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7 Key Considerations for Meeting the Challenge of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Dec 3, 2021

Food for thought: By 2025, millennials will make up 75% of the workforce. By 2044, minorities will become the majority here in the US.

With the push for social change on the rise, organizations are making bold moves to diversify their workforce, shape an inclusive culture, and embed equity into their talent management practices. Outwardly, they are looking to retain law firms, vendors and solution providers who align with their DEI values.

In the first of our four-part blog series, Zelda Owens, CEO of Owens, Williams & Associates gives an overview of how the push for DEI is setting new standards for business.

Read on for a lightly edited transcript of her presentation. To watch the recording of the original webinar, Women in Legal Ops & Tech: Integrating DEI Into Your Growth Strategy, click here.

1) Defining diversity and shifting trends

I’d like to set this stage by first defining what we mean by diversity. And all of the aspects including age, ethnicity, class, gender, physical abilities and qualities, race, sexual orientation, as well as religious status, gender expression, educational background, geographical location, income, marital status, parental status and work experiences.

As you think about building out teams, there are the traditional areas of diversity. And with that, there is also the equity and inclusion piece. But there are also many complexities that we should keep in mind as we’re building out our teams.

There’s a frequently cited   that by 2044, minorities will be the majority status here in the US. And age is increasingly a category of diversity to be mindful of when companies look at their growth strategy.  e states that, by 2025, millennials will make up 75% of the workforce.

2) Sourcing diverse candidates takes new forms

Now, it is very apparent that diversity, equity and inclusion programs are a top priority this year. They weren’t so much a few years back, but with a lot of focus on it in the market and especially with the  , companies are now recognizing that they’re missing out on a lot of the benefits of having diverse teams.

As companies focus on the traditional elements of diversity and look to the traditional sources for diverse candidates, they’re not finding them. So there has to be more   around sourcing, recruiting and professional development.

3) Without equity and inclusion, there is no long-term diversity

Another challenge to overcome is that diverse employees often do not feel included. So as you build a diverse team, if that is your true growth strategy, that growth needs to be sustained. are really essential. It’s important to institutionalize equity and inclusion when it comes to employee engagement and retention, and be mindful of anti-inclusive elements including  , which can affect employees, especially during this time of quarantine. There are a lot of diverse employees who are not looking forward to being on-site, and that comes from the way they experience corporate culture and not feeling like part of a team. This is something that companies and law firms should address to retain that top diverse talent.

4) Diversity drives better performance and happier teams

Companies are recognizing that there are certain business benefits by having a diverse team. And they’re recognizing that  , because there is a sense of camaraderie, employees feel safe and they’re willing to share their ideas. Once the inclusive element of the company is institutionalized, people will see each other as thought leaders who are contributing on a regular basis.

5) The mandate for DEI has to come from the top

So how should you leverage DEI to make sure that there’s a successful growth strategy? Well, it has to come from the C-suite. It has to come from the top. If there is a mandate for diversity, equity and inclusion that is embedded in the corporate culture, then all employees understand the ‘why’ behind building diverse teams. It’s not an exception,  . What works for one company certainly does not work for another. And so each company has to do a thorough examination of what it means to have a diverse team at all levels, not just at a staff level or at a supervisory level, but at all levels including the executive management level.

6) Elevate and empower your DEI commitment

It also is important to have true leadership behind these efforts. Companies are now creating Chief Diversity Officer positions that report directly to the CEO. And that’s crucial, because the C-suite needs a direct bird’s eye view of the company with respect to DEI, its efforts, as well as being able to quantify the effectiveness of those efforts. There’s a tech company called   which was founded by two black women attorneys. What they’re doing is actually gathering data and analytics around the effectiveness of diversity. To track real progress, data must be captured, measured, and managed.

And, as a manager building out a team, make sure that your management understands that training is certainly required for you to not only hire the best talent no matter the background, but also to engage and develop that talent.

7) The time to start working towards diversity is now.

Being proactive as opposed to preventative, is also essential. We cannot wait for something to happen, whether it’s an employee who files a discrimination lawsuit or there’s some other negative trigger for us to think, okay, it’s time for us to make our staff and our team more diverse. It’s important to convey that you are doing your organization a disservice by not including people who may not look like the traditional people on your team.

Click here to read Part II: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at BakerHostetler LLP: A Case Study.

Sources: 

“You’ve Built a Racially Diverse Team. But Have You Built an Inclusive Culture?,” Harvard Business Review

“Toward a Racially Just Workplace – Diversity efforts are failing black employees. Here’s a better approach,” Harvard Business Review

“The US will become ‘minority white’ in 2045,” Brookings Institute

“The Millennial Takeover: How the Generation is Shaking up the Workplace,” Entrepreneur Magazine

CLOC 2021 State of the Industry Report

“Delivering Through Diversity,” McKinsey & Company

GUEST AUTHOR:
Zelda Owens is CEO of Owens Williams & Associates, an executive coaching and legal recruiting company. For the past 20 years, Zelda has been a sales executive for eDiscovery and legal services companies. She was also on the inaugural national board of Women in eDiscovery as well as the New York City Chapter director. She was chair of the Masters Conference, a global litigation technology conference.

About the Author

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