That fall, when it was my turn to do a “Talks in 20” at our employee townhall—where an executive presents and answers questions for 20 minutes on a topic that is relevant to the company’s mission and growth—I chose to present on “Diversity/Inclusion: Foundation Blocks for a Winning Company.” I brought my own angle to the topic: my diverse perspective as half French-Algerian; my passion for sports (women’s soccer, surfing, race car driving) and the issue of equal pay for women professional athletes; and my respect for female leadership and accomplishments in science and business. I outlined statistics from Boston Consulting Group and McKinsey on how diverse employees provide a company with creative approaches to business ideas and solutions, and how a company’s inclusive leadership not only drives higher revenues but allows for disruptive leadership in that company’s industry. It was a rich and engaging exchange that lasted well past 40 minutes. I took that as an indication that DEI was front-and-center in our employees’ minds.
When our country witnessed the atrocity of George Floyd’s murder in May 2020, my team’s DEI Initiative assumed a leadership position in our company’s internal dialogue about this tragedy and the concomitant social justice issues that had seized center stage across our country. We organized our company’s first Roundtable on Diversity, Inclusion, Education, and Acceptance on the last day of June—a symbolic gesture of solidarity with our LGBTQ+ community—that included representatives from all of our employee affiliation groups and our CPO. Our team’s DEI Initiative moderated the event and managed both the Q&A with our company’s employees (more than 50% joined the lunchtime Zoom event) and follow-up on employee-requested deliverables. This roundtable event is now serving as the foundation for a company-wide DEI committee. Since the first quarter of 2021, my DEI Initiative has been running quarterly sensitivity and educational sessions on topics from hate incident bystander training to transgender inclusion in the workplace.
In January 2021, my team launched its second initiative: AMRS Legal Gives Back. Focused on efforts to give back to the community, on behalf of both our legal team and our company, this initiative seeks to address issues of social justice that surround us today. Last year, this initiative donated a set of seven books to multiple local elementary schools to educate about cultural diversity and understanding amid rising incidents of hate and violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. And this year, we’re coordinating with an edtech company in Brazil to donate paper microscopes to fifth-grade public school students in the Brazil province where we’re building our new manufacturing facility. By supporting our community through the lens of education, we believe we’re fulfilling our ethical obligations to give back to others—to, in our own small way, make our piece of the planet safer, better, more equitable.
I’m also focused on cultivating future diverse leaders in the law. For the past three years, for ten weeks every winter, my team has had the pleasure of working with a diverse group of externs from Northwestern Law’s annual Bay Area externship program. And this summer, my team will welcome a first-year law student participating in Gibson Dunn’s Summer Diversity Internship program. By supporting diversity within the structure of legal education, I intend to contribute to the development of our profession into one that better represents the diversity of our society and its legal needs.
Lawyers are ethically bound to uphold the laws and to defend the legal rights of all peoples, and therefore, I see leadership on DEI as a natural extension of our professional ethical obligations. Employees come to the legal team for a range of assistance, advice, guidance. And so, it is altogether appropriate for lawyers to lead on DEI within their companies. I do it with a mission of promoting DEI through education; by engaging in DEI, you will find a purpose that resonates with you as a leader. By better understanding ourselves and each other, we can impact positive change both at our company and in our local and global communities. You will also build a legal team comprised of champions of equity and belonging. When you do, you will certainly witness increased education, awareness, and collaboration among your employees, and across your executive leadership teams. This engagement will both inspire and fortify you to lead with a broader perspective, and it will enrich your experience of practicing law.