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Kari Heistad, MA

Founder and CEO

Company: Culture Coach International (CCI); Diversity Dashboard
Role: Session Presenter

2019 Conference Session: Doing It by the Numbers—Diversity, Metrics and the Bottom Line (S6-E)
2021 Conference Session: Talking Race @ Work (S8-A)

Kari Heistad is a world-renowned expert in creating corporate diversity initiatives, teaching companies and organizations how to succeed in a multicultural marketplace, and helping companies, organizations, and employees to gain cultural competency skills. As CEO and founder of Culture Coach International (CCI) and Diversity Dashboard, her work has brought her into contact with world leaders, business executives, inner-city youth, and nonprofit professionals.

Kari’s expertise in global business diversity has been crafted through more than 25 years of international living and work in the field. Her passion for international living was sparked when she moved to Norway as a teenager and has continued through the years, taking her to live in other countries such as Scotland and Greece. These experiences living abroad have been rounded out with many well-stamped passports resulting from her professional work consulting, training, leading teams, and speaking throughout Europe.

Kari received a BS in microbiology from Bates College. Upon graduating, she worked as a researcher in the biotech industry before realizing that her passion for intercultural work outweighed her interest in biology. To help her pursue her passion for working with people in diverse environments, Kari received a master’s in international administration from the School of International Training.

Kari founded Culture Coach International (CCI) in 1998 as Creative Concepts while she was living in Athens, Greece. She based the foundations of the company upon her passion for learning about other cultures and bringing people together in ways that encouraged cross-cultural understanding. Upon her return to the U.S., Kari decided to pursue the consulting work that she had grown to love while living in Greece. She worked as a consultant until 2007 when her desire to lead a team and to impact a million people around the world drove her to develop the corporate team and infrastructure necessary to take the company global.

Due to her curriculum development efforts, in 2002 she was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study multicultural education in New Zealand. Her Fulbright curriculum that teaches about the Maori has been downloaded more than 4,000 times.

Over the years, Kari has spoken before 15,000 people through her training programs, speeches before business and cultural groups, and as a speaker for regional and national conferences. She enjoys serving as an expert resource on issues of workplace diversity and international business for members of the media including The Wall Street Journal.

From 2010 to 2016, Kari served as a national taskforce member developing draft national diversity standards for the Society for Human Resource Management.

As a consultant, Kari has worked across a wide range of industries. Engagements have included the American Diabetes Association, where she served as a coach for their executive diversity committee and for their diversity council as they developed their diversity strategy for the organization, and she provided coaching for their diversity director. Kari served as the diversity officer for Ocean Spray Cranberries for seven years where she was tasked with all facets of their internal diversity work including guiding the diversity council, working with leaders throughout the organization, designing a diversity education program, creating a companywide generational assessment, and starting and managing employee resource groups. She also oversaw the creation of an internal communication plan including a quarterly diversity newsletter. With her guidance, Ocean Spray won several local diversity awards.

Kari has served in a consulting role for Amica Insurance for the past nine years, and for Partners Healthcare she has worked more than a year to conduct research into key areas of focus for diversity training, developed an extensive diversity training strategy, and then worked to create a customized training program based upon the strategy. She is now presenting that training to mid-level managers.

In 2010, the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council recognized Kari as one of 14 national “Rising Stars” for her entrepreneurial work as the CEO of CCI. She was also recognized in 2010 by Color magazine as one of the Top Ten: Who’s Who in Diversity and Inclusion. Kari’s volunteer leadership work includes serving as a board member for the UN Association of Greater Boston and in the past has served on the national education committee for UNA-USA which gave her a national educational leadership award in 2014. She completed the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses scholarship program in 2014, a program designed to help select business owners accelerate economic growth in the U.S.

In January 2017, Kari started the company Diversity Dashboard, an online project management software designed to help corporate diversity professionals track their activity, measure their results, and report their ROI. Since the launch, Kari has recruited a team of six others to help with the development of the product. She recently completed the eight-month WIN business accelerator program at Babson College where she won the Community Award for her work supporting the WIN community during the program. More information about Diversity Dashboard can be found at


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Photos by Sarah Morreim Photography
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