2016 ERG & Council Conference:
Educate - Engage - Empower!
Presenters & Featured Events
Three of the Featured Events from 2015 included Pillsbury Theatre's production "Breaking Ice", Maysoon Zayid and The Flame Band.
Breaking Ice is a customized professional theatre experience created for organizations and businesses that need help with difficult issues both interpersonal and institutional. Because every organization wrestles with communication – often based on misunderstanding or cultural differences. But you don't have to let those differences block your organization's ability to move forward and succeed.
Maysoon Zayid is an actress, professional standup comedian, and writer. She received a BA in Acting from Arizona State University and is the co-founder/co-executive producer of the New York Arab American Comedy Festival. Maysoon was a full-time She is a recurring columnist at The Daily Beast and was a speaker at TEDWomen 2013.
Maysoon's screenplay, LAW, was chosen for the Sundance Middle Eastern Screenwriters Lab. She was a delegate at the 2008 Democratic National Convention and named one of 21 leaders of the 21st century by Women's Enews. She is the founder of Maysoon's Kids, an education and wellness program for disabled and wounded refugee children. Maysoon was delighted to be a 2013 honoree of United Cerebral Palsy of NYC's Women Who Care Awards and currently sits on the planning committee.
The Flame Band
The Flame Band is a group of talented musicians from upstate New York who happen to have disabilities and is capturing the world’s attention. In 2003 the band, from Lexington – Fulton County Chapter, NYSARC, Inc. started changing the world through their music. Since then, requests to hire Flame have poured in from all over the world. They are a phenomenon that connects with people of all ages and backgrounds like no other, from singing children to dancing executives. Parents of children with special needs are often overcome with emotion watching Flame, because they see that it’s possible to have their own child achieve great things, and even more importantly, have a fun and fulfilling life, like those in the band.
Their mission is to bring Flame’s music and message to the rest of the world to help change how the public perceives people with disabilities and increase the awareness and acceptance of all people.
Linda Stokes: Conference Host
President & CEO at PRISM International, Inc. &
the Association of ERGs & Councils
Linda founded PRISM in 1992 with the mission of increasing organizational performance by creating more inclusive workplaces that value the contributions of all employees and that connect D&I strategies and tactics to the business of the organization. Under her leadership, PRISM has provided D&I consulting services, training and products to millions of employees in hundreds of organizations around the globe.
She is the co-author of Multicultural Customer Service: Providing Outstanding Service Across Cultures, author of numerous journal articles, media contributor on topics of organizational strategic and tactical D&I, and a curriculum developer of over 120 cross cultural and D&I consulting and training programs. She is a recognized leader in the field of D&I and coaches and mentors Executives, CDOs and diversity professionals at several American and European global firms. As a women-owned certified business headquarter in Central Florida, Linda’s leadership and success was recognized by the Women’s Executive Council of Orlando when she was awarded their Women’s Achievement Award for Business.
In 2006, she recognized the special needs of Diversity Councils and Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) and created the Association of ERGs & Councils. That was followed in 2008 with the launching of the annual ERG & Council Honors Award™ and in 2012 with the first annual ERG & Council Conference™.
In 2014, Linda responded to the growing healthcare needs of providing exceptional service and care by increasing cultural and language competencies by developing a special suite of healthcare skills and tools.
Most recently she taking confronting our unconscious biases, micro-inequities, and cultural misunderstandings to the next level by creating The Elephant We Can't See™- a unique workshop that uses storytelling followed by interactive, engaging, skill building training to help begin a dialogue about any difference that makes a difference in the organization.
Prior to PRISM, Linda's professional experience included management and executive experience in education, healthcare, banking and international customer service consulting and training. She received her B.A. in Psychology from Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida and her M.A. in Educational Leadership from Stetson University in Deland Florida.
Debbie Smith Rayford: Conference Host
Executive Director at the Association of ERGs & Councils
Debbie is the Executive Director of the Association of ERGs & Councils (a practice group of diversity and inclusion consulting and training firm PRISM International, Inc.).
She served as the Chief Communications and Diversity Officer with Wellness Corporate Solutions, Vice President of Global Diversity and Inclusion for Discovery Communications, Executive Director of the Walter Kaitz Foundation and Senior Vice President, Director of Diversity at Allfirst Financial, Inc. She has over 25 years of diversified professional business experience with strong emphasis in diversity management, banking, minority business issues and the federal legislative process, she has a multi-faceted approach to solving any business issue.
Debbie has been the recipient of many awards including the Pioneer Award from the Organization For A New Equality for her outstanding work in expanding economic opportunities for minorities and women; "A Heritage of Greatness Award" from the Howard University Undergraduate Student Assembly for her contributions and achievements in the minority business community; the President's Award from the National Association of Urban Bankers in recognition of her dedication, support and remarkable contributions to the advancement of NAUB.
She was named one of MultiChannel News “Women to Watch” in the cable industry and one of the industry’s most influential Defenders of Diversity. Black Enterprise named her as a "Top Executive in Diversity" in 2011 and Women In Cable Telecommunications awarded her the WICT "Inspiration" Touchstones Award. Most recently she was nominated to serve on the SHE DC Task Force, an initiative to empower women in the Washington Metropolitan area. She is also a member of the Washington Performing Arts Society Women’s Committee.
A native Washingtonian, she holds a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary and Special Education from the Catholic University of America and a Masters in Business Administration from Howard University.