Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace and Boardroom: We’re All in This Together

by Moy Ogilvie And Philip Amoa

l to r:  Moy Ogilvie, Diversity & Inclusion Partner, McCarter & English; Philip Amoa, Partner, McCarter & English

In May 2020, America experienced a reckoning in race relations throughout every corner of the country, and corporate America was not immune. Companies in every industry took a hard look inward at their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts, or lack thereof, and saw that changes urgently needed to be made at all levels, in every aspect of hiring, promoting, and retaining talent and diversifying leadership.

While the legal sector has always been at the forefront of seeking justice and upholding the principle that all are equal under the law, McCarter saw a need to develop a more targeted approach to dismantle structural racism and combat the impact of racial injustice in our communities. Building on the DEI, pro bono, and community service work we had already been doing, we created the McCarter & English Social Justice Project (SJP), co-chaired by McCarter’s Diversity & Inclusion partner, Moy Ogilvie. We are partnering with various organizations on pro bono and community service efforts in the areas of criminal reform, housing and community economic development and through our internal educational programs we are taking affirmative steps to educate ourselves and have a deeper understanding of the depth and consequences of racial inequality.

Clients have also been confronting the need for increased attention to their DEI efforts, which has increased steadily as Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) programs continue to take on significant importance. While Environmental and Governance remain important topics in boardrooms, we have seen an increased emphasis on the Social portion, of which DEI is a key focus. In early 2021, the Securities & Exchange Commission brought enhanced focus to ESG, calling out the risks and opportunities that these issues pose for investors and the nation’s financial system and economy. Shareholders are watching and are pressuring companies to do more to address social justice concerns, and McCarter is helping clients of all sizes to ensure they are proactive in this regard, including through providing DEI training.

As organizations are looking to strengthen their ESG programs, McCarter partner Philip Amoa has been advising corporate boards on creating and expanding DEI work for the long haul. Through his experience leading the DEI taskforce of a $12 billion pension fund, he is often involved in discussions regarding diversity and increasing DEI efforts to meet ESG goals, particularly the Governance aspect, at the top level of organizations. Philip not only brings this experience to his clients but  to his fellow lawyers at McCarter so that they in turn can assist their clients.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the racial justice issues have further highlighted workplace inequities, particularly those impacting women and diverse employees, and made it clear that corporations need to do better in creating more inclusive workplaces and supporting their employees. Post-pandemic, there is an opportunity for companies of all types to right existing inequities, address mental health concerns, and prioritize overall wellness in the workplace, including combating and addressing instances of witnessing sexist behavior from co-workers.

We are at a turning point in this country. Statistics, including the oft-cited 2015 McKinsey & Company “Diversity Matters” research, point to a “significant relationship between a more diverse leadership team and better financial performance.” We have known this fact for some time, and it is long past time to act on it. Moreover, companies need to reflect the diversity of our great country. We have a responsibility to make measurable and meaningful changes that will impact future generations. We are all in this together.

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