When I graduated from law school in 1986 and accepted my first legal job as in-house counsel to Sunoco, an energy company in Philadelphia, the dearth of diversity among general counsel at Fortune 500 companies was arresting.
There were no women of color in these roles. True, the glass ceiling had already been shattered by female attorneys in other areas, but from my office at Sunoco, the road to the general counsel seat appeared rutty and exhaustingly remote. In fact, another decade would pass before Cummins Engine would name Pamela Carter its general counsel, making her the first African American woman to be appointed chief legal officer of a Fortune 500 company.
Elena Kagan’s appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court this past summer expands the boundaries even further. Kagan is the fourth woman to ever sit on the high court, and she will have the privilege of serving alongside two other female justices. From the ranks of the judiciary to other walks of the legal profession, the demographics at the top are changing. This is equally evident as the definition of “power couple” is revised to include new players from the Latino community, and the general counsel club welcomes openly gay members, while attorneys with disabilities ascend the ranks at their organizations.
Could it be that America is fast approaching the day when one’s demographic characteristics are irrelevant because we are no longer counting “firsts?” My MCCA colleagues and I hope you’ll find more evidence of that in this edition of Diversity & the Bar, which illustrates how diversity momentum in the legal profession is steadily progressing. DB
Veta T. Richardson
Minority Corporate Counsel Association
From the September/October 2010 issue of Diversity & The Bar®