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Elevating Inclusion, Diversity, and Belonging Conversations During Relativity Fest London

Mary Rechtoris

Inclusion, diversity, and belonging (IDB) is part of Relativity’s—and our community's—ethos. That’s why we featured a first at Relativity Fest London this year: an inclusion, diversity, and belonging track of sessions.

During the event, IDB panelists discussed allyship, mental health, and diverse hiring and retention. Speakers shared ways to incorporate IDB into our everyday work and personal lives.

We loved what we learned from our speakers, and we’re proud to say the track was well received by attendees. Here’s a little of what we heard from each of our focused sessions.

“Embarking on a Journey Toward Active Allyship”

We all have a responsibility to be allies for marginalized communities. But what is an ally?

“Ally is a verb; it is not a noun. Allyship is acting when it is uncomfortable and advocating for someone not always in the room,” said Karimah Campbell, manager of customer success at Relativity.

For Karimah, this quite literally meant when someone wasn’t present. In a meeting, her colleagues were referring to a nonbinary colleague, who was not present, as she/her when their pronouns are they/them. She reminded everyone of their pronouns and also makes a practice to share her pronouns when introducing herself. To be more inclusive, consider listing your pronouns on Zoom, LinkedIn, or Instagram.

Similarly, we all have been in rooms where individuals speak over their peers—or the same person does most of the talking. If you see this behavior, do something to diversify the discussion.

Start a meeting by asking everyone in the room to share their thoughts on a prompt, beginning with the most junior person. This will give that individual confidence to speak freely. They won't feel as if they have to reinforce a more senior individual’s idea.

“This also prevents ‘group think,’" said panelist Harvinder Channa, vice president, Alix Partners. “There is a lot of room for us to include everyone in the conversation.”

Throughout Fest London, speakers agreed: Allyship is crucial. Folks in our industry must work together to create a more equitable field because there is a dearth in representation.

This is why panelist Sam Clague started Black Interns Matter. He works to remove structural barriers limiting access for Black individuals to the legal profession. He places these individuals with SJP’s partners for paid internships.

“Black professionals make up 3 percent of all qualified solicitors. I saw something I disagreed with and realized I had an opportunity to do something. I've worked to give Black professionals a platform to shine,” said Sam, founder and CEO of The Stephen James Partnership.

“Starting the Conversation: Mental Health and Wellness in the Workplace”

Society has normalized conversations around our physical health. There is no shame in saying you need to take time off due to an illness like the flu. But some individuals may feel shame when taking time off to care for their mental well-being because mental health discussions have been taboo in the workplace.

“This year, there has been so much coming into our minds—but not a lot leaving. People see mental and emotional health as the cherry on top where you don’t have to have that to be ‘well,’” said panelist Adrian Garcia, CEO and co-founder of Mental Health Consultants. “This is not true and we have to continue to fight that [narrative].”

Living through a pandemic has been a traumatic experience. It has shown the need to prioritize our mental health and wellbeing. Panelist Cherry Mangat, senior program manager, wellness & HR, at Relativity, described linking mental health and wellness as having “radiant health.” To her, that means individuals have the ability to come to work fully and make health a top priority.

Session speakers shared ways individuals can prioritize their mental wellbeing. For panelist Olawale Abiodun, applications specialist at Relativity, taking a long walk over lunch recharges him. These walks get him ready to go for the second half of the work day.

Panelist Richard Martin, director, Byrne-Dean, recommends changing how you start each day.

“Too often, we start our days looking at our diaries and thinking, what does the world want from me today?” he said. “We don’t ask ourselves what we want and then suddenly, it is not our day, our week, our month, or our year. So instead, start the day saying, ‘today is my day.’”

We should also prioritize others’ mental health and wellbeing. Adrian shared about a time he learned how to be more cognizant of this. In the UK, there are more conversations about violence against women following the murder of Sarah Everard. Sarah was murdered after walking home from a friend’s home in London.

“I would talk to my female friends about what could be done without considering how this story impacts them and how this could re-traumatize them based on past experiences,” Adrian noted.

To avoid this, Adrian advises thinking about others’ burdens and how you can help them. If entering into any difficult conversation, ask if the topic is okay before diving in.

“Walk the Talk on Diverse Hiring and Retention”

The job market is changing. Employees are demanding that organizations do more than simply talk about IDB. They must act.

“Questioning from recruits has intensified. And, rightly so,” said panelist Vanessa Dewhurst, partner and director of human resources, Mishcon de Reya. “The question around culture has changed to, ‘Will I see people who look like me in your organization? Will I be able to bring my whole self to work?’”

For panelist Brenda Malinki, this was important during the interview process. She asked organizations what diversity meant to them.

“I became savvy at sniffing out the standard ‘you can fit in’ answer without examples to back it up,” Brenda said, who is currently an account executive at Relativity. “My interviewer at Relativity told me about our IDB strategy with conviction. That’s why I’m here.”

Jon Chan, senior managing director at FTI Consulting, shared how they have elevated diverse talent. FTI implemented a reverse mentoring program, which serves two goals. One, it allows senior leadership to stay innovative through junior colleagues' insight. And it provides valuable facetime to leaders in the firm.

Plus, they have worked to increase access to the partner track for marginalized communities.

“Partner requirements are changing. It is not just about delivery. It is about internal and external networking and presenting with confidence,” Jon said. “We are coaching women and minority employees to help them overcome these challenges. We aim to better support them to achieve partnership.”

Relativity has implemented our Fellows program, that welcomes individuals from overlooked communities into a five-month program to learn about our product and the industry. Through our Academic Partners Program, we also partner with schools to give students' hands-on experience in our platform and increase students’ awareness on e-discovery opportunities.

Ultimately, we look to our leaders to truly walk the walk in elevating IDB on their teams.

“In my nine years at Relativity, I have had the honor of leading our EMEA business. I have a responsibility and duty to ensure my teams are successful, happy, and diverse,” Steve Couling told attendees. “I have to lead from the front.”

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Mary Rechtoris is a senior producer on the brand team at Relativity, where she's always collaborating and looking for new ways to develop and socialize stories.