"Diversity is a business imperative." Google's search engine returns more than 1,500 hits for that phrase. It appears on the Web sites of corporations, universities, business journals, professional associations and news outlets. CEOs, corporate spokespeople and even general counsel spout it like it's a centuries-old axiomatic truth. But few seem to know what that phrase really means.
In the legal department of the world's largest pharmaceutical company, New York-based Pfizer Inc., diversity gets a lot more than the typical lip service. Over the past two years under the leadership of General Counsel Jeff Kindler, Pfizer's legal division has implemented a broad-based diversity initiative that promotes diversity in recruiting and hiring practices, aids in the career development and retention of women and minority attorneys, demands progress toward diversity among outside counsel, and even attempts to diversify the law student population.
Casazza Herman then spent three months talking to consultants and diversity experts about what would go into a diversity program. But nothing she encountered was as broad-based or comprehensive as what she and Kindler envisioned for Pfizer.
Together, they decided the department needed a steering committee to advance diversity programs in five areas: recruiting and hiring, development, retention, supplier diversity, and communications. Casazza Herman chairs the committee, and 45 people from all levels within the organization voluntarily serve on five subcommittees organized around the five areas.
Kindler has no qualms about discussing those issues. At a recent two-day global meeting for Pfizer's entire legal department, Kindler devoted an entire half-day to diversity issues. And it wasn't just a standard corporate presentation--members of the department presented a variety of views on contentious issues such as affirmative action.
"When you hear leaders talking about diversity like it's a real business issue, with implications and specifics you need to deal with, then people know you're serious," Kindler says.
4 percent minority partners," says Gregory Winfree, senior litigation counsel at Phelps Dodge Corp., and co-founder of Charting Your Own Course (CYOC), a professional networking organization for minority in-house attorneys. "When the law firms have a shortage--and certainly they do among people who are poised to move in-house--there is going to be a corresponding shortage of people who are able to take the available in-house positions."
Rather than write that off as a problem they couldn't be held accountable for, Pfizer turned to the diversity committee's recruiting and hiring workgroup to come up with ways to proactively influence that pool. The ideas the company implemented will have an impact on the diversity of the bar for years to come. For example, the company funds annual scholarships for minority law students to study intellectual property law.
"We believe that retaining a diverse group of legal professionals to work on our matters and service our divisions is necessary to create better business results," Adams says. "But starting out, we weren't sure where we stood or whether our firms did make diversity a priority."
Over the past several months, Adams' team developed a benchmarking survey that inquired not just about the law firms' demographics, but also their internal policies, participation in diversity-based organizations and their track record of retention and promotion of minority attorneys.
"Culture change is essential to a diversity initiative," he says. "So it was important to create a resource that people would use and go to. They already access this database and look there to make hiring decisions. It made sense to make this a resource to search for information about women and minority attorneys."
Looking To The Future