Making DEI a Priority: A Conversation With LaTrece Johnson

Making DEI a Priority: A Conversation With LaTrece Johnson

Last week on Inside Voices, Logikcull had the pleasure of having a conversation about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) with LaTrece Johnson, head of legal operations at Palo Alto Networks (PANW). For those who may not be familiar with LaTrece’s impressive DEI track record, she has, among other things: Launched joint diversity intern program at Adobe with Perkins Coie, Arnold & Porter, and Hogan Lovells; started the DEI committee at CLOC; and now leads the Legal DEI Committee at PANW.

LaTrece shared a lot of amazing insights with us about DEI. Read on for the highlights!

3 Tips for Starting DEI Initiatives

Everybody has to start somewhere! LaTrece shared three tips for starting DEI initiatives at your organization:

  1. Survey employees to get a pulse on how they feel the organization is doing on DEI, and where there's room for improvement. This will help you be conscious of potential cultural differences, and let you hear from the people directly impacted by DEI decisions.
  1. Build conversations with HR and recruiting teams to collect information on talent pools and recruitment stats. This information can be used to find gaps in your processes.
  1. Start by doing something you can control, even if that is something small. As long as you’re being conscious about your efforts, other people will follow. Check out this clip where LaTrece discusses this in more detail: 

Challenges and Gaps in DEI

LaTrece also identified some challenges and gaps she tends to see in the DEI context. 

One of these issues is that handling a DEI initiative can be a part-time or even full-time job in and of itself, but it is typically handled on a voluntary basis by people who already have busy full-time jobs. This can cause DEI to become deprioritized when the going gets tough. 

She also called out a trend she sees among in-house legal professionals: Demanding diversity of outside counsel, without prioritizing it on their own teams. Corporate legal departments ask firms to submit surveys and metrics on their firm’s diversity, which can be overwhelming. On top of this, she adds: “Out of the amount of corporate legal departments that ask for the information, the number of those companies that actually use that to have meaningful conversations is also very small… Why ask for it if you’re not going to use it?” 

And, as she points out, the numbers can be easily skewed. A department may say, “We’re 40% diverse,” but when you examine the numbers more closely, that diversity may only run along one demographic. So “40% diverse” could mean, for example, that a department is 40% non-male but 100% white. 

Prioritizing Diversity in Retention, Not Just Hiring

Many organizations know about the things you can do to diversify their talent pools. One big, fairly popular example is blind recruitment, where potentially identifying information is removed from resumés during the first round of review. But once you’ve recruited diverse talent, how do you make sure they want to stick around?

LaTrece’s first recommendation is to incorporate professional development goals for annual reviews and bonuses. Don’t discourage employees from getting involved outside of the company, and give them opportunities to drive their own success, including conferences and networking opportunities. This helps to make diverse employees feel valued and it motivates them to stay. 

She also recommends getting consistent about job titles and levels, along with skills and expectations for each level within the department. Employees often have no idea what is expected of them before they can be considered for promotion. A lack of transparency and consistency can be discouraging to employees and cause issues with retention.

Listen to the Full Conversation

These are only a few of the fantastic insights that LaTrece provided for us during our conversation. If you missed it, don’t worry! You can watch all past Inside Voices episodes here and listen to them in our podcast. Make sure to subscribe to the podcast too and register for all upcoming sessions to stay up to date with new convos.

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