Unleashing the Power of Diversity Through Inclusive Leadership


Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation | May 20, 2019

The Harvard Law School Forum published an article, “Unleashing the Power of Diversity Through Inclusive Leadership,” authored by Russell Reynolds Associates Consultant Tina Shah Paikeday. The piece featured the firm's paper, "Inclusive Leadership: Unlocking the Value of Diversity and Inclusion." The article is excerpted below.

The Slow Road to Diversity

For decades, the legal profession has attempted to hire and recruit more diverse talent, yet progress has been slow. Although people of color (including those who identify as Asian, Black or African American, Hispanic, or Latinx) comprise a growing number of law firm associates, they remain significantly under-represented at higher levels. Between 2007 and 2017, the proportion of equity partners who are people of color grew from 6 percent to 9 percent, according to MCCA/Vault data, even though under-represented attorneys have accounted for around 20 percent of all law firm hires in each year during that time frame. The situation is particularly acute for women of color, who comprise just 3 percent of equity partners—up from less than 2 percent in 2007.

Many factors contribute to these statistics, but disproportionately high (and rising) attrition rates for attorneys who are people of color are a crucial one. [1] Last year, people of color comprised 17 percent of all attorneys, yet accounted for 22 percent of all departures. To truly accelerate diversity in their ranks, it’s clear that lawyers need new strategies.

Recent research has put the spotlight on inclusion as a necessary ingredient to successful diversity. Inclusion focuses on actively embracing diverse perspectives and changing the culture to reflect them, rather than simply hiring diverse employees and expecting them to fit into the existing culture. Importantly, any leader or employee can contribute to inclusion, regardless of background or demographic.

Russell Reynolds Associates (RRA) research shows that when employees consider their leaders inclusive, they are more likely to want to remain with the company, along with other positive results.

Yet the measure of a culture’s inclusivity ultimately lies with employees, and in particular, with those who have traditionally been marginalized.

To better understand how attorneys feel about their organizations’ diversity and inclusion (D&I) efforts, the Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA) partnered with RRA in 2018 to launch an Inclusion Index survey. More than 600 attorneys from both law firms and corporate legal departments, and across all demographic categories—yielding a robust set of insights.

In brief, the Inclusion Index results reveal that law firms and corporate legal departments cultivate a number of positive cultural elements. However, low scores in the belonging category raise concerns that many attorneys do not feel they can be themselves at work, but rather have to adapt to the existing culture to succeed.

To read the full article, click here.

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Unleashing the Power of Diversity Through Inclusive Leadership