General Counsels Have a Stake in DEI
By Seth Kaufman
When it comes to improving corporate Diversity, Equality and Inclusion, changes in hiring and culture can pay dividends in different ways.
That was one of the big takeaways from a recent Vanguard General Counsel forum devoted to DEI, featuring a slew of legal leaders, including Datavant chief legal officer Bob Bailey, Western Union chief legal officer Caroline Tsai, Debevoise and Plimpton partner Joe Hamid, Dentons’ Mary Ann Hynes, and Tom Sabatino, the Tenneco GC who headed Walgreens, Aetna and United Airlines.
Awareness has many payoffs, Tsai said, noting the importance of avoiding an “environment where other stakeholders feel like the conversation is chilled because the executive team and or the board is there.”
But diversity and inclusion awareness is beneficial, she says. “When we lead DEI initiatives, and the employees see the difference we're making, not only in our law departments but more broadly to drive it within our companies, and then the impact we make from an outside perspective. We're finding as GCs that it really motivates and inspires our employees.”
Meanwhile, Bob Bailey points out that hiring to improve diversity can actually benefit the corporation in ways that he says should be obvious. “When we try cases defending our companies, often having someone who is, just to be very clear, not a white male, defending the company in front of a jury is more advantageous to the company. So we as lawyers, and as general counsels can make decisions that favor diversity and inclusion that are in are in fact, significantly advantageous to the company and the way it presents itself in court.”
For more insights into DEI from the perspective of General Counsels, listen to the podcast, read a transcript of the event, or watch a video.
These thoughts are taken from a dialogue conducted on Jan 13, 2021. Participants may have changed companies and/or titles since then.