(the post was authored by Kedzie Schuster)
For months anti-racism books, like White Fragility, So You Want to Talk about Race, and How to Be Antiracist, were at the top of book lists as thousands committed to educating themselves about race and racism in the United States. Social media was flooded with infographics about history that had been whitewashed, links to petitions and other resources. People were researching unjust laws that allow for legal corruption, like prosecutorial discretion and qualified immunity.
All in all, it seemed as though the non-Black world was collectively realizing that what is happening right now did not happen out of thin air but rather is the predictable outcome of systemic racism.
A term you have probably heard very frequently in the last few months is “ally.” What does it mean to be a good ally?
As a general rule, being a good ally means not centering yourself when it comes to racial issues. It means you stand with marginalized communities and commit to learning about racism and how it infects each facet of society. It means questioning your own implicit biases.
An ally stands up against racial injustice. But time and time again, self-proclaimed allies do not extend their efforts when it comes to their career or when their own relationships with friends and family are on the line. They will let racial microaggressions or blatant racism slide because “Uncle Sal will never change”. Or it’s their boss so they stay silent as to not ruffle any professional feathers. Allies can attend protests, sign petitions and work to dismantle injustice, but at any time revert back to the systems and status quo that serves only to benefit themselves.
That is why social justice advocates have started making the distinction between allies and accomplices. An accomplice is willing to disrupt their lives to dismantle racism, even if it means personal or professional backlash. An accomplice intentionally spends their money at organizations and companies that align with their views. Whether it be explicit or implicit racism, accomplices recognize that both forms allow oppression to continue.
This is not to bash the journey of ally-ship. But it is just that: a journey. As allies continue to grow and gain confidence in what they believe, they will (hopefully) transition into accomplices. They will hopefully have recognized the privileges that they benefit from and use those privileges to speak out against racism and injustice whenever and wherever.
As Malcom X writes, “I have these very deep feelings that white people who want to join Black organizations are really just taking the escapist way to salve their consciences. By visibly hovering near us, they are "proving" that they are "with us." But the hard truth is this isn't helping to solve America's racist problem. The Negroes aren't the racists. Where the really sincere white people have got to do their "proving" of themselves is not among the Black victims, but out on the battle lines of where America's racism really is—and that's in their own home communities; America's racism is among their own fellow whites. That's where sincere whites who really mean to accomplish something have got to work.”
While I don’t see accomplice-ship replacing the word ally-ship in the near future, it is important to make the distinction between passive and active activism. The point is not to be able to say that you are an accomplice versus an ally. Rather, the distinction between the two words should be an opportunity to look inward and reflect on what more you can be doing.
“Blindspot.” “Falling on deaf ears.” “Handicapped parking.” “This is insane.” These might seem like common phrases, but they are, in fact, some of the most common examples of ableist language. Ableist language is any language that offensive to people with a disability. While something like “blind spot” may seem innocuous, it can have a disproportionate impact on a blind person. The phrase itself implies that you are lacking or missing something. It is these common phrases in our lexicon that we need to reexamine and replace.
Further, as we discuss inclusion, many of us are well-versed on the appropriate standards and language, but dead angles, i.e., blind spots, can hinder us with as we use phrases that are all too common, yet incredibly disrespectful.
At its core, language both describes and tells a story. We choose words based on our experience. As such, there was a time when something like “wheelchair-bound” was an acceptable term. There is no nuance to this description. While it might be accurate, it is also reductive and possibly hurtful. Imagine living your whole life with a disability and to only be described by that disability.
We need to become more sensitive, and our language is where we can start. It is common for words to come and go from our vocabulary but changing ableist words will not happen without a conscious effort. That effort begins with all of us, one word and one phrase at a time.
Inclusion Means Everyone
When we use the ableist language, the implication is that we care about inclusion for some, but not for all. These outdated and derogatory terms have been widely used and in existence for many years, and while our own privilege may lead us to be desensitized to these hurtful words, we all have an obligation to get it right when it comes to using the right language. Pure inclusion means that everyone not only has a seat at the table but is invited to engage in the conversation. This must include people with physical or mental disability as well as traditionally disenfranchised and under-represented groups.
Being mindful of language sends the message that you value those you work with, interact with and our part of your community. As champions of inclusion, it is our responsibility to learn the appropriate language to refer to others in the community. Doing so is not only the right thing to do but serves as a clear signal that we are indeed talking about everyone when we speak about inclusivity.
If You Don’t Know . . . Ask
As we shift our thinking and lexicon, we will make mistakes. But it is learning from that mistake that will push us forward. If you don’t know, ask. And when you hear the answer, make that part of your new language. Your thoughtful inquiry is not hurtful, but your continued use of outdated language will be.
I challenge all of us to think harder about language and the words we use. To be honest, I never thought of ‘blind spot’ as provocative, but now that I understand ableist language, I get it. These small changes can bring us closer and increase diversity, inclusion, and equity for all. There is a seat for everyone at our table and a true desire to hear all of voices.
As we all move ahead in the uncharted territory of COVID-19, there is no more "business as usual" in the workplace, and how we all work together is changing – perhaps permanently. While it could be easy to want to put aside diversity and inclusiveness (D&I ) programs and focus on what may appear to be more pressing issues, we can't do that. In reality, strong D&I programs could be the bright light at the end of a dark tunnel of chaos and uncertainty that surrounds COVID-19.
Diversity experts are in consensus about now being the time to double down on these efforts. Many studies indicate companies invested in D&I programs are more innovative, efficient, and much more likely to hang onto diverse talent. This should cement the idea of D&I programs being "must-have" programs for any organization - for employees and clients .
Keep Your Goals in Mind
Often, as we face challenges, our initial reaction is to focus on the quick decisions and solutions to immediately right the ship, leading to the abandonment of some programs that create the culture and identity of a company. Do not let this happen to your D&I program. Keep diversity goals top of mind, as they are still important.
Vigorous, diverse teams often have different points of view and context, and bring varied perspectives on challenges, fosters creativity, and solutions to problems. Further, many studies have shown that well-balanced teams are more innovative and more efficient when faced with complex issues. This could put your organization in a better position to not only survive these challenging times but to be able to pivot and continue to thrive.
Diversity in Leadership
Equity and inclusiveness in a leadership team will serve your organization in times of crisis on many levels. An inclusive leader can see different perspectives while still aligning core values and keeping a remote workplace together. Studies have also shown that diversity in the leadership team positions your company for better complex problem solving as well as a better ability to hire and retain a diverse team. In turn, making your organization better equipped to offer strategies and solutions that will speak to a broader range of clients and employees.
If your organization has a formal mentoring program, now is the time to invest in this program intentionally. Employee engagement, equal access, improved communication, and innovation are just a few of the benefits of having a diverse mentoring program. This initiative is not something that would be 'nice to have.' It is a must to keep your organization competitive, especially in times of uncertainty. These programs foster employee engagement, which is paramount to having an inclusive team.
Inclusive Culture is Better Culture
As offices start to reopen, there is excitement and apprehension. We are excited to reconnect to the social component that we have been missing and apprehensive about physically being in the same space. Having a robust and inclusive culture in your workplace will quell anxieties and going back to the office will bring the feeling of normalcy and safety to help ensure that this step is comfortable for everyone. Inclusivity is never one-size-fits-all but rather adapting to individual needs and creating a safe space for everyone.
Diversity and inclusiveness in the workplace creates an environment where everyone can feel accepted and valued. The long-term effect is better engagement, longevity, and cost savings as lower turnover will impact the bottom line of all organizations and companies.
At its core, inclusion is placing value on each one of your team members, as well as the entire team. Your organization cannot wait for things to return to ‘normal’ to make diversity and inclusion a priority.
Judge Gary M. Jackson was awarded the inaugural Judge Wiley Daniel Lifetime Achievement Award by the Center for Legal Inclusiveness at its February 29, 2020 Ball for All Gala. Judge Jackson is a third-generation Coloradan and has been a pillar of the Colorado legal community since graduating from CU law school in 1970. He has worked in Colorado’s public sector, private sector, and the judiciary for 50 years. Among his many other accomplishments and endeavors, he co-founded and currently co-chairs the Steering Committee of the Diversity on the Bench Coalition.
It wasn’t until 1957 that Colorado had its first non-white judge on any level. Mayor William F. Nicholson appointed James C. Flanigan, the grandson of slaves, to the municipal court after serving eight years as Denver’s first black district attorney. Nine years later, Judge Flanigan became Colorado’s first African-American District Court Judge.
As of October 2018, 61 years after Judge Flanigan’s appointment, out of the 181 District Court Judges in the state of Colorado, there was still only one black District Court Judge, the Hon. William Robbins of Denver, and he had announced his retirement; and out of the 29 Appellate Court Judges, there was only one African-American judge, the Hon. Karen Ashby, and she announced her retirement shortly after Judge Robbins. The lack of judicial diversity extends to Hispanic-American, Native-American, and Asian-American communities as well as to women. The potential for zero black judges on the District Court and Appellate Courts was real in Colorado.
These demographic numbers are more than just an embarrassment to our bar association, to the legal profession, and to the citizens of Colorado. To maintain a representative democracy and a strong republic, all three branches of municipal, city, county, state, and federal government must reflect the diversity of its citizens. In most democratic countries, the Judicial Branch is not autonomous from the other branches. Of all three branches of government, the people have the most direct and frequent contact with the judicial branch, making diversity an absolute necessity under the First, Fifth, Sixth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments.
During my 50 years as a lawyer and judge, and as a citizen, I have witnessed first-hand the awful costs of racial and gender bias. As a graduate of CU Law School in 1970, Mike McKevitt hired me as a deputy District Attorney in Denver. Like, Judge Flanigan, I was the only black deputy District Attorney in the State of Colorado at that time. I was assigned to be a trial deputy in the Hon. Judge Zita Weinshienk’s courtroom, who was appointed to the bench in 1964, the only female judge in the state.
Being assigned to her court was a stroke of luck. Judge Weinshienk, a graduate of Harvard Law School and member of the Jewish community, possessed a superior intellect and innate wisdom. Her standard of fairness and equal justice for all helped shape my own practice as a lawyer and judge.
When I became a Chief Trial Deputy at age 27, I had the honor of serving in the District Courtrooms of Judge Flanigan and Judge Donald Pacheco, the first Hispanic-American District Court Judge, while Judge Weinshienk continued her ascendency through the court system by becoming the first female state District Court judge, and thereafter, the first female United States District Court Judge in Colorado.
The Hon. Wiley Daniel recognized the immense responsibility bestowed upon him by President Clinton as the first black United States District Court Judge. Wiley was a dear friend who never stopped reminding me that it is our diversity that makes America great. His work was not in vain, as evidenced by the recent appointment by Governor Polis of Nikea T. Bland to the District Court.
As the first recipient of the Judge Wiley Daniel Lifetime Achievement Award, I call on all of us work together to assure that our judicial system reflects the diversity of our communities and that this branch of government draws upon the wealth of all of our collective experiences and wisdom.
The CLI Bench Dream Team (co-chaired by Judge Don Toussaint, Justice Melissa Hart, and Justice Monica Márquez) seeks to build a pipeline of diverse applicants for judicial officer positions across Colorado. We've undertaken several projects, including our Coffee Brigade, that serves as a resource to anyone who is interested in becoming a judge. The Coffee Brigade is a list of current and former judicial officers around the state who have made their contact information available and who are happy to meet for coffee (or lunch) with interested candidates to talk about life on the bench and offer advice about the application process. We have volunteers from county court, district court, the court of appeals, and the supreme court, as well as our federal district court. Curious about the day-to-day realities of being a trial court judge? Contact a Coffee Brigade volunteer and get the scoop from someone who is living it. Have questions about how to navigate the application process (particularly as a diverse candidate), nail the commission interview, round up letters of recommendation? Call up a Coffee Brigade volunteer and find out the answers. Want to know more about the joys and challenges of being a judge in Colorado? Let’s talk.
Those of us who are listed on the Coffee Brigade welcome your email or phone call. So reach out, don’t be shy! We are happy to connect over coffee or lunch to share our stories and answer your questions. Our goal is to demystify the process and level the playing field for all lawyers who are considering a career on the bench. We love our jobs and we are happy to share advice based on our own journeys. So give us a ring or shoot us an email. And if you’re a judge (or you know a judge) who would like to join the Coffee Brigade, please contact Sumi Lee, Head of Judicial Diversity Outreach at email@example.com and CLI at ceo@legalinclusiveness org. We update our list regularly.
Hello! My name is Ryann Peyton and I am honored to serve as your Board Chair for 2020. This is my seventh year serving on the CLI Board, having previously served as chair of its Development Committee.
Thank you to Immediate Past Chair Patrick O’Rourke for his passionate leadership of CLI, and to his Board and committee chairs who worked together for a very successful 2019 in which we saw much growth and transition for CLI.
As I take the gavel, I will support the mission of CLI and continue its legacy with spirit and enthusiasm. Chairing this dynamic organization is truly an honor for me. It resonates with my values and experience as a diverse lawyer and I have always believed in improving diversity, inclusion, and equity as a means to creating a thriving legal profession.
This year we will embark on selecting a permanent CEO for the organization, grow our nationally recognized Legal Inclusiveness & Diversity Summit, launch a brand new Diversity Engagement Survey for legal employers, build a robust Young Lawyers Division, and expand the value of our membership benefits. I am excited to work with our members, Board and leadership to advance this sustainable, growing, and thriving organization.
I encourage you to take advantage of CLI’s activities and networking events during which members exchange ideas, learn, and share. Through your steadfast support as members of CLI, each and every one of you can help support better education, tools, and programming for diverse lawyers and legal employers in Colorado’s legal community. Together we can ensure that CLI continues to provide our profession with cultures of inclusion.
I am excited about the many new possibilities ahead. We can all be proud of what CLI stands for and its legacy for providing services to all. As Chair, I am proud to build upon our organization’s history and look forward to getting to know you.
Thank you for your support, trust, and confidence.
I feel very lucky to have served as the Chair for the Center for Legal Inclusiveness’s Board of Directors for the past year. It was a year that was filled with progress, opportunities and challenges.
The biggest challenge is that we are still a long way from achieving greater levels of diversity and inclusion in the legal profession. While many recognize our profession has not done enough to advance diversity and inclusion, we haven’t made as much progress as we’d like. Lawyers who face barriers - such as women, racially diverse and LGBTQ attorneys - to their success are not thriving in their workplaces. Legal employers are not retaining diverse employees as well as they should, and too many lawyers are leaving their organizations and even the profession.
We’ve come to realize we’re never going to solve this problem by thinking of diversity as a numbers game. Diverse lawyers are unique people, each of whom bring an experience and perspective to their organization, and we need to build a legal culture that values them as individuals. When a diverse lawyer leaves a firm, the right question is “why did we lose someone we value?” instead of “how can we find another person to take her place?”
We hope to advance this goal in 2020 with the Diversity Engagement Survey, which will look at the critical traits that support a diverse workplace. It measures traits, such as whether those within an organization are aligned around a common purpose, whether the people who work have confidence that the organization’s policies and practices support them, and whether the organization fosters a sense of belonging. If we don’t make our workplaces better for both diverse and non-diverse attorneys, we’re not going to make our profession better. You can learn more about the Diversity Engagement Survey here; please consider joining us as we believe this will provide the insight that many organizations need to move beyond diversity to inclusion and equity.
And there’s no reason to believe that we can’t be better. One of the best experiences I had this year was spending time with the high school students who participated in the Journey 2 JD program. These young, talented students were exposed to the inner workings of the law for the first time. While a few were very quick to say, “It’s not for me!” others walked away believing that they had a place in the legal profession, and we need to help them find that place. These students, many of whom had prior misconceptions of the legal system, were smart, perceptive, and talented. If we can bring them into our world, we will be better for it.
As we move into 2020, CLI is changing. Karen Hester left us, but not before she had created new programs, brought insight, and served as a wonderful ambassador to the legal community. We’re grateful for all she did and wish her well as she continues to promote diversity and inclusion in the private sector.
We also made a great decision to bring Phyllis Wan in as our Interim Executive Director. Phyllis brings years of experience as a leader in diversity and inclusion, and she knows the needs of our legal community. Already, she’s helped us take a new look at how we’re offering services and where we can make the greatest impact. CLI should be a leader in our community, and we’re working on plans to increase the value we provide to CLI members.
I have lots of hope heading in 2020. Another great addition for 2020 is our incoming Chair, Ryann Peyton. Ryann has accelerated our progress as we begin to look at our membership model, engaging our Board more effectively, and developing better programming for our members. Ryann is an extraordinary leader who embodies inclusion in all she does.
As the year closes, I reflected that we lost United States District Court Judge Wiley Y. Daniel this year. Judge Daniel was not only an extraordinary judge, but he was a tireless champion for diversity and inclusion. At CLI board meetings, he was a voice of reason, vision, and compassion. We will honor him if we continue to value each other, not accept the status quo, and embrace the qualities that unite us.
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.
Are you interested in learning about your company's areas of strengths and improvement for diversity and inclusion initiatives? If so, join our inaugural Diversity Engagement Survey (DES). Your discounted cost to participate is $2,500. Benefits include an overall summary with breakdown of demographics, a one-hour consultation to interpret survey results, and recommendations for next steps.
CLI has partnered with a research team to develop benchmarks using DES. At this time, we are several more Denver law firms to participate in this pilot study over an 18-month period, starting this Winter. We will have future surveys focusing on government agencies, legal departments and law firms outside of Denver.
Your participation in this ground-breaking project will provide your firm with an assessment of:
· Inclusion factors within your law firm that create the right conditions for achieving the benefits of a diverse workforce;
· Identification of areas of strengths and improvement in diversity and inclusion efforts;
· Data for strategic planning, enhancement, implementation and development of diversity and inclusion programs; and
· Analysis of law firm diversity that moves beyond compositional diversity or the representation of the demographic breakdowns of race and gender, openly LGBT individuals, and attorneys with disabilities.
Diversity is considered a driver of excellence…but only if the conditions are right. Knowing what the right conditions are requires an assessment of the organizational culture for factors which leverage differences to achieve business objectives and drive innovation.
The Diversity Engagement Survey (DES) provides data on the organization’s level of worker engagement, its inclusive characteristics, and the degree to which diverse groups experience inclusion. DES was originally conceptualized as an evaluation tool for measuring the academic medical centers through the lens of inclusion and diversity. After a pilot using the instrument with 14 academic medical centers, the instrument was demonstrated to have value not only within educational settings, but could be successfully utilized in any organization that desires to build an engaged and inclusive workforce.
DES is best used:
· For building an inclusive culture that seeks to recruit, retain and promote diverse individuals.
· To determine the level of engagement of the total workforce in relationship to specific diverse groups.
· To assess baseline strengths and areas for improvement related to inclusion and diversity efforts.
· To determine progress toward inclusion goals in an organizational diversity plan.
· To measure progress of diversity plans in response to regulatory agencies.
· To identify salient concerns such as historical baggage from stereotypes, social isolation, economic constraints and the impact of few culturally-competent role models and mentors for underrepresented groups within the organization.
Thus, the DES functions in three ways:
Descriptive – describes the inclusiveness of the environment by determining its level of engagement by demographic categories.
Diagnostic – defines areas of strengths and areas of improvement for the diversity and inclusion efforts through benchmark comparative data.
Prescriptive — points to the strategic direction for change by identifying which engagement domains and which inclusion factors to target for improvement.Join us and learn how you can create an inclusive workplace, using your unique information. Contact Phyllis Wan (firstname.lastname@example.org; 303.313.6861) if you would like to be a part of this exciting new venture, have questions, or if you would like to be considered for future surveys.
We are so pleased to announce Phyllis Wan has been named as the Interim Executive Director of CLI.
Phyllis has a long relationship with the Denver legal community and is well respected for her knowledge and expertise in the diversity and inclusion field. She has also served as the Chief Diversity Officer for Hogan Lovells US LLP, one of the world’s largest law firms, with more than 1000 U.S. lawyers.
Phyllis developed a range of diversity and inclusion programs, including strategic plans that led to increased recruiting and retention of female, ethnically diverse, and LGTBQ attorneys and staff. Phyllis is a civic leader who has been a member of the Board of Directors of the T. Howard Foundation, the Women in Law Empowerment Forum, and the Colorado Lawyers Committee.
Phyllis brings experience not just in diversity and inclusion, but has successfully practiced law in variety of settings. She is a graduate of the New York University School of Law.
We selected Phyllis after the Executive Committee interviewed several very well-qualified candidates, all of whom were diverse and experienced as leaders in diversity and inclusion. The committee members came to the conclusion that Phyllis has the right mix of relationships in the Denver community, deep experience in working with legal employers on diversity and inclusion initiatives, and an ability to think creatively about how to move CLI into the future.
Patrick O'Rourke, Chair of the CLI Board, and Ryann Peyton, Chair Elect, added, "We’re going to be working hard to make CLI an organization that makes the Colorado legal community stronger and that provides its members with robust programming and support. Retaining Phyllis is a major step forward in that direction."
About CLI -- The Center for Legal Inclusiveness is a non-profit organization whose mission is to advance diversity in the legal profession by actively educating and supporting private and public sector legal organizations in their own individual campaigns to create cultures of inclusion.
CLI announce P. Wan 10.7.19.pdf