I joined the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion — a commitment to promote D&I in the workplace — because I wholeheartedly embrace the goals of this group. As business leaders, the participants of this group, myself included, have an obligation to lead by example and serve as powerful advocates for diversity and inclusion. Good business practices include, among many other things, having diverse teams, which positively impacts innovation, client value and the bottom line.
As CEO and managing partner of Nixon Peabody, a global law firm, I know diversity and inclusion makes our organization better and stronger, and having a variety of perspectives enables us to create even more innovation for our clients. Our priority is to attract, retain and promote diverse individuals by creating more opportunities for attorneys from all backgrounds, races, genders and religions.
We have made good progress, but there’s a lot more work to do. Today, 37 percent of our leadership roles are held by women and minority attorneys. Women comprise 50 percent of our last three partnership classes combined. While we have improved our statistics over the past few years and are proud of our efforts, we know our actions going forward are of paramount importance.
Here are some of the strategies we have used to create and sustain a diverse and inclusive workplace — and some of the key lessons we’ve learned along the way.
Create a mentorship culture
I am a strong believer in the power of mentorship. Mentoring new talent and ensuring our firm encourages mentorship are among our biggest responsibilities as business professionals.
At Nixon Peabody, we evaluate mentorship in performance reviews to emphasize the importance and responsibilities on both sides of the mentor-mentee relationship. I encourage my colleagues to choose mentees who may come from different backgrounds and bring different life, education and career experiences to the workplace. This helps mentors and mentees develop broader viewpoints that they may not have otherwise considered.
Be deliberate in choosing leaders
In elevating colleagues to leadership positions, I am focused on bringing up the next generation of leaders. What I’m looking for are leaders who can provide diverse perspectives for clients, and who are also thinking about what’s ahead.
As leadership opportunities arise, I suggest carefully considering a diverse pool of people for candidates. Personally, I focus on a colleague’s future potential as much as I focus on what they’ve already accomplished. When we’re engaged in succession planning, we are able to be deliberate in ensuring that our vision of the future includes women and other underrepresented populations.
We are transparent in evaluating attorneys who are on the path to partnership, and we routinely examine the pipeline for leadership roles and partners to ensure that we’re not inadvertently putting up roadblocks that could negatively affect our diversity efforts, or limit opportunities for underrepresented people. We always take a longer-term view. Leadership roles are opportunities to serve, not entitlements.
Foster greater inclusion for new parents
Allow ample time for employees returning from extended parenting leave to readjust to their work life and workload. At Nixon Peabody, we are focused on new ways we can retain attorneys in various career tracks. We reduced the billable hours expectation of returning associates to 80 percent of their full-time requirements for up to six months after they return from an extended parenting leave. This gives parents more time to adjust to their “new normal” while balancing parenthood and career without any negative financial impact. Our hope is these policies and programs will benefit a broad range of people with different lifestyles and needs.
These are just a few examples of ways we are fostering a diverse and inclusive workforce at Nixon Peabody. Creating a culture that fully embraces differences and promotes inclusion ensures that our organization is able to handle the changes ahead, and enables us to anticipate our clients’ needs. Our ultimate success will be when we have a diverse workforce and we don’t need to measure