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Kevin Iwamoto: My Journey Advocating for DEI and Belonging

September 8, 2022
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Kevin Iwamoto, Bizly.
Kevin Iwamoto
 

I was recently honored to be recognized by Meetings Today as one of its 20 Meetings Trendsetters for 2022, citing my industry advocacy and personally funded scholarships on behalf of diversity-equity-inclusion-belonging (DEIB) causes, specifically for the Asian-American, Asian and Pacific Islander (API) communities. Of all the industry recognition I have been blessed to receive over the span of my professional career, this acknowledgment resonated personally for me. 

[Listen to Kevin Talk About DEI: Bizly's Kevin Iwamoto on API Advocacy, Meetings Tech]

In the lengthy course of my career, I have experienced “tokenism,” being regarded as “other,” being stereotyped as an “Asian male,” microaggression and many other forms of discriminatory practices both intentional and unintentional.  I was blessed to have grown up in the state of Hawaii, which is a melting pot of cultures and nationalities. So, much of the discrimination I have personally experienced happened in the second chapter of my life and career when I moved to California in the mid-1980s.  

My Journey of Self-Awareness

But my own journey of self-awareness of what was going on happened later in my career. It was an epiphany like the hymn Amazing Grace: “...was blind, but now I see.” I started to realize, “Why am I the only Asian or person of color in advisory board and industry leadership meetings? Why aren't there more API senior executives in our industry? Why aren't more API professionals receiving award recognition? Why aren't more industry allies calling out against API hate crimes and supporting their API industry colleagues?” 

[Read Our Meetings Trendsetters Write-Up of Kevin: 2022 Meetings Trendsetters]

All these new and enlightening thoughts flooded my consciousness, resulting in thoughts and actions to change the dynamic, open more dialog and awareness and having more difficult conversations, using my “tokenism status” to make it better for people of color, and especially for the API community. Creating and personally funding opportunities for those who want to advance their careers and aspire to be part of the executive suite was something tangible I could do and support. 

So, if you have noticed a change in my industry opinions and op-eds, you are correct. I am committed to using my industry and personal platform to educate, inform and advocate for the underrepresented communities of color. And most importantly, that change starts with me and you. If we can commit to educating the ignorant and uninformed, we can help to dial back the polarization—all it takes is a commitment from each person who is not happy with the current climate of hate, bigotry and violence. It truly starts with us. 

Several months ago, Bizly applied for and has now received our minority business enterprise (MBE) certification. Why is that important? Because representation matters; it sends a message to all the “others,” whether they be a minority-owned business or an individual, that they too can rise, dream big and belong. I am proud of Bizly and our culture of embracing diversity and inclusion.  

I would love and appreciate reading your DEIB stories, so reach out and share them with me and rest assured, I see and hear you!  

Read More Meetings Today DEI Content

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About the author
Kevin Iwamoto

Kevin Iwamoto is chief customer officer for meetings technology company Bizly. He has two published books: Strategic Meetings Management: From Theory to Practice; and Your Personal Brand, Your Power Tool to Build Career Integrity. He was previously president and CEO of the NBTA (now GBTA) from 2001-2003, a senior category manager for Hewlett-Packard’s global travel and meetings team and senior travel account manager for Disney Worldwide Services.

Kevin can be reached via kiwamoto@bizly.com.