“For too long DEI work has been focused on changing individual hearts and minds, versus the organization taking on responsibility and frankly, modifying behavior without the need for personal buy-in,” explains Alexis Robertson, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Foley & Lardner, as well as host of Foley’s Path & Practice Podcast. There has been great improvement in DEI at law firms regarding recruitment, but there is still a long way to go when it comes to employee retention and promotion. Today, Alexis discusses where current law firm DEI efforts are working and where improvements can still be made.
When people think about DEI, their first thought is often to diversify their recruiting pools. The issue with thinking about it this way is that it oversimplifies the problem. Diversity, equity and inclusion really need to be completely plugged into every people facing function within an organization. It cannot be just a one and done type of DEI training or a party for Black History Month. Those can help, but only when used as part of a larger systematic DEI implementation throughout the whole organization. If law firms want to enact real lasting change that creates a better, more inclusive work environment for all employees, they need to look beyond recruitment and into their overall systems and values.
Although there has been a lot of positive change in the DEI space within law firms, there is still a long way to go when it comes to creating inclusive workplaces. Organizations who are truly committed to DEI have to look closer at retention and employee development. Recruiting diverse employees is not enough because if the actual workplace culture is not aligned with DEI values, those diverse employees will not stay with the company.
“A lot of times with diversity, the first thing anyone thinks about is recruiting.” (24:49–24:52 | Alexis)
“What I’m doing is figuring out how our organization can be great for all people. And I think it’s important to start framing things that way because it can feel more inclusive.” (26:15–26:29 | Alexis)
“What we really need to focus on as it relates to those historically underrepresented or even systematically excluded groups are the things that relate to retention.” (27:00–27:09 | Alexis)
“We’ve seen change. The problem is, if you extrapolate it out over another 50 years, we’re not going fast enough for it to get to where we’d like it all to get to within our lifetimes.” (28:56–29:06 | Alexis)
“For too long DEI work has been focused on changing individual hearts and minds, versus the organization taking on responsibility and frankly, modifying behavior without the need for personal buy-in.” (31:04–31:15 | Alexis)