Diversity and Inclusion in the Practice of Law and Beyond
I recently attended a continuing legal education (CLE) seminar sponsored by the Hillsborough County Bar Association Diversity committee on the topic of Inclusive Communication. The speakers, Devona F. Pierre, Ed.D., and Camille Blake, J.D. are employed at the University of South Florida’s Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equal Opportunity. What a timely topic!
We all have our own definition of what diversity is, and we all bring our own opinions and experiences to every situation. As a speech communication major in college, I learned to choose my language carefully. As a female attorney in the early 1990’s, I had to deal with various situations and learned to modify my behavior and my language in order to maneuver in what was, at that time, a male dominated profession. I did not and do not have a chip on my shoulder by any means, but everyone has his or her own biases for various situations.
I learned a term that is new to me at this CLE the other day: that is Microaggression. Merriam-Webster defines microaggression as “a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group.” I had not heard this term before, but when the term was discussed at the seminar the other day, an example of microaggression immediately came to mind. My daughter was the only woman in attendance at an organization meeting at her college and was spoken to in a degrading manner for work she had presented. We can probably all think of situations where we have observed microaggression. Implicit bias was also discussed at this CLE.
While I found this CLE to be most interesting, the message was important. As attorneys, we should be aware of our many differences and our own personal biases. As situations arise, rather than feeding the fire, we can determine ways to de-escalate what may be sensitive situations so that they become non-issues.
Joan W. Wadler has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1991. Her practice concentrates on Collections and Commercial Litigation, Real Estate Litigation and Associations Law. She can be reached at (813) 676-9082 or JoanW@whhlaw.com