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Interview with Cindu Thomas-George

By July 16, 2019 No Comments

Cindu is an award winning tenured professor of Communication Studies at the College of Lake County specializing in Intercultural Communication. Additionally, Cindu is the Founder and Principal trainer of Shakti Diversity and Equity Training, a diversity and inclusion consulting firm.  As a diversity practitioner, she works with organizations across industries to provide professional development that promotes equity, inclusion, anti-racism, and cultural competence. It was her own lived experiences navigating childhood as the daughter of Indian immigrants in a predominately White suburb of Chicago and her experiences of teaching in Higher Education as a young woman of color that drew her to a career committed to promoting anti-racism, equity, and cultural competency. Cindu lives in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village with her husband and their children.

 

  1. What do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment (personal or professional)?

Motherhood. I will never have a bigger or better life accomplishment than my two boys, Jhaxon and Jhazper. Motherhood requires endless sacrifices, selflessness, and courage – but the payoff is priceless. 

 

  1. What does a diversity consultant do?

As a diversity consultant, I provide professional development workshops and Diversity and Inclusion coaching to leaders and employees across various industries. In my work, I equip people with fundamental knowledge and skills necessary to be advocates of diversity and agents of change who are empowered to work towards cultivating an inclusive and equitable organizational culture.  One of my goals in the work that I do is to increase one’s self awareness and strengthen cultural competency in order for people to communicate respectfully and productively with each other in today’s increasingly diverse workplace.  

 

  1. What inspired you to get into this field?

It was my own experiences with racism and being othered that I had growing up as the daughter of Indian immigrants in a homogenous White community and my experiences of being a young woman of color teaching in Higher Education (which has historically been populated by White males) that drew me into the work I do today as a Diversity and Inclusion consultant.  

 

  1. Who are some Asian women you admire?

Indra Nooyi (former Pepsi CEO and member of Amazon’s board of directors) for breaking glass ceilings in corporate America and showing the world that immigrant, women of color can be just as (if not more) powerful and successful in leadership roles.

 

 Mindy Kaling for breaking barriers and paving the path for other South Asians and women of color Hollywood. I also admire that she created media representation for Indian females, it’s important for us to see ourselves in the media. Finally, I love that she is unapologetically showing the world that marriage is not a requirement for motherhood. 

 

Kamala Harris for being an inspirational and powerful force in our political arena. She comes from a long line of Indian women that have demonstrated their commitment to social justice issues, and she is no different. 

 

Padma Lakshmi because she is fierce and who doesn’t love Padma Lakshmi!? In my opinion, she is…..life goals! 

 

  1.   What is a book that you think everyone should read?

Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi. This book takes a deep dive into the history of race and racism in the United States and I feel that it is important for anyone living in this country to read. In my work as a professor and consultant, I have come to realize that too few Americans know the ugly history of racism in this country. Unless we understand this history, we will never be able to have productive conversations about race/racism and if we can’t talk about racism, then we will never be able to dismantle it.   

 

  1.  How do you get motivated? 

I am a goal setter and am motivated by seeing the fruits of my labor. I’m also extremely passionate about the meaningful and rewarding work I do. It’s easy to stay motivated when your efforts are helping to create positive social change. 

 

  1.  What is some advice you have for your teenage self?

I would help my teenage self to understand that my difference is not deficient. I grew up feeling ashamed of my difference (I was teased a lot for my name, my parent’s Indian accent, the curry smell in my home, etc) and I wish that I hadn’t taken so long in my identity development to feel proud of my Indian-ness and realize my worth and just how beautiful I am both internally and externally. I had chronically low self esteem until I realized the beauty in my uniqueness.  Different is not deficient, it’s just different- and our world would be such a boring place if there was no difference. 

 

  1.  If you could ask yourself any question, what would it be, and what is the answer?

What is one of your favorite quotes and why?

Answer: “Nothing changes unless something changes” 

This is one of my favorite quotes and I apply it to all areas of life. I’m always trying to be the best version of myself- whether it is to be a better mom, have a better marriage, a better diversity practicioner, be healthier, etc. This quote reminds me that I have to be willing to make changes in my life in order to get to the place I desire. Nothing happens if you stay complicit and do the same thing over and over again. Change is hard and uncomfortable and a lot of people like to stay comfortable, but in many instances, behavior changes are necessary in order to get where you want in life. 

 

  1. What is your go-to coffee order? Dark roast pour over with a touch of whole milk, no sugar.

 

  1.  What, in your opinion, is the biggest problem facing Asian women today? Sexism and Patriarchy.

The idea that males are superior and more powerful than females is especially dominant in Asian cultures and families. Male supremacy is so prevalent in the larger Asian culture that in some regards, it has become socially accepted and normative. Male supremacy is similar to White supremacy in that it is largely invisible and subconscious. Many of us were raised to believe that we shouldn’t speak too loudly or stick out from the crowd, that we should be the ones who are cooking, cleaning, and taking care of our children rather than be the breadwinners, that we should be ladylike and submit to our husbands, and/or  that we should stand behind our husbands rather than next to them. Unfortunately, sometimes without even realizing it, we succumb to these cultural norms and expectations. If we can collectively make more noise about male supremacy in Asian communities, we can help to make it more visible. Calling out and naming sexism and patriarchy will only help make our own families and communities aware which can lead to greater gender equality within Asian families and communities. 

Connect with Cindu here:

Instagram: @shaktidiversityandequity

YouTube: Cindu Thomas-George

LinkedIn: Cindu Thomas-George

Website: shaktitraining.com

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