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President's Message - February 2019 - Lawyers Club of San Diego
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Celebrating our Diversity and Inclusivity

Danna Cotman, Lawyers Club President 2018-2019
February is African American History month and a time to celebrate the accomplishments of African Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history. I believe that we should celebrate our diversity all year round and not just for one month.

One of my early mentors while I was in law school was an African American woman who I highly respect and admire to this day. At the time, I didn’t realize the extra challenges she faced to get to where she was. She always treated me with respect and kindness, would answer my questions, and she demonstrated all the things we look for in our profession: initiative, industry, intelligence, and integrity.

Years later I am still in touch with her, and thanks to the efforts of Lawyers Club trainings and our culture, I have a much better understanding of the unique challenges that she and others have persevered in order to advance in their careers. I personally have no first-hand experience of what it’s like to face discrimination as a double minority, but I have seen first-hand the impact on others and learned the reality of those challenges.

It is clear that a culture of racial and gender bias still exists in our country. The fact remains that African American women suffer from a more significant pay gap than Caucasian women. In an article by AAUW in August of 2018 it was reported that, According to Census data, on average, black women were paid 61 percent of what non-Hispanic white men were paid in 2017. That means it takes the typical black woman 19 months to be paid what the average white man takes home in 12 months. That’s even worse than the national earnings ratio for all women, 80 percent, as reported in AAUW’s The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap. This gap persists despite the fact that black women participate in the workforce at much higher rates than most other women.”

In addition to disparity in pay “according to a study conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, which asked black respondents how they felt about discrimination in their lives and in American society more broadly, 92 percent of the black people who responded said discrimination against them exists in America today.” It seems that black Americans must take the existence of discrimination as a fact of life.

According to the article, “at least half of the respondents said they had personally experienced racial discrimination in being paid equally or promoted at work, when they applied for jobs or in their encounters with police.” In addition, they continue to face discrimination in trying to rent/buy housing, applying to or attending college, going to the doctor or health clinic and trying to vote or participate in politics.

I find this incredibly disturbing and unacceptable. Why can’t we as individuals treat each other with respect for every person as the unique individual that they are? Why is it such a struggle to reach pay equity? Why do we still have discrimination? I don’t have answers to these questions, but I do know that our legal community is making great strides to bring awareness to these issues, to educate, and to change behavior and eliminate biases, and for that I am proud.

Over the years Lawyers Club has formed a Diverse Women’s committee to address these issues and provide support. As part of this endeavor, we hold a yearly Women of Color reception which will occur this year on February 6. We have put on trainings on implicit bias. We have partnered with Council President Pro Tem Barbara Bry and dozens of other local employers and organizations on a workplace equity initiative to address pay equity. We have also partnered with National Conflict Resolution Center (NCRC) to promote civility in the workplace, learn how to intervene as a bystander, and we continually strive to educate, and encourage kind, thoughtful and respectful conversations to meet shared goals.

While we strive to prevent racism in the workplace by encouraging (and requiring) all employers to have appropriate policies in place, conducting relevant training and creating a diverse workforce to effectuate real and lasting change, we must also lead by personal example. Speak up if you see racism in action; support and attend events that celebrate different cultures; lobby and fight for nondiscriminatory laws; get involved with local, national, or international organizations; educate yourself on the issue; know your own conscious or unconscious feelings; acknowledge and celebrate differences; make friends with individuals from different backgrounds and above all Be Kind.

As we press on in our demand for equality, I encourage you to challenge yourself and others to act with integrity and kindness in all we do. In doing so in each and every interaction we have with individuals, we will lead by example. I believe that these behaviors will go a long way toward advancing equality, inclusivity and empowering others.

Danna Cotman is founder of the female-owned intellectual property boutique law firm ARC IP LAW, PC and president of Lawyers Club.

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Lawyers Club of San Diego

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San Diego CA 92101

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