AABANY Hosts Panel on Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity in the Workplace and Beyond

On July 28, 2020, the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) hosted an event addressing diversity, inclusion, and equity in the workplace and beyond. Moderated by Margaret Ling, Director of Business Development and Co-Chair of the Real Estate Committee at AABANY, the panel featured: William H. Ng, Shareholder at Littler Mendelson and former Co-Chair of the Labor & Employment Law Committee of AABANY; Donna Dozier Gordon, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at USTA; Asker A. Saeed, Diversity and Inclusion Consultant and Principal at Saeed Consulting; Sean Bacchus, CEO and Founder of the Executive Diversity and Inclusion Council; and Prof. Meredith R. Miller, President of the Network of Bar Leaders. 

The program began with an acknowledgment of Congressman John Lewis, a civil rights icon who recently passed away. Margaret urged the participants to follow the Congressman’s famous words, to get in “good trouble,” as they work to make their communities more equitable and representative.

Will Ng opened by recounting his experience with diversity and inclusion while working in large law firms. He noted that law firms need to have support from management and leadership in order to succeed in creating a more diverse workplace. He also stressed that recruitment was not the issue, but rather, retaining diverse, younger talent.

Asker Saeed followed by outlining steps that may help large law firms advance their diversity and inclusion efforts. First, law firms should think about their reason for promoting diversity: not only is it the right thing to do, but it is also better for business. Firms should hire the best people, and the best attorneys are not only one gender, race, ethnicity, or sexuality. Second, firms should examine their systems and procedures, particularly in lateral hiring and promotions. For example, when partners are asked to recommend people to a position, they are likely going to recommend individuals who look like them or remind them of themselves, thus perpetuating the status quo that partners should be white, male, straight, etc.. Thirdly, firms should hire and pay someone to be in charge of diversity and inclusion for greater accountability, as well as create a specific budget for diversity and inclusion initiatives. Finally, law firms should create more opportunities for all people to prove their abilities and advance in the organization.

Meredith R. Miller added that, in 2016, the American Bar Association identified discrimination as professional misconduct. She emphasized that firms should not focus on not discriminating, but rather being anti-discrimination and anti-racist. She also urged bar associations to build pipelines for minority communities in the legal field.

Donna Gordon examined the connection between diversity and inclusion in the workplace and the Black Lives Matter movement. Due to the nation’s changing landscape, especially after the Black Lives Matter movement, the success of a firm will depend on its ability to hire and retain diverse talent. Black Lives Matter has reignited corporate interest in diversity and inclusion. However, despite the long history of these diversity initiatives, African Americans still do not experience as much advancement in the workplace. Donna urged participants to focus on addressing the gaps in the African American talent pipeline by tapping into wider networks.

Finally, Sean Bacchus stressed that organizations must be recognized for their progress and held accountable for the work they are not engaging in. Mentorship and sponsorship from senior leaders towards minorities are very important, especially given the prevalence of nepotism in large firms. Sean also urged firms to not only target Ivy League students during recruitment but also look at the CUNY system.

We thank Margaret Ling for organizing and moderating the successful event, and the panelists for offering their valuable insights. Attendees received 1.0 credits in the diversity, inclusion, and elimination of bias requirement, and 0.5 credits in the ethics requirement. To view a recording of the program, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxb4uylxkMQ or click the image above.

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Student Outreach Co-Chair Liza Sohn created this short video of shots from the recent Upstate Roadshow.  To see the photo album, click this link.

Staying Connected with AABANY

We have been urging you all to “Get Connected @ AABANY” and now that you have begun to take up the call, we invite you to stay connected.  AABANY provides many ways to do so, beyond just our website and weekly e-mails.  We know that no one likes getting pelted by e-mails so we are offering other options that you can use to find out what’s going on or receive periodic short reminders about upcoming events.

Over the past few months, you may have noticed AABANY’s increasing presence on various social media fronts.  If you are already on Facebook, please log on to AABANY’s Facebook page and “like” us.  If you already have a Twitter account, follow @aabany.  If you are on LinkedIn, connect with AABANY there and join AABANY’s LinkedIn group.  You can also view videos from various events on AABANY’s YouTube Channel.

If you would prefer not to receive any e-mail or status updates from us, that is perfectly fine.  Just know that you can always go directly to our Weekly Announcements on the website, which is updated every Monday, to get the latest news and events.  You can also visit the AABANY Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts directly if you are following us through those channels.

AABANY also has a blog which currently contains much of the same content that you already see on the Weekly Announcements but over time we hope to include other content that you might find interesting.  We are developing ways for you to offer your feedback to the blog posts so that you can share your thought and ideas with us.

AABANY is doing lots of different and exciting things and we don’t want you to miss a beat.  The Communications Committee is charged with keeping our various communication channels open and active, and if you would like to be involved with those efforts, let our Communications Committee co-chairs Will Wang and Will Ng know by e-mailing them at communication-chairs@aabany.org.  If you have any questions or suggestions, get in touch with them at that address, too.

AABANY looks forward to staying connected with you.