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Leadership

Rhonda Christopher of BKD on Diversity and Inclusion

As a founding member of BKD’s diversity and inclusion program, Rhonda shares her insight on how to ensure all employees feel welcome in the workplace.

by Rae Swan Snobl

Sep 07 2021 at 8 a.m.

Rhonda Christopher of BKD
Photo courtesy BKD CPAs & AssociatesRhonda Christopher is a director at BKD CPAs & Associates and a founding member of BKD’s diversity and inclusion program.

Biz 417: Understanding diversity in the workplace is so important. How is BKD working to support gender and ethnic diversity in the workplace?
Rhonda Christopher: BKD implemented a firmwide diversity initiative about eight years ago with a vision to attract, retain, and develop diverse leaders at BKD. I was fortunate to serve on the firm’s SKY Advisory Council for six years and currently as one of three SKY Champions in our Springfield, Branson, and Joplin offices. The SKY initiative has been effective in increasing the number of women in the firm at levels from associate through partner year over year and in increasing the number of our ethnically diverse professionals. This was accomplished through many programs including live professional development training, book clubs, coach training, and the Sponsor-Protege Program.

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BKD CPAs & Advisors

Biz: What are some ways businesses can be mindful of advocating for women’s growth and leadership across all ethnicities and cultural backgrounds?
R.C.: Education is a key component of increasing diversity in the workplace and a purposeful program like SKY Is needed to drive the education. We all come together with different life experiences and unconscious biases. Through education, we can learn to better appreciate each other’s perspectives and communication styles. Business leaders must truly lead the way to drive lasting change.

Biz: Are there aspects of SKY that focus on an inclusive approach to leadership and coaching?
R.C.: Each month our Leadership Team participates in a discussion on a focused topic such as inclusive feedback, equitable mentoring, and what inclusive leaders sound like.  In addition, our coaches have specific training to help them be more effective in giving inclusive feedback advancing the careers of all our personnel. Overall, the intent is to create an inclusive culture and remove cultural barriers that could prevent any BKDer from maximizing their potential.

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