Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee Panel Highlights Progress and Opportunities

On the final day of Pride Month, a distinguished panel convened for “Raising the Bar:  A Virtual Panel Discussion on LGBTQ+ Diversity in Law.”  Featured panelists included Honorable Judge Mary Rowland of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois; Jeremy Protas, Partner at Marshall, Gerstein, & Borun LLP; Dr. Nabeela Rasheed, Vice President of Intellectual Property at Amunix Pharmaceuticals; and Danielle Johnson, Associate at Goldberg Kohn.  IPLAC DE&I Co-Chair Cynthia Assam, acting as the moderator, delivered a compelling line-up of questions for audience members and panelists alike, stimulating discussion on the importance of “firsts” in breaking down historical barriers, identifying trends related to the LGBTQ+ community, and probing the difficult question of why a lack of diversity, equity, and inclusion exists.
The fundamental concept of intersectionality, where all forms of oppression are linked (coined by law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw) provided an instructive context as panelists shared personal stories of how sexual orientation layered with gender identity, marital status, and race has impacted standing within their legal careers and within society at large.  Fear of backlash, industry progress, and open-mindedness were a fraction of the topics touched on during the enriching lunchtime hour program.  Embracing the key role of allies in championing members of the LGBTQ+ community, a final question addressed to the panel was a request for specific, actionable steps.  The inspired audience left with the following powerful advice:  1) ensure there is an employee resource group, 2) reach out and engage an individual or group at work who does not look like you, 3) don’t make assumptions especially when entering into conversations, 4) inclusive pronouns provide comfort and allow LGBTQ+ community members to be seen, and 5) be intentional in workplace decisions and create space for transgender individuals.  A link to the current shift in corporate valuation based on a commitment to Environmental, Social, and Government (ESG) prioritization was shared, and is available here.

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