The Center for Legal Inclusiveness is pleased to announce this year’s Inclusiveness@Work Lifetime Achievement award winner, Barbara Brohl. Barbara leads varied functions of the Colorado Department of Revenue and is responsible for Colorado’s Tax Division, the Division of Motor Vehicles, Lottery, and Enforcement for the Auto, Gaming, Liquor and Tobacco, Racing, and Marijuana. The department has more than 1,500 employees and annually brings in more than $11 billion in fees and taxes for the state.
Beyond her exceptionalism in her career, Barbara constantly and consistently gives back to this community. It is because of her efforts in creating inclusive workplaces and encouraging diversity wherever she can that she is honored with this award. For every organization and person Barbara meets, she does not just become a member of organization or an acquaintance, she assumes leadership roles and serves as a sponsor for that person. Barbara does not just say she supports women, youth, and those who are under-represented – she takes action to show that support.
In addition to mentoring numerous young people in her positions with the Department of Revenue and at Qwest for many years, Barbara oversaw the Pledge to Diversity Legal Intern program, where she ensured that first year diverse law students from CU and DU were given opportunities to learn at a large in-house law department. Her mentoring efforts have been far-reaching and consistent throughout her career. She actively participates in events for high school, college, and law school students which focus on recruitment, pipeline and business development initiatives. She has freely given of her weekends and evenings to participate in mock interviews with many prospective judges. Some of those who benefitted from Barbara’s incisive questioning are now on the bench (including one of the undersigned nominators)! The value of her contributions is simply immeasurable.
Although accomplished in her own right, what sets Barbara apart is that she actively looks for ways to ensure that everyone has an equal access to opportunities. While Barbara served on RTD’s Board, she maintained a watchful eye over RTD’s contracting practices to ensure that minority and women-owned businesses had the opportunity to compete for lucrative contracts. Quietly, but effectively, she encouraged women owned businesses – including providers of legal services – to avail themselves of the different RTD opportunities (and elsewhere within Colorado). Barbara also spearheaded RTD’s development of socially responsible contracting policies. RTD contractors are now required to provide health insurance and prevailing wages to their employees. Barbara kept a watchful eye over RTD’s requirements and goals for disadvantaged business enterprises.
Barbara has continued the practice in her current position and requires that contracts with her Department contain provisions that certify minority, women, and emerging small businesses are provided an equal opportunity to compete for and participate in subcontracts resulting from major procurements. Diversity has been a cornerstone of Barbara’s hiring and mentoring at the Department. Indeed, of the seven most recent hires at the leadership level, Barbara has expanded her team with four women, two of whom are Latinas and an African-American male.
Andy Crain (Partner, Armstrong Teasdale) says, “I have worked with Barb for many years, and she is one of the finest people I know. *** At every step of her career, *** she encouraged each organization to become more diverse and inclusive. And I have been continually amazed that, despite holding very demanding jobs, Barb always finds time to dedicate to the community as a public servant, elected official, and volunteer. She is a treasure.”
In talking about how diversity and inclusiveness play a part in her career and everyday life,Barbara recognizes the 5.5 million people that make up Colorado’s diverse customer base and how much of a challenge it can be to address their needs, goals and how they would like to receive services. Her solution is to put together teams of experts from all aspects of the problem, professionally and culturally, as a way to achieve a better outcome to difficult problems and in the case of businesses, voluntary compliance which in the end saves the state money.
The key, Barbara says, is to find qualified individuals with varied skills and backgrounds to debate and discuss key issues. She finds it vital that her leadership team recognize and respect one another as individuals. She has an annual Bar-B-Q for this purpose, and credits social events alongside working events in creating this environment.
As the first Latina, and only the 3rd woman in her position, Barbara cites her mom as being her biggest inspiration. With only an 8th grade education, Barbara’s mom worked seven days a week providing for her children and serving as an example of what was possible. She encouraged her children to work hard and take risks and instilled in them the idea that there was nothing they could not accomplish. Barbara is a self-made woman. She started her work life answering phones for U.S. West, Qwest’s predecessor, and attended college and then law school while maintaining full-time employment to support her children.
Barbara is active in the community and currently serves on the Hispanic Advisory Council for Florence Crittenton, an alternative high school for pregnant and parenting teens. She has also served on a number of non-profit boards, including the Colorado Donor Awareness Council and Advisory Board, and the Gathering Place, a day shelter for homeless women and children.
Honorable Judge Terry Fox (Colorado Court of Appeals) says, “Barbara Brohl’s belief in inclusion and transparency had guided her work as a lawyer, her contributions to the community, and her friendships. Anyone who has interacted with Barb knows that what you see is what you get and that she is open-minded and open-hearted towards everyone she encounters.”
Barbara is not only a professional trailblazer; she is a wonderful mother and a loving wife. Barbara and her husband Rick have three wonderful children and five grandchildren. Barbara embodies those qualities that we all strive to achieve: excellence, passion, compassion, and dedication. For these reasons – and for her tireless dedication and leadership – we are honored to recognize Barbara with the Lifetime Achievement award for her contributions in creating a more diverse and inclusive community.