Creating a More Inclusive Workplace
We have taken a number of steps to be a more inclusive organization based on the three pillars of our diversity initiative: Respect, Inclusion and Teamwork. We discuss the firm's business case for diversity and inclusion with every new employee on his or her first day on the job.
As part of our commitment in the Managing Partners Diversity Collaborative, the firm will periodically review its policies, procedures and practices to identify and adopt a plan to remove impediments to inclusion and retention. In particular, we’re looking for microinequities, which are the subtle, sometimes subconscious, messages people send that devalue, discourage and ultimately impair performance in the workplace. Craig B. Clayton, Jr., a national consultant from the University of Houston, previously conducted a workshop on microinequities at a partners’ retreat.
The firm also encourages attorneys and staff to participate in the Institute for Healing Racism, a part of the Woodrick Diversity Learning Center at Grand Rapids Community College. The multi-day program challenges participants to discover and confront the reality of racism in the U.S. To date, more than 115 of our attorneys and staff members have participated.
We regularly communicate our commitment to diversity and inclusion to our attorneys and staff. Our Diversity Partner reports monthly to the partners. On a quarterly basis, our Managing Partner talks to the partners about the progress made on the diversity and inclusion initiatives in our business plan. Our Diversity Partner addresses all attorneys and paralegals three times a year and all other staff members twice each year.
The firm offers many opportunities to attorneys and staff to learn more about diversity and inclusion. Included among these have been:
- A one-man show by Dr. Michael Fowlin, an African-American actor and clinical psychologist from Morristown, N.J., who promotes diversity and inclusion in the workplace
- University of Michigan Professor Scott E. Page, author of The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies
- "African-Americans in the Furniture City," presented by Dr. Randal Jelks, formerly of Calvin College
- "A Primer on Islam," presented by Warner partner Homayune Ghaussi
- "Raising Culturally Competent Children," by Melita Travis Johnson
- Private screenings of movies on important racial topics, including Crash, Hotel Rwanda, Glory Road and The Help
- Live performances of Twelve Angry Men, The Diary of Anne Frank and A Raisin in the Sun at Grand Rapids’ Civic Theatre
In 2008, Warner began a program called One Book, One Firm, which encourages attorneys and staff members to join in reading and discussing the same book on diversity and inclusion. Selections have included:
- Stealing Buddha’s Dinner by Bich Minh Nguyen, who tells her story of longing to fit in to American culture
- Hands of My Father, a memoir by Myron Uhlberg about growing up as the hearing child of two deaf parents
- The Female Vision: Women’s Real Power at Work, by Sally Helgesen and Julie Johnson
- The Help, a novel by Kathryn Stockett about the relationships between black maids and the white families they served in Jackson, Miss., in the early 1960s
In addition to each year's One Book, One Firm selection, the firm selects a number of fiction and nonfiction books on diversity and inclusion and makes them available in its libraries.
In another unique program, the firm conducts The Grand Race Road Rally each summer. The Grand Race Road Rally is based loosely on the CBS series, The Amazing Race. The Grand Race challenges four-person teams to follow clues that take them around the Grand Rapids area to locations where they take on challenges that introduce them to the diverse peoples of our community. The Grand Race is a popular event for families in the firm. The race is organized for Warner Norcross by the Public Museum of Grand Rapids.
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