Kamala Harris is Inspiring Women of Color Across our Country

Manita RawatBy Manita Rawat

It’s not that Geraldine Ferarro didn’t inspire me. When I saw her on my TV at the age of six and heard her vice presidential acceptance speech, I thought “women can be whatever they want to be.” But, I also wondered if that notion applied to people like me—women and girls of color. Growing up, whether on TV or the big screen, there just weren’t women of color for me to even see. Wonder Woman, Charlie’s Angels, Jem and the Holograms, and Baby from Dirty Dancing all had something I didn’t—a lighter shade of skin. This lack of visibility for people like me did not deter me from any goals, but did cause me to wonder if this dearth of representation would someday be a roadblock simply because the world had never seen a woman of color in a particular role. After watching Kamala Harris accept the vice presidential nomination, I no longer wonder. Continue reading “Kamala Harris is Inspiring Women of Color Across our Country”

Enabling Innovation and Profitability While Creating an Inclusive World with Diverse Design

Around the world, companies are leaving money on the table.  Lack of diversity and inclusion in “The Room Where It Happens,” whether the “IT” is a board-room, an innovation team, or a design team, repeatedly has been shown to affect the bottom line.  In the realm of innovation alone, experts have estimated that “the size of the economy could be roughly 3 to 4 percent higher if women and underrepresented minorities were included in the innovative process from beginning to end.”

To read the full text of this post by Heidi Lunasin and Yalda Hajavi, the first of a multipart series, please visit the Duane Morris Fashion, Retail and Consumer Branded Products Blog.

The Power To Do Something

Anastasia KaupBy Anastasia N. Kaup

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with a male “C-suite” officer at a prominent investment fund, with whom I’ve worked for years. Among other topics, our conversation touched on diversity and inclusion, and on that topic, the officer said: “we’ll never improve diversity and inclusion numbers in business or law unless those who are in positions with the power to do something, actually do something, to support others who are diverse or women.” That comment really struck a chord with and inspired me, and I couldn’t agree more. Continue reading “The Power To Do Something”

We Must Not Overlook Recent Historic Diversity Milestones

Neville BilimoriaBy Neville Bilimoria

During the pandemic, it is so hard for us to stay connected and focused, much less remember what day of the week it is. Some, like myself, seem like we are glued to our screens, working away, and have little time to look up and focus on what is happening outside of our isolated home offices. That’s why I feel we have to step back, take a breath, and really internalize and absorb some of the historic diversity milestones that have occurred just recently over the last month, and not let the coronavirus and our collective isolation divert our attention away from these history-making milestones: Continue reading “We Must Not Overlook Recent Historic Diversity Milestones”

Representation Matters and It’s Good Business

Mark LernerBy Mark Lerner 

When I started my legal career at a small firm over 25 years ago, I had trepidations over whether I could be myself and practice law.  Would partners want to work with me?  Would clients?  I had come out of the closet before going to law school and was even a member of the law school’s LGBT law student group. I didn’t want to be back in the closet at work, but I was also afraid to be fully out. Continue reading “Representation Matters and It’s Good Business”

An LGBTQ Associate’s Guide To My New Large Firm

Alain VilleneuveBy Alain Villeneuve

Chapter 2: The Annual Review

As a young associate making my way to partnership, each year in the early fall, I felt myself slowly become more agitated and a feeling of unease arose within me. Routine criticisms about my response times, my legal work, or even clerical mistakes somehow punched deeper under the armor. I figured it was due to the arrival of fall or the workload of the yearly billable hour clock about to hit noon.


Being promoted to partner did not resolve the problem; in fact, it was just exacerbated. After years of therapy, I was finally able to pinpoint the source of my unrest and put a name to this inner demon: The Annual Review.


Numbers do not lie. Some experts have found the LGBTQ community is at most 7% of the population. Since high school, I slowly managed to increase the proportion of LGBT people around me. On social media I joined LGBTQ groups, and my network of friends is almost exclusively from my community. But, at work there is no hiding the fact most everyone around me is not LGBTQ. In fact, at a minimum, 93% of my work colleagues are straight. That number in large law firms can reach a whopping 98-99%.


At the time of the annual review, even in the most diversified of firms, almost everyone entering reviews for me is different from me in this fundamental way. Straight associates are reviewed almost entirely by straight lawyers, but LGBTQ associates are also reviewed almost exclusively by straight lawyers. These reviewers are then asked to converge into a computer system and give their opinions. It is natural to fear this process.


But, each year, to my surprise a strange thing happens. I resent and worry about the process, feel vulnerable, brace myself for the worst outcome, and with amazed relief, each time the review comes back positive. The annual review feels to me like a six-month wait for a cancer screening. My mind braces for discrimination and strangely, like a tornado warning, it leaves in silence without destruction. Each year I tell myself next fall will be different and each year the problem is back.


I know as a diverse associate, this annual feeling of powerlessness adds to the heavy workload and stress facing you. Why do I fear these reviews so damn much? My experience shows me that it makes no sense. And yet, my mind inevitably goes directly to imagining the worst possible outcome.


Unlike work criticism, discrimination hurts on a much deeper level. It does so for a simple reason: discrimination attacks who you are and not what you do. It chips away the fabric of your inner self. The same way you cannot force another to fall in love with you, it is impossible to fix any problem at work based on bias, discrimination or personal animus. If your work was shoddy or rushed, you know the problem and can fix it. Discrimination or bias is a different beast.


Diverse attorneys must triage any criticism. They ask themselves, “Is this poor, fixable performance or bias?” I won’t lie, the months before my annual review, I tend to slide more things into the “bias” column than the “poor performance” category. Then I put names to my fear. Let’s not kid ourselves, I won’t pretend to fix this problem, the world is what it is and honestly these odds are what they are. But, at a minimum, what we can do is see this problem as it approaches. At my first firm, the review came in November, and at the second it took place in February. Each time, I would start being rather insecure 2-3 months before the review. This feeling actually got better weeks before the results. What you need to do is to perceive and quantify the unease you’re experiencing so you can better name it and manage it. I had a calendar and I would put a red marker on the day of the review.


So next time you get nervous, anxious, and feel like you are frustrated by negative feedback, ask yourself what time of year it is. If you are close to your review, I have a little tip. I love the real Starbucks coffee from across the street—its half-decaf triple lattes, the non-fat kind. The drink is nothing short of $6, which I reserve for my special occasions. So, in the two months leading up to my review, each time that I get something that sends me to a bad place I simply grab my coat and walk to Starbucks without my cell phone. Don’t bring the emails along. Give this 30 minutes, that’s all.

*This blog post series has been created to celebrate Pride. 

Federal Law Protects LGBT workers from Discrimination

Eve KleinBy Eve Klein

Today SCOTUS ruled in a 6-3 decision addressing three pending similar cases that discrimination against an employee because of their sexual orientation or gender identity is indeed discrimination because of their sex prohibited by Title VII. The Court explained that at the very heart of a decision to deny employment to a person because they are gay is the employer’s reliance on the fact that they are attracted to the same gender as their assigned gender at birth. If a man is attracted to a man that is problematic but if that man was a woman attracted to a man then the employer would have no issue and no adverse employment action would result. As such, it is the individual’s assigned gender that is determinative or the “but for” cause of their discharge. The same analysis applies to gender identify. If an employer finds a female employee’s display of masculine traits objectionable but not a male employee’s display of those same traits objectionable, the basis of the objection comes down to the employee’s assigned gender.


The majority rejected key dissent arguments such as that the 1964 legislature did not intend Title VII to include sexual orientation and gender identity given the state of the times, the lack of explicit reference to these characteristics and repeated efforts over the years to amend Title VII to include them. However, the Court explained that none of these points are relevant on the ground that Title VII’s prohibition of discrimination against any individual because of their sex is broad, clear and unambiguous, requiring no legislative history, express inclusion or analysis of subsequent legislative actions.


The upshot of this decision will be felt more acutely in those states and localities that do not ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and sexual identity. Currently, slightly less than half of all states and approximately 400 jurisdictions prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity.


An LGBTQ Associate’s Guide to Succeeding in a Large Firm

Alain VilleneuveBy Alain Villeneuve

Chapter 1: The Dreaded Golf Outing

“Alain, we need you. As a new partner, the IP Associates will only come if you do. They like you… for some reason,” joked the head of the IP Group. He knew emotions worked on me every time. Golf, now that hit a nerve.

I had never travelled from Chicago to Indiana and much less entered a guarded community where each suburban house paraded a golf cart. Unsurprisingly, most straight partners bowed out after learning I had agreed to attend for the sole benefit of our eclectic group of associates. Bob, the head of IP, knew one thing too well about the LGBTQ hospitality. If I was there, everyone, even our most reclusive, would be entertained and that mattered to him.

Associates today are all equally unique. Thanks to the millennials, I lost any power to define anyone using sexual orientation, gender or even color. Some skydive, while others master in darkness Call of Duty. Frankly speaking, today, everyone is shockingly different physically, mentally, ethically, or sociologically. There is no mold, no normal. I am not surprised to read that few of them enjoy hitting the proverbial Links, but those who do excel at it.

As a true victim of fashion, my first obstacle was the dress code. I own no shoes ready to be ‘greenified’ by a fresh cut lawn. My legs refuse to wear any pair of shorts dropping to my knees and I simply cannot wear a single color t-shirt. Being outside in the sun means to this queen wearing something tight, colorful and breezy. But, I was a partner and life had to go on and as others had cancelled, I was all there was left and I refused to let Bob regret his decision to invite me. Guess what, for $39.99, I dressed myself from head to toe. The next week, I donated these clothes to the local charity.

Between you and me, my first real shock of the day came on the first tee. I saw my seven classmates each amusingly fail miserably at securing a drive that even a grossly inebriated Tiger Woods could launch. There was no ‘clink’ or ‘snap’ in the silent fields but instead two dozen ‘wooshes’ by embarrassed players. As it turns out, I spent most of my teens hiding away from the jocks by being a caddy at the local golf club. As my hormones kicked in overdrive, I quickly stored those memories far away. Like riding a bicycle, to my surprise, golf cannot be forgotten so easily.

In my dreams, I stepped on the tee to be ridiculed. But instead, everyone unimpressed by their own performances was looking down at their shoes. The sound of the 300 meter drive was perfection in the silent morning. There was awe, shock, but more importantly relief in their eyes.

I tell this story not because I overcame something but quite the contrary. I am, to say it mildly, an insecure overachiever as are most in my community. I fear the images I play over and over in my head. In my little stupid mind, for several sleepless nights, I envisioned being ridiculed by foursomes of pro-golfers. Golf seriously was seriously not the point of the day.

I spent a wonderful day getting to know others as they transformed grass into brown and green Swiss cheese. Golf was the great equalizer in that no one, except the head of IP cared about or even counted strokes. One associate, Lucy, had a couple of great putts. Lucy hit one amazing ball out of the sand trap. Half way into the night, back at the club house where salads are roadkill to microwaved burgers, I finally understood law is like golf. When you begin, out of a hundred swings, a handful at best will feel good. The rest, you know, will suck. As you master this activity (because I can’t get myself to call this a sport), you feel better about a handful of swings, then a few more and so on. Even a pro golfer can be humbled as his ball hits water next to a beginner who manages across the distance. Law is quite similar. Even the best litigators will look at your work and once in a while, they will be amazed by an argument or two. With time, as you get better, more arguments will land, but the game is never about a single shot. A legal problem is not about one brilliant idea. It requires hard work, time and dedication.

But, let’s be honest. To this day I cringe each time I see on the firm’s website images of myself wearing khaki pants.

*This blog post series has been created to celebrate Pride. 

What Being an Asian American Means To Me? It’s All About Family . . .

Neville BilimoriaBy Neville M. Bilimoria

As an individual born in the United States to parents who were born and raised in India, I take a lot of pride in the sacrifices and hard work of my parents who made my life possible here in the U.S.

My father was born in a small town north of Mumbai called, Bilimora, where I get my last name. It is more of what we call today, a village, with no paved roads and for a while, no running water. He lived in poverty in that town and grew up sometimes shoeless and hungry with his parents and brother and sisters. Early on, amidst the stench of squalor and almost hopelessness in that village, he had a hard work ethic and he studied very hard. His hard work paid off, earning him a rare Tata Scholarship that allowed him to exit India, travel abroad, and obtain a scholarship to study in the U.S. At that time, only 10 Tata scholarships were awarded in the entire country of India. My father worked and studied very hard to obtain that notable award, and gain freedom outside of his small village to encounter new and exciting opportunities in the United States.

My dad studied and worked very hard at Tennessee University and Roosevelt University, earning many advanced graduate engineering and managerial degrees, only to land a highly sought after job working for General Electric Company for 35 years as a manager of refrigeration and range in Chicago. At one point he oversaw a busy manufacturing plant in Cicero, Illinois, just outside Chicago, where he managed over 16,000 employees. He brought my mom over from Mumbai in 1965 and my brother and I were born here in the U.S. shortly thereafter.

As wonderful a story as it was, and one that I am thankful for every day, my dad did experience discrimination during his time here, especially in the late 1960s. My dad made it a point to keep his experiences private, perhaps to save us from the excruciating pain of discrimination, and to perhaps shield us as best he could from the darker side of the U.S. — our free country that he loved. Even when he died early in 2002 from a bout with prostate cancer, he never showed us or told us about his discrimination, though we knew he encountered it. He always tried to be brave for me and my brother, but we knew being brown skinned and in the U.S. most of his life that he did encounter discrimination.

For example, it was only recently that my mother told us of a story about my father when the movie Green Book came out. Travelling in Tennessee, my father entered a diner (nerdy and clueless) and waited for a long time to be served. Finally, seeing no one that would take his order, a patron walked up and said “we don’t serve your kind around here.” At that point my father, always embracing Gandhi’s anti-violence teachings, packed up and walked out of the diner.

Indeed, growing up in Chicago, I myself faced instances of hatred based on my ethnicity, often misplaced and mistaken. For example, as a young boy in Chicago, I experienced many folks in school (often older kids) telling me to go back to Iran, or calling me derogatory terms that didn’t even match my ethnicity. Many kids in school also called me “Dot head” or “Gandhi”. I didn’t think too much of it then, adopting my Dad’s philosophy of just focusing, studying hard, and choosing to turn the other cheek.
In this month of Asian Heritage, I now look back on those instances of discrimination, and posit to you that these horrible acts actually made me and my family stronger.

Looking back, I’m glad that kids made fun of me and called me Gandhi. In essence, they were honoring my father and his peaceful, hardworking way of life. And I just worked harder in school to honor my family.

In even these recent times of hate crimes, the one solace we all have is our family and each other. That sense of family will continue to drive Asian Americans through any tough times ahead.

*This series has been created to celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

What Being an Asian American Means To Me

Cyndie M. ChangBy Cyndie M. Chang

It means resilience. One of the reasons we celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage in May is to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad in May 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants, and one of them was my great great grandfather. Since then, Asians and Pacific Islanders immigrated to the United States and have made significant contributions to our country. My great great grandpa worked under dangerous conditions to build something, in a literal and figurative sense. He was not only building the railroad, but establishing a better life here for his family.

That eventually led to the opportunity for my grandpa and his partners to start a humble little Chinese restaurant in 1935 serving the Japanese American community. The Far East Café neon sign that says “Chop Suey” is still lit up in what is now called Little Tokyo in Los Angeles. My dad bused tables there while Mom was in nearby Chinatown, where she was a seamstress at a sewing factory. After WWII and the internment camps, many Japanese Americans came back home to nothing, but they returned to the Far East Cafe that continued to serve families needing to rebuild. Apparently, the Far East Cafe was popular to generations of Japanese Americans who wanted to celebrate weddings, birthday parties, and other milestones. If one didn’t have enough money to pay for a meal, that was OK there cause you could just wash dishes or you’d make it up next time because there was an understanding that we all had to stick together and look out for each other in hard times. While the restaurant had great starchy Chinese food, its greater significance was it being an informal hub of the Japanese American community after the camps. And, the building is now designated a National Historic Landmark.

Fast forward, I persevered to be the first lawyer in my family. I became the president of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) in 2016-2017. At the time, there was a resurgence of anti-immigrant racism and hate crimes. NAPABA led hate crime advocacy and coordinated with other bar organizations on civil rights issues. I was proud to lead NAPABA then being an American with deep immigrant roots of six generations overcoming racism and hate, including the worst kind of hatred — I no longer have an uncle because a white supremacist took his life decades ago due to a hatred for others of a different skin color.

There is resilience in generations before me and the Asian American community. From the Chinese Exclusion Act to the Japanese Internment camps to the xenophobia after 9/11 against Muslims/South Asians to the continued racism in recent times, Asian Americans continue to face being the perpetual foreigner. I embrace and appreciate the stories of resilience from my family and from others. All of us have stories of overcoming adversity and I hope that this global pandemic gives everyone a deeper appreciation and respect of our collective experiences. What is important from these stories is how we’ve overcome challenges, and how those stories drive what we do every day in setting a path for this generation and for those who come after us.

*This series has been created to celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.