IMPACT

How Corporate America Can Help Reinforce The Best Of America

Making our companies—and our nation—better in the process.

09/18/2017 18:38 EDT

Our law firm, Jackson Lewis PC, represents major corporations, colleges and universities, non-profits, trade associations, and other large organizations in all aspects of employment and labor law. The firm has taken aggressive steps to improve diversity and inclusion both in our firm and in the legal profession. We retained a nationally recognized diversity consultant to provide unconscious bias training to our partners, created a Jackson Lewis Scholarship Program that encourages law students from underrepresented groups to pursue careers in employment law, established an internal D&I Committee, and maintain five Attorney Resource Groups. The firm is the only Top 100 law firm with a nationally recognized Corporate Diversity Counseling practice that has advised more than 60 Fortune 200 companies and numerous other complex organizations on diversity-related legal and policy issues and “best practice” practical solutions.

Our attorneys are proud to be leaders in representing and training employers in equal opportunity and affirmative action, the impact and avoidance of discrimination in the workplace, and best practices for effective diversity programs and initiatives. We help our clients create and maintain workforces that reflect their markets, and implement positive workplace practices that enhance innovation, productivity, and business success.

I am proud to join CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion (“CEO Action”) and commit to:

  1. Continuing to make our law firm a trusting place to have complex, and sometimes difficult, conversations about diversity and inclusion.
  2. Help eliminate unconscious bias.
  3. Sharing best—and unsuccessful—diversity and inclusion practices.

Dramatic U.S. population changes are rapidly remaking the national workforce. Employers, including law firms, must provide opportunities for all talented people to succeed; recognizing the legal and societal imperative to include minorities, women, and other underrepresented groups and help them—as we do others—develop essential skills for success.

As employment lawyers, we help clients seek the broadest possible candidate pool and create positive, highly productive work environments, while achieving corporate objectives and complying with U.S. employment laws. We develop preventive strategies and positive solutions. In other words, we help our clients implement practices that emphasize fairness, equity, and respect for the contribution of every employee.

Like CEO Action, we recommend that companies not only adhere to legal requirements, but go beyond compliance to achieve legitimate business objectives—which necessarily includes a diverse and representative workforce.

The transformational change needed to achieve CEO Action’s mission does not come easy. Employers face many barriers, from perceived lack of qualified candidates to institutional resistance. Overcoming these barriers requires both commitment and leadership from the C-suite, as well as regular and consistent communication about the sound business reasons for enhanced diversity. Many people are not aware of the growing body of empirical evidence that more diverse workforces result in lower employee turnover, higher sales and revenues, and enhanced profitability. In short, positive diversity and inclusion practices can create true competitive advantages.

CEO Action can help improve individual business diversity performance. First, by making respectful dialogue the “new normal,” so such conversations become less uncomfortable and more productive. Second, CEO Action can provide more experiential information to help educate managers on the business imperative of enhanced diversity and inclusion.

One of the most difficult obstacles is resistance among mid-level managers—often called the “frozen middle.”  These managers, who continue to be predominantly white men, sometimes falsely feel diversity programs are intended to advance “less qualified” minorities and women or unfairly threaten their ability to succeed. It is essential that CEOs make clear that sound diversity and inclusion programs benefit the entire workforce, including collaborative white men.

CEO Action’s public database of initiatives, “best practices,” and unsuccessful practices listings, will be a valuable tool. Even leading companies can learn new strategies and techniques to make their workplaces more productive. At least one caveat is noteworthy: a “best practice” for one organization may be ineffective, or even counterproductive, at another with a different culture, history, structure, employee mix, and business objectives. Successful initiatives must be tailored to the individual workplace.

The throwback to the “bad old days” of open racial and ethnic strife that recently occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia, is a poignant reminder that the efforts of CEO Action are not only needed, but are an essential means for Corporate America to help reinforce the best of America—its fairness, competitiveness, and opportunity for everyone to live up to their God-given ability to be the best they can be!

In these times when race and gender controversies are again becoming front page news, CEOs are being asked to play a larger role to ensure workplace fairness and opportunity. Even as some feel federal government leaders are retreating from their traditional role as enforcers of equal employment opportunity, visionary CEOs have created CEO Action to ensure that American businesses continue to succeed.

By working together, CEO Action signatories can make changes that positively impact not only their own workplaces, but businesses across the country. All companies can benefit from the practices shared by CEO Action, and the competitive advantages gained by participating businesses will enhance their performance in the marketplace, that will ultimately benefit our entire nation.

In this series, CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion™ signatory CEOs share their dedication to acting for workplace diversity and inclusion to make impactful changes that benefit both business and society. Follow along with #CEOAction and learn more at CEOAction.com.