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« Distracting or Relevant? | Main | Firms looking for ways to keep young associates around »

Apr 23, 2008

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Lu

(Note: I am speaking in general terms, but my actual experience is limited to one firm.)

Yes, I think that firm diversity committees are fluff. In fact, I think that they may do more harm than good by giving a false sense of progress. As the original post notes, there is not necessarily a unified agenda between constituencies represented on a diversity committee. Even within a constituency there are often significant differences.

I also think that the diversity committee doesn't DO anything. The same problems exist that existed before the committee. But, again, those problems are easier for the powers that be to ignore - because we have a diversity committee. And, of course, that diversity committee means that we are progressive and don't have any issues with sexism, racism, homophobia, etc.

Then, there are the overtly sexist and racist comments made by members (including leaders) of the committee, and the general apathy of many of the other members.

On my opinion, one step that could be taken to improve the situation is education. By making attorneys aware of differences (and similarities) and the positive aspects these differences can bring to the firm, we could generate better tolerance and acceptance.

Daille Nation

Hi Nicole,

No I don't have experience with these women initiatives. I recently wrote about one of them though.

Personally though having suffered through sexism & even nepotism issues I think the best initiative comes from women making loud statements that say we won't tolerate this.

Women who walk away from or talk out against diversity phobia are causing firms to take a second look. Unfortunately this look is usually limited to forming the damn committees and they do become pr vehicles.

The firms will realize however that if they continue to lose staff and pay out compensation whether via settlements or court ordered damages that they'd be better off tackling the hard women's issues with hard action not soft gestures.

The younger women are walking and talking. Eventually, I predict (fingers crossed) it will trickle down and some real change will take place. I just can say when.

Denise Howell

Thanks so much for your comments, I submitted on Monday and the feedback from here, Facebook, and my email were an enormous help. Look for "Death by Diversity Committee" in the June issue of The American Lawyer.

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