First, indulge us for a few minutes as we explain the difference between “’diversity” and “inclusion.” (Note that we mentioned “equity” yesterday as part of the equation, but we’ll get to that in a later post.) Diversity is what you have (i.e., our diverse lawyers comprise 15% of our total lawyer workforce ). Inclusion is what you do (i.e., our diverse lawyers comprise 15% of all leadership positions at our firm). See the difference?
Diversity is often the focus because, candidly, it’s easier. But inclusion, it’s much more involved and requires better planning, strategy and forethought. As SHRM puts it, “inclusion is….a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organization’s success.” In short, it’s the player on the sideline yelling “put me in, Coach, I ready to play and contribute to our big win.”
With inclusion, we want to make sure we recognize the contributions that our diverse team members have to offer. And then plug them into matters where they can be substantive team members, invite them to sit on important committees, put them in line for leadership positions, involve them in marketing and BD initiatives and offer them the same opportunities we would offer anyone else in the success of your firm. For a practical example, echo our pals at Akin Gump whose drive for inclusion is Oscar-worthy – https://biglawbusiness.com/akin-gumps-new-leadership-shows-firm-drive-toward-diversity.
But also take note of the recent state of affairs by reviewing the 2018 Vault/MCCA Law Firm Diversity Study, (Pages 5 and 8 – https://www.mcca.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/2018-Vault-MCCA-Law-Firm-Diversity-Survey-Report.pdf) which shows Minority Lawyers and Women of Color hiring on the rise (i.e. Diversity) and Minority Lawyers and Women of Color being promoted to partner on the decline (i.e. Inclusion). It’s not difficult to draw a possible connection (note there could be others) between these statistics as to why diverse lawyers are leaving at an increasing rate. They aren’t being provided meaning leadership opportunities. Just drink that in for a bit and think of what you could do at your own firm to address this.
We would be remiss not to offer kudos to the steady increase of All Women lawyers at the partner ranks. We like this trend and want it to continue. But for everyone. And that starts with you.