Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (MetLife), a leading insurance and financial services company, provides an example of a long-term commitment to diversity. Of the law department’s 150 attorneys, 11 percent are persons of color and 39 percent are women. Of the seven lawyers who report directly to its general counsel, Gary Beller, three are women and one is a person of color. Additionally, women represent 37 percent of all managers, while people of color represent 11 percent in the law department.
The breadth of diversity objectives, which the MetLife’s legal department set for itself this year, further exemplifies its commitment to diversity. Among the 12 goals established for 2002, the law department’s diversity plan calls for communicating the importance of diversity to MetLife’s top 35 law firms, including asking those firms to include people of color on MetLife matters. It also includes the identification and increased usage of law firms owned by women and people of color; supporting and partnering with diverse bar associations in order to provide networking and learning opportunities for attorneys of color; the establishment of an internship program at regional MetLife offices for diverse law students; and programs to foster an understanding of different cultures through the use of films, books, and a monthly newsletter.
To meet the challenges set forth by its diversity plan, its law department’s Diversity Committee relies on 12 members who serve as co-chairs of six subcommittees. Each subcommittee is focused on a different aspect of the program. For example, one subcommittee is responsible for developing relationships with local, regional, and national bar associations of color, while another is responsible for placing ads in diversity-related publications and ensuring that committee activities receive maximum visibility.
Its committee is also on target to meet all 12 objectives set for this year. The key to MetLife’s success has been the strong commitment and support the diversity effort has received by its law department’s senior management. Additionally, the frequency with which the diversity committee communicates its progress to the department keeps the diversity commitment in focus. It does this through two means: a diversity website that is devoted to information about the department’s diversity efforts, and periodic updates about progress on diversity objectives at its town meetings for all employees.
At MetLife, diversity success is a business imperative.
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From the December 2002 issue of Diversity & The Bar®