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Standing up and speaking out: a conversation about diversity, positive change, justice and equality

We recently attended “Standing Up and Speaking Out", a joint event organised by ChIPs and the Corporate Counsel Women of Color. ChIPs is a global community which advances and connects women in technology, law and policy. D Young & Co partner Dr Zöe Clyde-Watson has summarised the evening's discussion

ChIPs and Corporate Counsel Women of Color partnered up for a candid conversation about recent events in the US and how they can collectively engage and take actionable steps towards creating positive change, justice and equality. ChIPs is a global community which advances and connects women in technology, law and policy.

The session was moderated by Noreen Krall, Vice President and Chief Litigation Counsel at Apple and ChIPs Co-founder, with speakers including Laurie Robinson-Haden (CEO and Founder of Corporate Counsel Women of Color), Laurie Charrington (Associate General Counsel at Intel), Danielle Conley, (Partner and Co-Chair of Anti-Discrimination Practice at WilmerHale), Judge Kathleen O'Malley, Circuit Judge, US Court of Appeals Federal Circuit and Judge Ann Claire Williams (Ret.), Of Counsel at Jones Day.

The opening discussion focused on how worldwide coverage of recent and tragic events in the US has served to highlight some of the ongoing challenges faced by the BAME community working within the legal profession. Although these challenges are not new, for many they have been exacerbated over recent months by the disproportionate effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on the BAME community. However, there was a definite sense of optimism round the table that the overwhelming scale of the response would provide the necessary momentum to implement real change in the profession. It was acknowledged that the BAME community need their (non-BAME) ‘allies’ to ensure that this momentum translates into tangible changes in the workplace. As a first step, this may require those in leadership positions within the legal profession to engage in a period of intense self-reflection and education, a view endorsed by both Judge O'Malley and Judge Williams.

The panel went on to discuss a number of positive initiatives that can be implemented in the workplace, such as mentoring schemes for BAME employees, and ensuring that there are equal opportunities for promotion opportunities, access to billable work and participation in pitches, as well as access to the appropriate business networks and support groups to help with career development. The discussion also highlighted the need to invest in the pipeline feeding into the legal profession, for example, by way of internships and/or sponsorship programs for schools and colleges.

The passion and shared experiences of the panel led to a very engaging discussion. As Judge Williams noted, maybe there is an opportunity for “2020” vision to fix a systemic problem.