Balancing Act: Fostering Diversity In The Workplace: How To Navigate The Challenges

By Cindy Krischer Goodman
The Miami Herald.

As a young lawyer, Tiffani Lee found a partner who believed in her ability and helped push her up to the top ranks of Miami’s Holland & Knight.

Most often, the opposite is true: Organizational mechanisms at firms push out women and people of color.

Those dynamics explain why diversity drops off sharply at the higher levels of law firm management, even though the entry-level workforce at law firms is more diverse than ever before.

But instead of complaining, women and minority lawyers gathered in Miami last week at a Diversity and Flexibility Seminar to offer solutions, share ideas and speak candidly about the changing face of professional services businesses and how diverse talent plays an important role.

“If professional service firms want to sell talent, they need to recruit and keep the best of the entire talent pool,” said Manar Morales, president and CEO of Diversity & Flexibility Alliance, a national forum dedicated to the promotion and retention of women lawyers and work/life control for all attorneys.

Here’s an employer and employee guide for how to navigate the challenges that lead people to leave. It is based on a panel discussion by Miami lawyers.

Inclusion: Don’t leave women and minorities on the fringes.

Amy Furness, a shareholder with the lawfirm of Carlton Fields Jorden Burt in Miami, says having someone in a leadership role who recognizes and shows a commitment to diversity by his actions can help the message of inclusion permeate throughout the firm, which can be particularly important for those partners who may not be thinking about diversity when they choose staff to work on their cases.

“Getting leadership involved in ensuring inclusion prevents (diversity) from becoming marginalized,” Furness said.

Accountability: It is easy to create company policies that promote diversity, flexibility and volunteerism and work/life control.

But there are some partners who will tell young associates that if they want to be successful, they should not take advantage of those policies. That is where accountability becomes crucial.

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