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Room for improvement.

A group of middle-aged Caucasian men defending a client is practically a legal tradition. But simply put, if your lawyers all come from a similar background, you aren't going to get a varied perspective.

This year's Diversity Panel was led by an equally diverse panel of one white woman and two black men. The panelists, each of whom has developed innovative programs for increasing diversity in their own companies, discussed their business observations on diversity. Many corporations want to promote diversity, but have shallow, blurry or inefficient practices. The panelists proposed solutions for diversity program pitfalls.

Define Diversity: The word diversity means different things to different people. The narrow definition includes only gender and ethnicity, whereas the expansive definition incorporates culture, age, lifestyle and socioeconomic background. A woman in the audience added that corporations often use an inclusive definition to avoid substantive changes in hiring practices. Choose a definition and form your goals around it.

Budget for Diversity: Those who vow they want to promote diversity often back away when the question of cost is introduced. But Michelle Banks, GC of The Gap and one of the session panelists, made diversity fit her budget through trade outs and budget cuts elsewhere.

Illuminate Diversity: One way corporations attempt to dodge the diversity issue is by pointing out their overall diversity numbers rather than organizing them by position or rank. Diversity is often met at lower levels but not higher up the ladder, the panelists said. Ronald Crawford, chief counsel for diversity and policy initiative for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and a session panelist, explained that the SEC has made progress in this area by updating its Proxy Disclosure Rules, allowing for greater transparency not only in corporate governance and risk but alsoin compensation.

Educate on Diversity: Lots of people equate diversity with affirmative action. This is not the case, Crawford says: "Diversity and the best people are not mutually exclusive." He advised the audience to create a diversity committee with performance measures and competencies that meets regularly for training and retraining. Before Crawford revamped the SEC's diversity program, the committee hadn't met in nearly two years. "You need long range planning," he says.
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Title Annotation:DIVERSITY
Author:Hennessy, Chelsea
Date:Jul 1, 2010
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