A typical day for Cheryl Kern, Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at MillerKnoll, never looks the same. A visionary and connected leader, Kern and her team have guided the organization through times of change, identifying opportunities to grow and take meaningful action.
Since joining the company in January 2021, her daily work centers around leading MillerKnoll’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategy globally and connecting DEI initiatives to the company’s purpose and values. MillerKnoll is on a journey to redesign the future by promoting equity in its workspaces and communities around the globe and recently introduced ten DEI Actions to hold themselves accountable. Kern oversees the company’s progress and promotes social justice and opportunities for underrepresented groups so all people can thrive. She believes all associates can contribute to the company’s efforts no matter their geographic location, gender, or race. The DEI ecosystem also focuses on delivering value to external stakeholders.
“Collectively, we are also experiencing the power of our DEI strategy, which is inclusive of supporting our customers’ priorities, leveraging supplier diversity, and partnering with our diverse dealers. This makes a difference in the markets we serve globally,” said Kern.
Additionally, Kern and her team provide organizational consultation focused on infusing DEI throughout global operations, including recruitment and talent development strategies, diverse leadership development, supplier diversity, associate resource groups known as Equity Teams, the corporate foundation and global giving program, and the Diversity in Design (DID) Collaborative. She also works with leadership to ensure there is an enterprise-wide focus on equity and alignment with the direction of MillerKnoll’s Global DEI Council, comprised of CEO, Andi Owen, and the leadership team.
Kern was recently recognized by Diversity Global Magazine as a 2022 Top 10 Influential Women In Diversity and has been named to the 2021 Diversity Officers DEI Influencers list by the National Diversity Council.
During Kern’s tenure, the company:
- Continued its signatory status to the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion Pledge
- Advanced the development of Four Employees to the CEO Action Fellowship
- Hosted its second Days of Understanding
- Launched the Diversity in Design (DID) Collaborative which continues to grow and activate
- Earned the Top Score in Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2022 Corporate Equality Index
- Partnered with Hip-Hop Architect Michael Ford to Support Educational Opportunities for Design Students
- Received Excellence in Supplier Diversity Award from Great Lakes Women’s Business Council
- Joined the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
- Established the Knoll Diversity and Design Scholarships for Black Students
- Launched S.E.A.T, a program focused on advancing the organization’s diverse business partners
- Implemented a Global Multicultural Executives Committee to advise DEI, leadership, and human resources
During her time so far at MillerKnoll, Cheryl Kern sat down to talk through some highlights:
Q: What are you most proud of?
A: I am so proud of the growth MillerKnoll has achieved over the past year, building on the strong commitments to DEI of both Herman Miller and Knoll. We couldn’t have made this progress without the support of our CEO and leadership team, and the work of our broader teams and internal talent continuing to push us forward to be better.
Q: What do diversity, equity, and inclusion mean to you? Why did you get into this work?
A: Diversity is the unique attributes that we all bring. It is what uniquely defines us and what each of us should be proud of. When we bring them all together as a tapestry in the workplace, it makes us all stronger.
When I think about equity, I think about it within the context of, and the contrast to equality. Sometimes the two are confused. Equality really means sameness. And as we know, everyone is not the same, nor does everyone need the same support system. We want to provide equitable opportunities and remove systemic barriers for groups and individuals that need extra support so they can have the same fair chances as all other groups. I believe it is important for our associates and leaders globally to think of equity as a global issue and not just an issue in the US. Equity is felt across a full spectrum of differences.
Lastly is our focus and commitment to inclusion. When I think about inclusion, I think about people having a fun dance, where everybody is together having a really good time, and no one is judging each other. Whether you are doing a modern dance like a line dance or a traditional dance like a square dance, you are accepted for simply being on the dance floor. When we are accepted for simply being who we are, we have a sense of confidence and belonging.
As you think about these three words (diversity, equity, and inclusion), hopefully, you can see why they are so critically important to our future. When we invite all voices to the table and listen to them with respect, we can grow together and create greater solutions.
Q: What is next? What are you looking forward to most?
A: I am inspired by our people and their passion and determination to live out MillerKnoll’s values. That, along with the shared knowledge and talent across MillerKnoll are game changers and I am excited about what we’ll accomplish together in the future.
As we continue to create a more equitable world, I am looking forward to working with other teams to bring more diverse talent to the company and to leadership roles across the business and growing the number of associates who are champions of DEI work.
To learn more about the company’s journey and progress to becoming more diverse, equitable, and inclusive, click here and read more stories of impact here.