Breaking Bias Event
On July 26, 2017, the WLALA diversity committee held its first ever panel discussion entitled “Breaking Bias: Addressing Bias in the Courts, Workplace, and Beyond.” The dynamic panelists consisted of Amber Finch, litigation partner at Reed Smith and president of Black Women Lawyers Association; Judge Akemi Arakaki, LA Superior Court Judge; Ivette Pena, Chief Legal Officer to the LA Superior Courts, and Merle Vaughn, national law firm diversity practice leader and partner recruiter at Major, Lindsay & Africa. The panel discussion was moderated by Janet Hong, owner of The Hong Firm and co-chair of WLALA’s diversity committee. Kelley Drye & Warren graciously hosted the event in their Century City office with the support of the firm’s diversity initiative. The event was well attended with over 40 attorneys in attendance.
The topics ranged from how newer attorneys who are experiencing bias at work might respond to an in depth discussion on the importance of solid mentorship – someone senior that can be trusted for stable and sage advice. There was also discussion around the language women tend to use that often undermines the message being conveyed and how this language might play into an unequal power dynamics, such as “sorry,” “just,” or other seemingly self-deprecating statements such as “I’m not an expert…” A few participants pointed out that we shouldn’t necessarily boycott these terms or feel compelled to avoid them if they are appropriate to the situation just because they can be undermining in certain situations.
Based on feedback from the attendees, the overall discussion was stimulating and beneficial in raising awareness about bias, and it provided practical tips on addressing bias. The event also highlighted the importance of diversity in the workplace. We hope to make the breaking bias panel an annual event!