Towards a Culture of Inclusion
Creating workplaces where everyone can thrive
The world has changed. What might have worked before COVID-19 and before George Floyd won’t work anymore.
We need 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
We need Towards a Culture of Inclusion (TACOI).
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 is designed to respond to what research tells us works.
What’s the Problem?
If what works is engaging volunteers to come together to solve a problem, what is the problem that TACOI is trying to solve? The problem is: 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 aims to assemble a group of participant-volunteers from the Pittsburgh legal community who want 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 may wish to be certified as ready to step into the role of a Diversity Ally — that is, to be certified by the PLDIC as “Ally Ready.”
What to Expect from TACOI
You will be exposed to new ideas, new knowledge, and new experiences. Because our legal community is housed within the broader Pittsburgh community, we will talk not only about what needs to be addressed inside law firms and law departments but also what needs to be addressed outside our doors in Pittsburgh and the surrounding region. You likely won’t agree with everything you hear. But we’ll provide a safe place for discussion and growth. We can’t promise you’ll always be comfortable; but we can promise that the experience will be caring, positive and, enriching.
Our participant-volunteers will be 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, should they choose to seek this certification. These tools will include: training and presentations of varying length; facilitated conversations about race; small group discussions among participants who seek to be a Diversity Ally; and written materials and ideas for use in your own workplaces. Some of the training is already scheduled but future programs will be planned in response to the needs expressed by the people participating. All programs will be mutually reinforcing, designed to have a cumulative impact over the series.
Who Should Participate
People who are looking for some way to respond to this moment should participate. People who want to make a difference for their firm, law department, profession, and community should participate. People who want to tackle a tough problem with others and feel they can contribute to innovative solutions should participate. Staff as well as lawyers are welcome to participate.
Leaders are in a unique position to contribute to the creation of a more inclusive legal community. By virtue of their positions, they can 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 can choose to be certified as Ally-Ready, while others may want to dip in and out of the series. 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.
And, of course, only volunteers may participate. This is not a remedial program for “bad” people, but rather a program for “good” people who want to contribute even more — or perhaps want to contribute for the first time.
Let’s Get Started
The first programs in the series were held September 15, with two dynamic programs presented by well-known, diversity, equity and inclusion consultant Ritu Bhasin. Also in September, anyone associated with any of our members was invited to access the lecture presented by Pittsburgh Arts & Lecturs of Robin DiAngelo, author of White Fragility; Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism. For more detail on the kind of programs you can expect, see our TACOI FAQs. You can also keep tabs on what is coming up on our calendar, which will be continually updated throughout the ten-month series.
“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, disabled people, 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.”