July/August 2020

Table of Contents


Big Ideas ALA President’s Letter

A Time for Self-Reflection

“Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.” 

Debra L. Elsbury, CLM

This incredible quote of Vernã Myers during a TEDTalk resonated with me.  Vernã, a “recovering” attorney, has put into place a definition that separates two terms that are typically married to one another but actually very different. For those of you that do not connect with the dancing analogy, think of diversity as representation and inclusion as involvement. Diversity is a fact; inclusion is an act. Inclusion is not just an invitation to include others for short, celebratory moments but also for strategic ones. Society wants to talk the talk, but does it walk the walk?  Do we as humans? 

Last year, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) tracked over 27 deaths due to fatal violence against transgender or gender nonconforming people in the United States. So far in 2020, HRC has recorded 16 persons killed by violent means (keep in mind many of these crimes often go unreported or underreported). Also, according to HRC, nearly 50% of LGBTQ employees remain in the closet and up to 30% continue to feel unwelcome at work.  This identity struggle impacts their happiness, health and productivity, not to mention the negative impact on the broader organization’s talent retention and leadership development.   

The fear of retaliation is real. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission states that 75% of employees who spoke out against workplace mistreatment faced some form of retaliation. Transgender individuals have an unemployment rate three times higher than the national average — and that was before the pandemic hit.

The statistics are certainly hard to digest, but there is reason to celebrate. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a landmark civil rights law protects gay and transgender workers from workplace discrimination. “An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the majority 6-3 ruling. 

I challenge you to overcome prejudice by identifying your unconscious biases and rewiring your brains to welcome differences and think more inclusively.

Before this ruling, it was legal in more than half of the states in our country to fire workers for being gay, bisexual, or transgender. This decision extends workplace protections to millions of people across the nation — it is definitely something worth celebrating.

In this issue, you will find a feature article, “5 Ways to Make Your Law Firm More Inclusive for the Transgender Community.” It addresses how we, as legal management professionals, can impact our firms, specifically with policies of inclusivity. It is our duty as leaders in the legal profession to set examples for those around us. Employees need to be able to speak freely, and they must be able to offer feedback regarding behaviors, practices and policies. Valuable input cannot happen if people do not feel it is a safe environment in which to speak up. 

After reading the article, I challenge you to create a culture of strategic inclusive practices, policies and behaviors that allow all people to not only bring their fullest sense of self to work each day, but to lead out their very best contributions. I challenge you to overcome prejudice by identifying your unconscious biases and rewiring your brains to welcome differences and think more inclusively. I challenge you to interrupt bias on behalf of someone else. 

Share with ALA what you have done. After all, your accomplishments are our accomplishments. Assist one another. Rely on one another. Trust one another.  The best work is yet to come. ALA is an inclusive place where all voices are heard.  We all need to be an ally in this — advocating matters. In this time of self-reflection that many of us, it is a good day for a gut check. What are you doing, personally or professionally? What is your organization doing? What do your policies say? Look at everything through a new lens.  A lens of someone who has not had the protections so many have taken for granted.

If you have had the pleasure of attending an ALA Annual Conference & Expo, one thing is apparent at the closing Gala — ALA loves to dance.  To ALL of my ALA friends: we can no longer wait to ask colleagues to dance, we can no longer wait to be asked to dance. It is time to start dancing. Let’s go change the world.

As always, it is my pleasure to serve with you and for you.