of Aveda Corp, president at Reebok and vice president of Nike Inc, Tam shared her own sobering story overcoming cultural hardship in Hong Kong where she was born into a traditional Chinese family (her mother didn’t want another girl), and rising to become an influential corporate leader and more recently an advocate for living a happy, healthy, successful and balanced life.

Marilyn Tam at the Vermont Business Roundtable in South Burlington. Karen Pike photos.

“Marilyn Tam shared a refreshing message of hope and self-reliance,” says Lisa Ventriss, CEO and president of the Vermont Business Roundtable. “Vermont is more diverse than we think, getting more so by the day, and all of us will benefit from the energy and new ideas that workforce diversity brings.”

Tam shared her philosophy about work-life balance, the significant cost of unhappiness (estimated at $550 Billion in the U.S. in 2013), and the four principles that have helped her succeed in the workplace and life: tell the truth, make partners, make big mistakes, and die by your own sword.

These principles also apply to driving toward greater workplace diversity, Tam noted.

Three Vermont employers with first-hand experience in workplace diversity also addressed the assembled group. Ted Castle, the owner and president of Rhino Foods, noted “we are horrible at diversity in Vermont” and added “getting the conversation going is a great first step.”

Wanda Heading-Grant, Ph.D., vice president for human resources, diversity and multicultural affairs at the University of Vermont, stressed that “diversity is an economic and social imperative.”

Tiffany Bluemle, director of Change The Story VT, which focuses on advancing women’s economic security in Vermont, urged the audience to be curious and ask questions about gender inequality.

Following her breakfast presentation, Tam led a panel of local diversity leaders who encouraged more than 75 students from local colleges and high schools to find their life purpose to make a positive difference. She also talked about “how to use what you’ve got to get what you want.”

The Vermont Business Roundtable Executive Leadership Series is supported by the generosity of presenting sponsor Green Mountain Power and gold sponsors Champlain Investment Partners, Comcast Business, FreePressMedia, KPMG, Sugarbush as well as silver sponsors Albany College Pharmacy & Health Sciences, of Chroma Technology Corp., Community College of Vermont, Dinse Knapp & McAndrew, Gallagher Flynn & Company, Smugglers’ Notch Resort, Vermont Economic Development Authority, and Vermont Student Assistance Corporation.

Win Smith, Marilyn Tam, Wanda Heading-Grant, Tiffany Blumle, Ted Castle, Lisa Ventriss. Photos by Karen Pike

About the Vermont Business Roundtable

The Vermont Business Roundtable was established in 1987 as a nonprofit, public interest organization. One hundred CEOs of Vermont's top private and non-profit sector employers comprise the Roundtable. They are dedicated to making Vermont the best place in America to do business, be educated, and live life. Since inception, the Roundtable CEOs have dedicated themselves to thoughtful, deliberative, and well-documented analyses of significant public policy issues affecting all Vermonters, ranging from education, economic health, environmental quality, health care policy, and technology.

Learn more about the Roundtable and view published reports at http://vtroundtable.org/