Towards a Culture of Inclusion
Creating workplaces where everyone can thrive
Towards a Culture of Inclusion (TACOI), a 10-month series from September 2020 – June 2021, encouraged participants to:
- “Up our game” because the world has grown far more diverse, complex, and conflicted
- Challenge our preconceptions and be willing to go beyond sound bites and slogans
- Be emotionally brave and intellectually sharp
What Works; What Doesn’t Work
Most diversity programs aren’t increasing diversity. And some of the old approaches not only do not work, but actually make things worse.
What we know doesn’t work: mandatory one-off trainings.
What we know does work: engaging volunteers to come together to solve a problem; contact among people unlike each other working towards a common goal; and social accountability.
TACOI was designed to respond to what research tells us works.Read the FAQ’s about TACOI.
What’s the Problem?
If what works is engaging volunteers to come together to solve a problem, what problem did TACOI was trying to solve? The problem: lawyers of color leave their firms at a greater rate than white lawyers (and women leave at a greater rate than men and women of color leave at the highest rate of all). So, despite hiring greater numbers of diverse people (and women), the legal profession is only slightly more diverse than it was 20 years ago and the people at the top are still mostly white men.
TACOI assembled a group of participant-volunteers from the Pittsburgh legal community who wanted to help solve the problem of disproportionate attrition among lawyers of color, to learn ways to make them feel more welcome, supported, and engaged in the work of their firms and law departments. Some of these volunteers chose to take steps to become a Diversity Ally — that is, to be certified by the PLDIC as “Ally Ready.”
What was Gained from TACOI
TACOI exposed participants to new ideas, knowledge, and experiences. Because our legal community is housed within the broader Pittsburgh community, we not only talked about what needed to be addressed inside law firms and law departments but also what needed to be addressed outside our doors in Pittsburgh and the surrounding region. Participants were not likely to agree with everything they heard. But a safe place was provided for discussion and growth. The goal of the program was not to always be comfortable, but to have a caring, positive, and enriching experience.
Our participant-volunteers were provided with the knowledge and tools needed to help solve the problem of disproportionate minority retention and to be ready to serve as Diversity Allies, if they chose to seek this certification. These tools included: training and presentations of varying length; facilitated conversations about race; small group discussions among participants seeking to be Diversity Allies; and written materials and ideas for use in your own workplaces. All programs were mutually reinforcing, designed to have a cumulative impact over the series.
Who Should Participate
The series invited participants who were looking for some way to respond to the moment; people who wanted to make a difference for their firm, law department, profession, and community; and people who wanted to tackle a tough problem with others and felt they can contribute to innovative solutions. Staff as well as lawyers were welcome to participate. Leaders especially were encouraged to take part due to the virtue of their positions, ability to engage others through their example, and clearly demonstrate the importance their organizations place in this work. What a powerful statement about the Pittsburgh legal community to have our leaders, at all levels within our organizations, as well as recognized future leaders, step up to participate and contribute to the series.
People ready to commit to a sustained effort could choose to be certified as Ally-Ready. Anyone can be an ally because privilege is intersectional — in other words, a White person can be an ally to a Black person but a Black man can also be an ally to a woman, White or Black, and a Black woman can be an ally to a person with a disability or a member of the LGBTQ community, and on and on and on. Besides, as we all know, diverse teams are more creative problem solvers and so the more diverse our participants, the better our outcomes likely will be.
The program only allowed volunteers to participate. It was not a remedial program for “bad” people, but rather a program for “good” people who wanted to contribute even more — or perhaps wanted to contribute for the first time.
“Being an ally is a journey, and you don’t have to do it all at once. Start with a single act. While it may seem small, you’ll make a difference. You may even start a ripple effect.”
–Karen Catlin, Founder and Author of Better Allies
“The recent report from Pittsburgh’s Gender and Equity Commission reveals stark inequalities along race and gender lines, leaving little doubt as to why the region has difficulty retaining diverse talent… As one of the least diverse metropolitan areas in the United States, with flatlining population growth, our region has a choice to make: southwestern Pennsylvania will become a place where people of color, LGBTQIA+ people, a person with a disability, veterans, and people from minority religious traditions see an opportunity to settle, create careers and build lives, or our region will stagnate.”
–Sabrina Saunders Mosby, President and CEO of Vibrant Pittsburgh
“It’s been said that conflict — from discomfort to active disagreement — is change trying to happen. Unfortunately, most workplaces today go to great lengths to avoid conflict of any type. That has to change. The cultures we seek to create cannot brush past or ignore conflict, or worse, direct blame or anger toward those who are pushing for needed transformation.”
–Ben Hecht, President & CEO of Living Cities
“There is never time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment; the time is always now.”