Business North Carolina magazine featured Smith Anderson attorney and Chief Diversity Officer Taylor Dewberry in a roundtable discussion with other thought leaders working on the frontlines of the diversity and inclusion movement on the importance of D&I in the workplace and how businesses can implement initiatives to improve it.
Taylor joined representatives from the UNC School of Government, Fidelity Investments, Lenovo, Truliant Federal Credit Union and Gallagher for the discussion on "Diversity in Business, Embracing Our Differences."
Taylor noted that while her role as chief diversity officer is new, the firm has had a Diversity Committee for many years.
"Two of its strong equity partners serve as its chair, both female, one Black and the other part of the LGBTQIA+ community," Taylor said. "That says a lot for a 110-year-old firm in the Southeast. There has been a big push for D&I from our clients and staff. We need to focus on our clients’ demands. It’s good business all around."
Taylor notes that Smith Anderson is part of the Mansfield Rule program, which requires the firm to consider at least 30 percent diverse candidates during hiring. While that doesn’t mean a diverse person is automatically chosen, it does ensure that the firm looks at the best slate of candidates, Taylor said. The Mansfield Rule also requires the firm to draft transparent job descriptions and paths to leadership for diverse lawyers - many diverse people don’t see a path for promotion, and Smith Anderson has documentation that shows them the way, Taylor added.
Once diverse people join a business, they are often tasked with creating change, Taylor said. In the legal industry, law firms may only have a few diverse lawyers.
"We don’t want to burn out these employees, who are extremely valuable," Taylor said. "While most diverse employees are excited to help, organizations have to be reminded to pull in allies, too. That can be a big challenge, particularly in the legal space. The responsibility needs to be shared. At Smith Anderson, we make a conscious effort to pull in our internal and external allies and say, ‘OK, they can help with this and share the load.’"
Along with her role as Smith Anderson’s chief diversity officer, Taylor is an associate in the firm’s Employment, Labor and Human Resources practice group. Her practice focuses on employment-related counseling and defending employers against claims involving discrimination, wrongful discharge, retaliation, harassment and civil rights claims. She has represented clients in state and federal courts and agencies throughout North Carolina.
The entire Business North Carolina magazine roundtable discussion can be viewed here.
Business North Carolina is a monthly magazine that focuses on the people, events and trends that shape business in North Carolina. Since it began publication in 1981, it has won more than 100 national awards for its writing, reporting and design.