Barbara Polk

President, Lift Our Voices at Lift Our Voices

Nonprofit Organization Management

Education: BA Rutgers University - Completed graduate coursework at Harvard Business School, American University and University of Maryland
Washington D.C., DC, USA

Biography

Barbara Polk is a nationally known leader in creating inclusive workplace cultures where employees are treated with dignity and respect. She is also a tireless advocate for gender equality, women’s rights and health equity.

Barbara Polk is a nationally known leader in creating inclusive workplace cultures where employees are treated with dignity and respect. She is also a tireless advocate for gender equality, women’s rights, and health equity.

Barbara is a senior executive with more than 25 years of human resources, operations leadership, DEI, and board governance experience. She is currently the President of Lift Our Voices. Barbara has previously held leadership positions at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, National Restaurant Association, American Red Cross, Ellucian and *XO Communications*Acquired by Verizon.

Barbara is also the founder of Amplify People Advisors, a consulting firm specializing in leadership development, diversity and coaching.

She is currently a member of the Board of Directors for Hershey Entertainment & Resorts. HE&R is a privately held entertainment and hospitality company. Barbara previously served on the board of the Tessitura Network. Tessitura Network is a global technology company.

Barbara has a BA in political science from Rutgers University and has also completed graduate coursework at Harvard Business School, American University and University of Maryland. She is also an ICF certified Executive Coach.

Barbara’s new book, Potential- Leveraging Your Past for the Professional and Personal Success You Deserve (available on Amazon) is a business memoir full of humor and insightful guidance to help everyone be the best version of themselves. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09G8ZPSFW

Passion

I am passionate about helping other be the best version of themselves. I am also an advocate of women in leadership and diversity, equity and inclusion.

Featured Video

I am willing to travel

More than 100 miles

When it comes to payments

I generally get paid for speaking but make exceptions

Topics

women and leadership diversity in the workplace executive coaching motivation cultivating resilience training and development corporate culture inclusion women on boards talent development leadership

Best Story

Diversity is all around us. It can be identified as race and ethnicity, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, language, culture, national origin, religious beliefs and identity, age, disability status, and political perspective. Your confidence in navigating our complex world can be how you differentiate yourself as a leader and a human being. It can be scary to wade into a conversation about diversity and how we’re the same or different. You may find that some aspects of a person’s diverse characteristics may not be visible, and you may make a mistake or a microaggression. To magnify the degree of difficulty, we’re living in such polarizing times that everything has become politicized and respectful discourse isn’t the norm. But wade in you must.

Some tips on how to engage: Respect everyone’s identity and don’t make assumptions or create a story about anyone without getting to know them. It’s too easy to fall into stereotyping people of any color or background. You CAN ask questions to determine an individual’s preferences about their identity or pronouns. Most people won’t be offended if you make it clear that there’s no ill intent, just a desire to understand and be respectful. Don’t use outdated or offensive language or labels. For example: a person who is blind is not disabled. They have a disability.

When I engage in dialogue on this topic, I’ve become quite agile at meeting people where they are. I’m a businesswoman, a wife, a parent, a sister, and, yes, a person of color. I can find some commonality, shared experience, skill, or preference, and that’s where I find connection. I find that opening, then I step right in there to see and be seen. There’s one thing I know to be true, and that’s that chaos, anger, and dysfunction don’t result in a good or sustainable outcome. Do you want to run a business where employees are extraordinarily productive and loyal to you? What about a satisfied, diverse client or patron base? Do you want to create an inclusive brand or one that limits your outreach? A business wants to sell products to anyone who wants to buy them. Artists want to perform music for anyone who will pay to listen. We want tourists to come to our country and have a positive experience and enhance our economy. Bias regarding someone’s sexual orientation, gender, or race is simply flawed logic to me. Look at the global landscape. America’s competitive advantage is its diversity. No other country can recruit from such a diverse talent pool or take advantage of the wealth of experience that talent pool brings.

Origin Story

I used to give people advice on how to fit in and to move up the corporate ladder by being a political animal and simply working harder than peers. To some degree there’s still validity in that counsel. However, my perspective has shifted. Maybe that comes with time and experience.

For example, if women keep following the path laid out in front of them, some studies show it will be many, many years before there is gender parity in the C-suite or on boards. I now say be fearless, advocate for yourself, challenge the status quo, and push hard for what you want. It reminds me of the title of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s 2007 book: Well-behaved Women Seldom Make History.

Imagine what doesn’t exist and create the job you want. Be entrepreneurial, have a side hustle so you’re never forced to compromise in a way that hurts your soul. I often juggle multiple projects or endeavors at the same time. I like having the choice in how I build my brand and finances. Think on this. You may be surprised at what you can accomplish when you leverage your strengths.

Your professional career is interwoven with your personal life. There’s no getting away from it. I love what I do and feel blessed to have a career that has challenged and rewarded me. It’s important to pursue a career that suits you and plays to your strengths—one that allows you to be authentic.
As hard as it may be at times, circle back to joy and all the things that replenish you. That’s what realizing your potential truly is: the ability to accept what has happened in life that cannot be changed, learn from it, and love who you are because of or despite it.

Example talks

Women In The Workplace - How To Reach Your Potential

How can you truly reach your potential? How can you maximize all of your strengths to have the career of your dreams. Oh, and you want a personal life too!

I will share all of my learnings, research and observations from a twenty-five year career most of which has been as a C-suite executive. I also am a ICF certified executive coach and have worked with a myriad of executives in a variety of industries. Let me tell you what could be holding you back and how to re-energize your career and joy at work.

I engage the audience with humor, real life stories, examples and scientific data on women in the workplace.

Example: According to a recent Women in Tech report, 41% of the women reporting cited a lack of mentors as the main hindrance to promotion.

I share a five step plan to build your personal career roadmap:

1. Understand your current status (It may not be what you think)
2. Know and magnify your strengths and focus on them rather than areas of weakness.
3. Create and curate your brand and build recognition internally and externally. (What differentiates you from everyone else)
4. How to find mentor(s) and allies
5. The execution plan - 1 year, 5 year and beyond.

Participants will receive a pragmatic toolkit and referrals to other materials to jumpstart or enhance their career trajectory.

Truly Understanding Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in the Workplace

Everyone desires to feel included, appreciated, and valued. Diversity can encompass race, gender, age, nationality, disability, as well as a myriad of other differences such as education, intellectual background, religious affiliation, marital status. The intersectionality between power and privilege and acknowledgment of the fears and concerns of displacement by some employees must be handled sensitively.
The following fundamentals are included in this talk.

• Addressing and naming your unconscious bias. (Requires pre-work activity)
• How best to model and cultivate a just, equitable, and holistically diverse environment for your organization
• Using an equity lens to see patterns of racism, sexism, heterosexism, cis-sexism, classism, ableism, nativism, ageism, religious, body type and other forms of bias that can negatively affect the employees.
• The importance of respect and inclusion in your communication and actions toward others. Awareness of the impact of stereotypes when communicating across cultures (ethnic/racial groups) diplomatically/non-confrontationally/non-offensively.
o Creating a safe and welcoming environment in which every person can be and feel invited, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate.