Laying a foundation for diversity & inclusion: a case study
In a previous interview, Michelle P. Wimes, Esq., the Director of Professional Development & Inclusion at Ogletree Deakins, identified challenges that diversity initiatives face and how to overcome them. Here, she describes how she laid a foundation for a successful diversity and inclusion program.
Jathan Janove: You joined Ogletree Deakins in September 2011. What was first on your agenda?
Michelle Wimes: I focused on creating a shared vision with the firm’s leaders. My goal was to create a coordinated, strategic approach to diversity as a business imperative, including integrating that approach in the firm’s professional development programs and overall firm strategy.
JJ: How did you get started?
MW: Before pursuing any particular program or plan, I felt we needed to create a foundation. We conducted a needs assessment and had a phenomenal response rate—86 percent! The assessment provided valuable insight into the firm’s culture, perceived needs, and priorities. And the information gained enabled us to go to the firm’s Board of Directors and make a credible case for what needed to done.
JJ: What else did you do to establish a foundation?
MW: We overhauled the firm’s diversity committee. When I arrived, it consisted of nearly 100 attorneys and lacked structure or focus. We created the Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee, which replaced the diversity committee, and limited the number of members to 14 shareholders who were well-respected and committed to diversity. The committee included attorneys from both majority and minority groups.
Working with the steering committee, we identified metrics and goals and set up periodic assessments. We developed attrition reports, gathered exit interview data, and compared minority employment in each office and geographic area to the relevant demographic data in each office.
We developed a list of activities for committee members including attending job fairs, writing articles or blog posts, organizing or attending diversity events, and mentoring diverse attorneys. Committee members committed to doing at least three of these items. We scheduled telephonic meetings every 60 days with 3 in-person meetings per year.