Women and Hispanics: Forging Pathways
Since 1996, MCCA® has charted the strides women are making in the pursuit of the top legal spot at America’s largest and most successful companies. Those early lists were so short that I used to have no trouble showing off my good memory and reciting the handful of names. But over time, the ranks have grown significantly and while I don’t believe that in-house women have come close to meeting their full potential as legal leaders, I am happy to admit that I can no longer recite all the names. I comfort myself in the belief that it’s not loss of my good memory, but growth of this list that now makes reciting it an impossible feat. And, I hope our readers take comfort in the belief that progress continues to be made.
In fact, in California, one of only a handful of states where there is no racial majority, the number of women general counsel heading Fortune 500 law departments has grown to seven. In this issue, Diversity & the Bar® interviews Tania Shah Narang, executive director of the California Minority Counsel Program (CMCP), about her thoughts on this growth, and profiles three leading general counsel in the hope of inspiring others. (For those who are not familiar with CMCP, I encourage you to get to know the organization—www.cmcp.org. It is the oldest and best statewide diversity program in the nation!)
However, as we mark progress for women, MCCA also decided to investigate how Hispanic lawyers—male and female—are progressing. Given that September is National Hispanic Heritage month, this inquiry seemed particularly fitting. In the May/June issue of Diversity & the Bar®, we documented a rise in the number of general counsel of Hispanic heritage. So we asked several leaders if they believe times are truly changing, and whether corporate America is starting to see Hispanic heritage as a positive attribute. Overwhelmingly, we heard that although there are still feelings of isolation in that there are so few with similar backgrounds, today’s in-house leaders feel their Hispanic heritage, particularly when accompanied by bilingual skills, is recognized as a true advantage. That recognition is only expected to continue to solidify as time passes, and America’s population demographics continue to shift.
In this issue, we also wrap up a two-part examination of work/life balance from the male attorney perspective. Over the series, we’ve heard that many men are equally as concerned as their female counterparts with work/life issues. However, they are a largely overlooked group and face isolation and challenging stereotypes that women do not encounter on the quest for better life balance. Regrettably, in contrast to the attention given to female lawyers, the legal community has spent little time or effort considering the needs of male lawyers or how to frame issues of work/life balance in more inclusive ways. It’s clear to me that male lawyers are vested in the discussion and should fully participate in the quest for better solutions.
Finding solutions is what lawyers do each day. Therefore, as we move toward the close of this year, let us all renew our commitment to making a difference on diversity.
Veta T. Richardson
From the September/October 2005 issue of Diversity & The Bar®