Every second of every day, we have an extraordinary opportunity to create inclusive workplaces that contribute to the success of our businesses, organizations and corporations. What we know for sure is inclusive workplaces don’t just happen. They are created by inclusive leaders. It’s a simple reality. It’s our choice to say “yes” – as it always has been.
I recently attended a business event on inclusive workplaces where I was introduced to a lawyer who is a senior partner in a law firm. He shared with me that they had once hired a lawyer with a disability but that it hadn’t worked out so his firm was not likely to pursue that direction again.
Now…a little sidebar…I come from an extended family of lawyers and judges. My late great uncle was a former Chief Justice of the High Court of Ontario and a wonderful mentor in my life. I still remember the day he asked me what career I planned to pursue. Jokingly, I responded, “I was thinking of considering a career in the legal profession and becoming the first non-verbal lawyer.” Without missing a beat, he remarked, “That would be an improvement.” My great uncle taught me a lot about life, as well as about the psyche of lawyers. So I was well prepared to respond to my new legal acquaintance.
Immediately I began my cross-examination: “How many lawyers are in your firm?” “How many of them are men?” “Have you ever terminated any male lawyers in the past?” He revealed that there were 30 lawyers in the firm, 20 of them were male, and of the 20 male lawyers, six had been terminated over the last two decades. I volleyed my final question: “Did the fact that you terminated six male lawyers in the past prevent you from hiring a male lawyer in the future?” “Of course not,” he answered. “I would hire the best qualified person.” It took a few seconds, then he said, “I get it.” At which point I announced, in triumph, “I rest my case.” He laughed and said, “Maybe you should have been a lawyer.”
Sometimes it just takes a slightly different perspective to help us to say “yes” to creating an inclusive workplace. By the way…to all the members of my extended family in the legal profession…you rock!