Phyllis Wan, Interim Executive Director of the Center for Legal Inclusiveness, talks about what lies ahead for CLI and its renewed focus on retention for its members:
For 12+ years, CLI has been helping its members and others in the legal and business community appreciate the benefits and business imperative of diversity and inclusion (D&I), and understand why D&I is essential in the fabric of a progressive, successful and innovative organization.
Despite our efforts and those of other D&I organizations and our members, the “inclusion” and “equity” pieces remain elusive. The number of senior diverse and female private-sector lawyers and diverse and female C-suite officers remain well below the population of law school graduates for the past 30 years. Why is that?
One of the primary reasons is, for the first 25+ years of that period, diverse and female lawyers were recruited, but then expected to fit into the mold of what their organization deemed a “successful” lawyer. This usually meant the personality and behavioral traits of someone in the heterosexual male majority (e.g., outgoing, confident and competitive, not necessarily collaborative or quiet) – often traits not characteristically encouraged or deemed acceptable in the cultures of diverse and female lawyers. This became especially noticeable in a lawyer’s mid to later years as they approached promotion, elevation or advancement. In addition, female and diverse lawyers were not encouraged to stand out and bring their “whole selves” to work, or to work flexibly in response to family pressures, and employers were not focused on developing their unique talents and attributes to expand the pie and grow their business. Only diverse and female lawyers fitting the “successful lawyer” profile succeeded, and the revolving door turned. Diverse and female lawyers continued to leave their employers at significantly higher rates than their male majority colleagues, instead of seeking opportunities where they felt valued and rewarded.
Happily, we are at an inflection point in the profession’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts and legal employers are more attuned to the missing links of inclusion and equity. The Center for Legal Inclusiveness is well-positioned and equipped to help its members and our business and legal community in continuing their path to making the legal profession a better and more rewarding place to work. With a committed Board of Directors ready to effectuate real change, 2020 will be a year of renewed focus on our members and their retention and inclusion efforts.
We hope you will join us.