Panelists Offer Insight Into Implementing Successful Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Measures in the Workplace

Aug 31, 2020

by ASME.org

A recent webinar from FiscalNote focused on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) measures and the future of public and government affairs. Moderated by Mary C. Curtis, a columnist at Roll Call and an award-winning journalist, the webinar featured a diverse group of public affairs experts from a variety of industries. The panelists discussed their own experiences and provided input on how public and government affairs organizations can foster a diverse, inclusive, and respectful working environment.
 
In their discussion, the panelists established three key points for successful DEI measures:
  1. Support from C Suite executives is a critical must-have.
  2. The leader and board population of an organization should reflect the people that it is serving.
  3. Building an effective DEI strategy takes patience and commitment. 
In order for a DEI strategy to foster lasting change in an organization, there must be support for the initiative from the CEO and other C Suite executives. Dana Weekes, Managing Director at Arnold & Porter, cited this support as critical in ensuring that the organization is communicating a unified message. The most important feature of a DEI strategy is authenticity, Weekes stressed. If an organization wants to broadcast their DEI measures but does not have the full buy-in of C Suite executives, it may appear inauthentic. This may mean that organizations will need to adjust their internal processes and policies before they can even start to work on their external advocacy efforts.
 
The second key point, representation, is intrinsically tied into the first. Representation across the entire organization is crucial, and this includes the leader and board. Weekes referenced the Mansfield Rule, which “measures whether law firms have affirmatively considered at least 30 percent women, lawyers of color, LGBTQ+ lawyers, and lawyers with disabilities for leadership and governance roles, equity partner promotions, formal client pitch opportunities, and senior lateral positions.” Her firm, Arnold & Porter, conducted an internal audit to address the diversity of its partners and attorneys and how it could improve in order to address systemic racism and other issues of equality. This audit resulted in an actionable plan with both short- and long-term goals for improvement. The work seems to be paying off: In 2018, Arnold & Porter achieved “Mansfield Certification Plus Status,” with 30+% women or diverse attorneys in leading roles.
 
Finally, organizations must understand that a successful DEI strategy will take time. When it comes to creating lasting changes, DEI measures need to be more of a long-term business priority than a short-term public affairs decision. Angela Lee, Manager of Advocacy Outreach and Engagement for Goodwill Industries International, emphasized that DEI should not be thought of as a separate initiative; rather, it should be a key part of what the organization is already doing. This is why there is no “one size fits all” approach to DEI policies, Lee noted. Different organizations will need to enact different policies based on where they are in their DEI journey. And most importantly, said Lee, companies should not approach their DEI strategy with the question of “if” it aligns with their company’s values, but rather “how” it aligns.
 
The full list of panelists included:
  • Dana Weekes, Managing Director, Arnold & Porter
  • Cherie Wilson, Director of Federal Affairs, General Motors
  • Collis Jones, Vice President of U.S. Public Affairs Policy and Strategy, John Deere
  • Angela Lee, Manager of Advocacy Outreach and Engagement, Goodwill Industries International 
You can read more about the Mansfield Rule here: https://www.diversitylab.com/mansfield-rule-4-0/#:~:text=The%20Mansfield%20Rule%2C%20inspired%20by,partner%20promotions%2C%20formal%20client%20pitch.

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