Q & A With Rosalie Chamberlain
By LaDonna Baertlein
ROSALIE CHAMBERLAIN brings unique experience and perspective to creating successful diversity and inclusion initiatives, based upon a 34-year foundation of law firm and corporate experience, including work as a diversity and inclusion manager. She has served a range of government and private industries, both large and small. She has particular expertise in law firm diversity and inclusion efforts with an understanding of the law firm culture and the current climate of the legal profession
Question: What feedback are you hearing from companies today about diversity?
Answer: Many companies are focusing on inclusiveness. They often have strong diversity initiatives but continue to question how to retain and develop top talent. Workplace diversity initiatives have to be more than ‘programs’ run by ‘committees’. Inclusiveness is successful when it is ingrained in the people and culture of the organization. Inclusiveness is everyone’s responsibility — from top down and bottom up. This is a key answer to ‘how’ inclusiveness can be successful. It is a ‘we’ issue — how do we as individuals take responsibility for creating greater inclusiveness within the organization from where we currently operate?
Q: As a consultant to the legal profession, what do you think the biggest challenge the industry has yet to overcome in order to achieve greater success with inclusiveness?
A: The industry knows there is more work to be done and is looking for effective ways to achieve results. They now look to answer the question ‘how do we make it happen?”
Q: How can you align individuals with organizational goals to create an environment where all can succeed?
A: Making it happen involves two integrated systems — organizational goals and individual strengths. Individuals have needs — to develop their talent, to gain professional development, to seek mentoring, to achieve personal goals. They seek opportunities for success that align their skills with opportunities within the organization. In order to succeed, they must advocate for themselves — for professional development, mentoring, advancement, coaching — depending upon their needs.
From the organizational perspective, their objectives are to develop talent, enhance retention and advancement, and develop a healthy workplace culture. Within an organization, there are many layers of diversity such as role, title, office location, department, in addition to race, gender, sexual orientation and age.
Organizational leaders need to be culturally competent by being mindful of their behavior and being able to work with and leverage differences. Inclusiveness must transcend the full organizational structure, from a company’s website and marketing materials to their recruiting materials — all must reflect a commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Q: Where are we seeing success in bringing those two perspectives together?
A: I see success in firms who partner for effective change. What that means is that firms who better leverage differences work better together. They have moved beyond the “Why are we doing this?” to “How can we do this better?” We know we live in a multi-cultural world with a multi-cultural workforce and client base. We understand that inclusiveness is the right thing to do. We are not always aware of whether we are being inclusive.
Q: What are firms doing that have proven to be successful?
A: They are providing mentors, advocates and sponsors, and encouraging attorneys to volunteer for these roles. They are providing professional development, skill development and coaching. And they are making sure that inclusive messages and actions become deeply rooted into all aspects of their operations.
Q: How does inclusiveness expand and enrich relationships?
A: Let’s face it, successful careers and businesses rely on relationships. Spending time building awareness of how inclusion and exclusion decisions are made could strengthen relationships or build collaborative potential internally. The Japanese proverb, “None of us is as smart as all of us” is good advice for how we relate to others. Thinking more broadly and practicing conscious inclusivity can be fulfilling and empowering and can strengthen relationships.
Q: So how does inclusion create success for leaders?
A: Their first opportunity is to build awareness of bias, which often unconsciously inhibits cultural competency by challenging communication and relationship building. Most often, bias that emerges from unconscious beliefs outside of our awareness is unintentional and often conflicts with conscious beliefs. It takes practice to recognize and create change.
Dynamic leaders explore their own bias and understand its impact on others, their performance and the organization.
They have a great sense of awareness and continually increase their awareness of self and others. These leaders are excited about differences and similarities because they see the potential to leverage strengths and create teams that think more broadly and achieve outstanding results through collaboration and energy. They do much more than manage the multicultural diversity of their teams, they welcome and encourage multiple perspectives because they believe that together they create a more productive and powerful outcome.
The bottom line is that focusing on inclusion contributes to building relationships and organizational goals. It is a simple formula: Inclusion drives engagement, and that equals performance.
At the end of the day, becoming more inclusive is our own individual responsibility. It doesn’t always come naturally, but it can be learned and highly successful.