Diversity and inclusion initiatives have risen in prominence across the business world in recent years. They stem from core business goals – not abstract social objectives – and are publicly embraced and supported by leadership at the highest levels. Law firms around the world have long recognised the need to invest in diversity and inclusion programmes that further commitment to these ideals, but industry progress has been modest.
At Willkie, we believe everyone benefits from a diverse and inclusive workplace in which all personnel are treated with courtesy, dignity, and respect. The confluence of people of different gender identities, races, cultures, religions, beliefs, and sexual orientations across the firm yields a stronger team that is more adept at creative problem-solving on behalf of our clients. In fact, Willkie’s first female associate, Mary MacDonagh, was hired in 1939, which was extremely rare at the time. We have always known our most valuable asset is our people.
We are committed to continuing to enhance diversity and inclusion on a long-term basis, including in our leadership ranks. Currently, two women and one diverse partner are on our firm’s management committee. Seven women and five diverse partners serve as department or practice group chairs or co-chairs, five women and three diverse partners or counsel lead firm committees, and three diverse partners and two women serve as office managing partners. Of the US-based attorneys elected to the partnership this past year, 45% are women and 36% are diverse. The firm’s head of our Latin America Practice Group, Maria-Leticia Ossa Daza, who is profiled in this issue, has done a tremendous amount to support these efforts by actively supporting and mentoring other women at Willkie and across the industry. She leads our firm’s Latinx Affinity Group and regularly speaks about diversity at industry conferences in Latin America and the US.
As companies around the world have implemented comprehensive diversity programmes, law firms have welcomed the opportunity to partner with clients in these efforts. At Willkie, we regularly collaborate with clients on initiatives to further diversity and inclusion, including educational seminars, conferences and roundtable panels, and pro bono and mentorship programmes. Diversity also plays a major role in the success of our Latin America Practice Group, made up of lawyers from Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Uruguay. This diversity enriches our practice and client relationships across Latin America, and our firm generally.
On a firm-wide level, embracing diversity and inclusion is critical to our overall success. We recognise that there is still much more to do at Willkie and across the legal industry. Diversity and inclusion will remain core to the values of the firm. We look forward to continuing our work, in conjunction with our colleagues and clients, of cultivating an environment that is diverse and inclusive at all levels.
Steven Gartner Chairman Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP