The Business Case for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Why it matters in the boardroom, the courtroom, and every room.

Written by Sofia Adrogué

In 2020, the global humanitarian challenge of COVID-19 upended every aspect of life, threatening both lives and livelihoods. More than a year later, we are faced with the greatest leadership tests of our lifetimes—professionally and personally.

Cognizant that the newest normal will necessarily be different and “generations to come will likely discuss the pre-COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 eras,”1 this crisis presents a key inflection point—a critical moment of choice. Undoubtedly, “[c]rises are like adrenaline for innovation, causing barriers that once took years to overcome to evaporate in a matter of days.”2 As we emerge from 2020’s morass, “leaders in every industry are intently focused on understanding and improving performance drivers,”3 including “[r]acial equity and inclusive growth.”4 A strong business case exists,5 innovation and momentum are palpable, and it is imperative that all sectors—in the boardroom, courtroom, and every room—reconfigure and transform.6

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are becoming paramount for the U.S. private sector7 and serve as a “powerful enabler of business performance.”8 “Companies whose leaders welcome diverse talents and include multiple perspectives are likely to emerge from the crisis stronger.”9

Given the negative impacts of COVID-19—particularly on women and minorities—corporate America finds itself at a pivotal crossroads, with the opportunity to accelerate progress that previously “proved painfully slow.”10 For survival, we must navigate, innovate, and reimagine with pragmatism and empathy.11

More diverse companies are more likely to outperform financially.12 For instance, companies with at least one female director have proven to outperform significantly.13 “Having a greater proportion of women in senior positions is not just a diversity score to target or a box to be ticked, but is associated with a lower cost of equity, stronger share-price performance and lower volatility of shares, too. Good news for corporations, investors and society.”14

Our legal profession’s endeavors must parallel such boardroom initiatives.15 The American delivery of justice also has been indelibly affected and “2020 will be remembered as a galvanizing moment in the maturity of legal systems across America.”16 Albeit focused on the “gender gap in law,”17 Burford’s Equity Project exemplifies a pragmatic initiative to close the gap “by providing an economic incentive for change through a $50 million capital pool earmarked for financing commercial litigation and arbitration matters led by women.” No doubt, the economics of law must change in order to spur any real change.18

“Parity is powerful. This is the time for policy makers and business leaders to step up and make it a reality”19 in the boardroom, the courtroom, and every room. We must act now to seize this moment of opportunity to create the new normal. As Sylvester Turner, the mayor of the prophetic20 city of Houston advocates, “Diversity is descriptive. Inclusion is intentional.”21 TBJ

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is a trial partner in Diamond McCarthy. She serves as the editor of the Texas Business Litigation Treatise and has published and/or spoken on over 250 occasions. Adrogué is a graduate of the Harvard Business School Owner/President Management Program (keynote speaker and U.S. representative), the University of Houston Law Center, and Rice University. She has received over 40 awards and serves as the co-host and co-producer of Latina Voices—Smart Talk. Adrogué has been recognized for her public service by the city of Houston with a proclamation of July 10, 2004, and December 18, 2018, as “Sofia Adrogué Day.”

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