Celebrating Changemakers 2022

Dr. Hei-ock Kim, Executive Director of the Kim Center for Social Balance

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re spotlighting women making a positive impact in our community through a “Celebrating Changemakers” series.

Our first changemaker is Hei-ock Kim, Executive Director of the Kim Center for Social Balance. Dr. Kim was nominated by SDWF Executive Director Stephanie Cook, who shared that she is inspired by Hei-ock’s tireless commitment to social justice and workplace equity.

Learn more about Dr. Hei-ock Kim below.

Tell us one fun or surprising fact about you:
I love building things, especially with power tools. My house and yard are full of furniture and “art” that no one else would ever want but that bring me great joy because I made them with my own hands.

What inspires you?
I had a high school intern who used what she learned with the Kim Center to start a discrimination awareness campaign at her school. She is raising awareness that sexist attitudes toward the girls’ uniforms are symptomatic of larger gender discrimination. She’s gotten teachers and parents involved, is bringing in speakers, and has become a cultural changemaker. The fact that I had even a small hand in her story inspires and compels me to keep doing this work.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?
My mom always used to say, “Just try and see what happens.” That attitude keeps me forever optimistic that if I just take one step, I might be able to take the next and the next. At the same time, it gives me room to forgive myself if something doesn’t work out…most of the time.

Who are your heroes in real life?
I bow down before all the courageous women who stand up for what they believe in regardless of the consequences – they weather physical, verbal, and psychological hell from the haters and still never back down. And I applaud the quieter heroes – like single mothers who work to the bone at a job AND at home to raise great kids, or all those who overcome violence and/or poverty to become community leaders.

How do you hope to make difference in our community?
I grew up buying into society’s message that a woman has to be exceptional to compete with men. Then I had a moment of clarity driven by pure exhaustion: women deserve appreciation and success without having to work extra hard for it! We must build a new norm because everyone – and I mean every member of our families and communities – benefits when women thrive. Systemic change is a daunting mantle to take up because it seems so nebulous – until we take a page from medicine. When we address a medical condition, we use universally established levels to baseline our basic functions, implement a targeted treatment plan, and do follow-up tests to benchmark our progress. Many people do this every day! So, I founded the Kim Center for Social Balance to revolutionize cultural transformation by using exactly the same strategy with one added critical element: locally focused and collaborative action. San Diego is our perfect proving ground for developing this replicable regional model of progress because we have a uniquely diverse landscape, including talented civic and business leadership, an international border, a large refugee population, and all branches of the military.

Thank you Dr. Kim, for all that you do for our community!

If you would like to stay informed about her work, sign up for updates at kimcenter.org, and follow their monthly panel called “Uniting for Workplace Equity” at https://www.facebook.com/EmployeeRightsCenter/live/ – every third Tuesday at 2pm.