In a large organization, it can be challenging to make everyone feel invested in the same goals—particularly when those goals relate to diversity and inclusion. But LCLD Member firm Barnes & Thornburg LLP has found three ways to help all employees feel connected to one another—and to the value of diversity and inclusion.
“Barnes & Thornburg is a big law firm with a lot of talent spread out across the country,” said Dawn Rosemond, Partner and Director of Diversity, Professional Development, and Inclusion at Barnes & Thornburg. “Elevating our women and minority talent, and getting them the same level of access and exposure, is not going to happen by accident.” Under Rosemond’s leadership, the firm developed a strategy to help ensure diverse attorneys can gain that access and exposure. Part of that strategy included launching two initiatives aimed at building connectivity across the firm:
- I Am Barnes & Thornburg is a monthly installment of quick, in-depth profiles of a diverse selection of firm personnel, including lawyers and non-attorney professionals alike.
- The Women’s History Month – Redefine campaign showcases female talent across the organization, with women talking about a different critical theme each week for five weeks.
In a discussion with LCLD, Rosemond highlighted three ways these new initiatives have helped build a greater sense of connection, firmwide, to Barnes & Thornburg’s inclusive goals.
1. Connect diverse team members to the broader organization.
Barnes & Thornburg knows that access and exposure are pressing issues for women and minorities at the firm. In the initial meeting of the women’s taskforce, Rosemond recalled women expressing that a lack of visibility relative to female talent was one of the biggest challenge to gaining meaningful assignments: “We don’t see enough faces that look like us, and they don’t have enough of a voice.”
Both the I Am Barnes & Thornburg and Redefine initiatives help address this issue by putting a diverse selection of women and minority team members, from all levels and locations of the firm, in front of the entire organization each month. The profiles are colorfully packaged and easy to read, but go a step deeper than a typical firm bio—helping readers feel they can get to know employees with whom they might not otherwise have connected.
“We’ve moved beyond a single story,” Rosemond said. “When you’re thinking about who to put on a business pitch, for example, you are more likely to include folks in your comfort zone. But this is helping us break down those barriers.”
In the case of the Redefine campaign, Rosemond also noted that it was important to have women from across the firm speaking about issues that would resonate with the whole firm; in 2018, the topics covered each week were purpose, risk, identity, and journey.
2. Make sure all voices are heard and valued.
I Am Barnes & Thornburg in particular has also helped those not traditionally considered diverse feel more engaged with the firm’s diversity and inclusion efforts.
“In order to move the ball on inclusion, this has to be a collective effort; you can’t leave folks on the cutting room floor,” Rosemond said. “When we’re talking about uniqueness, we’re talking about all of us.” The goal of I Am Barnes & Thornburg is to show the uniqueness of individuals across the organization—and ultimately remind them that they have more in common than not. And based on the initial feedback this year, it’s doing just that.
“We just did a fire drill here in Indianapolis—all the talk outside was about this month’s I Am Barnes & Thornburg,” reads an email Rosemond received from a colleague after a recent issue went out. “The connection this creates across our team is so important!”
3. Make sure business is part of the equation.
Rosemond was quick to highlight the fact that, while the firm is happy with the result, the campaigns are not just about making people feel more connected. Both initiatives are part of the firm’s broader goal of diversifying teams and creating work opportunities for all, in particular the firm’s female and minority talent.
At Barnes & Thornburg, each request for proposal comes across Rosemond’s desk, where she reviews the makeup of them team to see whether it is in line with the firm’s values.
“When I have to respond to a lead attorney and say that we need to change a team around, I Am Barnes & Thornburg and Redefine help me identify folks who can fit the bill in a particular area,” she said. “They might say, ‘I don’t know anyone who practices in this area,’ and I can point to these resources.”
But perhaps even more promisingly, the campaigns are also empowering attorneys to make these connections on their own.
“After the last installment of I Am Barnes & Thornburg, one of my partners copied me on an email to another partner who had been featured,” Rosemond said. “He said, ‘We have so much more in common than I ever knew! We need to get together and figure things out.’ And now they both have a connection to another partner in another market.”
For more information on the I Am Barnes & Thornburg and Women’s History Month – Redefine campaigns, or other diversity and inclusion efforts at Barnes & Thornburg, email Dawn Rosemond at Dawn.Rosemond@btlaw.com.