DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) is the ubiquitous current catchphrase of our workplaces. While the intent is positive, results can be slow, and the way forward is often murky and stymied. But besides morality, what's the imperative to become more diverse, equitable and inclusive? What are new and different ways to create change and magnify impact? In this interactive fireside chat, two dynamic and lauded women business owners who are unafraid of failure and have created enormous positive change will share their experiences and offer insights on building collaborative cultures. Apart from being a lauded restaurateur, Rohini founded and chaired the James Beard Foundation's Women's Program for a decade. She has recently founded Let's Talk Womxn, a national action movement of 700+ women restaurateurs. Maureen Slocum is the publisher behind FE&S, rd+d and the force behind the entire Zoomba Group. Given that the biggest sin of all is taking no action at all, this session seeks to inspire attendees to make positive changes.
Rohini Dey, Ph.D, Vermillion Restaurateur & Founder, Let's Talk Womxn
A leading restaurateur, proponent of Indian cuisine with her unique Latin twist at Vermilion and zealous champion of women with Let’s Talk Womxn – former World Bank economist and McKinsey & Co. management consultant – Rohini Dey straddles the worlds of business and philanthropy across the US and India.
Rohini’s career spans several phases:
- She taught in Academia, has a Master’s degree in Economics from the Delhi School of Economics and a Doctorate in Management Science from the University of Texas.
- She worked at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. leading projects in foreign investment and coauthored a book on infrastructure privatization.
At McKinsey & Co., her management consulting projects and knowledge development focused on hi-tech and growth.
- As an entrepreneur, Dey combines her business credentials with her passion for food by establishing Vermilion restaurants in Chicago since 2003 and in NYC Manhattan for a decade (2008-2017).
- As a Writer and Speaker, Dey has written over 30 policy and business opinions for CNN, Miami Herald, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times, Huffington Post, Thrive Global and Crain’s Business (#1 op-ed 2016). She has spoken and keynoted at Politico Women Rule, The Global Economic Summit (US State Dept.), TEDx and NATO Summit for Chicago. Her writing proceeds go to the non-profit (MSEdG – Educate Girls Globally) by the Dey-Kohli family.
- As a Women’s Activist, Rohini founded Let’s Talk Womxn in 2020 and leads this action movement of women restaurateurs to build scale together. She has grown this to over 700 women restaurateurs and entrepreneurs across 14 cities in 2 years with expansion still very much underway. Rohini is a staunch supporter of women in business and education of girls globally. To redress the “gastro-ceiling” in her industry, she cofounded the James Beard Foundation Women’s Leadership Program in 2011, which she led and chaired for a decade founding WCL, WEL and Owning It.
Rohini is profiled for entrepreneurship by CNBC and the Financial Times. She has been lauded in the NRN Top 50 Power List in 2021, NRN Top 25 Women of Influence 2022, NAWBO Advocate of the Year 2022, Timeout Women of the Year 2021, ATHENA International Leadership Award 2021, Chicago Top 10 Power Women 2022 by Better, Chicago Top 50 Power Players 2022 by Chicago Social, featured on the TODAY Show, Good Morning America and others. Rohini has been awarded Woman of Distinction by Children’s Hope, Philanthropy Award by American India Foundation, Entrepreneur of the year – India by the City of Chicago, WCO Women’s Leadership Award by JP Morgan Chase, and the WE Women Empowerment Award. Rohini is a senior donor of the American India Foundation (AIF), an active member of The Chicago Network (TCN), International Women’s Forum (IWF), the Women’s Forum of New York (WFNY) and NAWBO. Rohini is known in the lifestyle space: Women of Influence – Michigan Avenue, 50 most beautiful Chicagoans – Chicago Magazine, Beautiful Homes – Chicago Social, Entertaining with Flair – Chicago Magazine. She stays connected to academia by engaging actively with the entrepreneurial departments of business schools (University of Chicago Booth, Kellogg, Columbia University).
Rohini went entrepreneurial in 2003 driven by her conviction that Indian cuisine in the United States is confined to stereotypes, fine dining is excessively Eurocentric, and most global cuisines are marginalized to a murky “ethnic” fringe. At inception, Vermilion was acclaimed “Best Restaurants” for its Indian-Latin fare by Chicago magazine, Travel & Leisure, Town & Country, USA Today, Bon Appetit, Wine Enthusiast, 3 stars Chicago Tribune, Esquire, 4 Stars NY Daily News. Apart from being a Trustee of the James Beard Foundation for a decade and helping bring the JBF Awards to Chicago, Rohini is on the board of the PSA World Squash Championship, and on the Advisory Council of the Illinois Restaurant Association. Chefs launched and mentored by Vermilion have competed and judge on Chopped, Iron Chef, Top Chef, and opened restaurants of their own. Rohini frequently judges Food Network shows.
On a personal level, Rohini has two daughters, is an avid reader, loves dark movies, is a policy wonk, still loves to dine out, thrives on travel, runs daily (Chicago Marathon, Half Ironman), is an amateur chess and squash enthusiast, and has accomplished a personal dream - climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.