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Jackson Lewis and ACC Develop Racial Equity Education Program "RACE Talks"

NEW YORK, NY (June 2, 2021) Nationwide employment law firm Jackson Lewis P.C. recently partnered with The Association of Corporate Counsel’s (ACC’s) Employment and Labor Law Network (ELLN) to develop “RACE Talks: Realign Act Change Engage,” a 10-week racial equity education program focusing on individual transformation and change to ensure a more racially just workplace and society.

“We were thrilled that ACC asked Jackson Lewis to create a program designed to advance racial justice,” said Tanya A. Bovée, Hartford Office Managing Principal and member of the firm’s Board of Directors where she serves as DEI Liaison. “2020 was a racial awakening for many, and this was the perfect opportunity to focus on how individuals can transform and bring about positive change. We created this program with the goal that participants would step outside of their comfort zone, disrupt their own status quo, and think differently about race and the concept of bias.”

The RACE Talks curriculum was created to educate about systemic racial issues, foster long-term change and highlight specific actions to advance social justice in our society and workplace. The program included guided learning, specifically through weekly educational assignments; short anonymous reflection surveys; a diversity, inclusion, and bias workplace session led by Samia M. Kirmani, Jackson Lewis’ Workplace Training Group Co-Leader; and facilitated live discussions by Michael D. Thomas, Los Angeles Principal and member of the firm’s Corporate Diversity Counseling Group; Bovée;  and Kirmani. These discussions featured Miles Cooley, Chief Legal Officer and Chief Operations Officer at CMNTY Culture;  Nancy Di Dia, Executive Director, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer & Head at Boehringer Ingelheim USA; Michelle Fang, Chief Legal Officer at Turo; Sandy Leung, Executive Vice President and General Counsel at Bristol Myers Squibb Company; along with Weldon H. Latham, Leader of Jackson Lewis’ Corporate Diversity Counseling group, and others.

“Participants were open, honest, and vulnerable through every step of the program. Some shared that they were surprised by their biases, while others said that they were not,” added Bovée. “Attendees learned that by taking steps toward advancing racial equity, no matter how big or small, we will be that much closer to a more racially just workplace and society.”

Through podcasts, articles, and video clips, attendees learned about core concepts around race and racism, and were able to recognize how institutional processes have been influenced by racism and bias.

A key component of the program was applying a trauma-informed approach to discussing racial equity. 

“Each session began with a period of mindfulness and gentle movement, done while seated, and was designed to increase focus, build stress resilience, and improve well-being,” said Thomas, co-creator of the program along with Bovée. “Personal transformation is the very foundation for systems change. By shifting our attention and engaging in a mindful moment, we increase our ability to listen, engage, and build empathy. Mindful movement, breathing, and centering help shift our response to stress from our daily lives to the present moment. We use our breath to focus our minds and nervous systems on this moment.”

The Niroga Institute in Berkeley, California led a live session on the neuroscience of DEI, change, and personal transformation. Moreover, participants were provided with access to Niroga’s Mood Shifter online platform to access mindfulness and yoga techniques to address stress and trauma that may arise while participating in the program. 

Offered exclusively to ACC members, the ELLN’s intention was to provide network members with quality and timely information, resources, tools, and guidance on a variety of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

“We are very proud that we were able to deliver such a rich program to the membership,” said Darryl Uffelmann, Associate General Counsel at Anheuser-Busch Companies, LLC, and Chair of the ACC ELLN. “ACC ELLN is also grateful for Jackson Lewis’ tireless efforts in creating and leading the RACE Talks program.”

The program’s goals were based on raising awareness of the following pillars:

  • Foundational Knowledge: Understanding the history and context of institutionalized racism to recognize how your own institutional processes have been influenced by racism and bias.
  • Emotional Resourcing and Communication: Developing skills to emotionally handle racial stress that arises in conversation about race, and actively communicate about racism.
  • Race Consciousness: Integrating self-reflection and self-awareness throughout your interactions and develop the ability to view the systems that we engage in through a racial justice lens.
  • Translate Knowledge to Action: Applying what you know and understand into concrete actions to advance racial equity.
  • Motivation and Prioritization: Becoming personally motivated to advance racial equity, and prioritize this within your work.

“We wanted all of the program’s content to drive action through self-reflection and growth,” said Kirmani. “Participants engaged in productive and beneficial conversations about race and bias, while encouraging allyship to effectuate change.”

If you are interested in learning more about RACE Talks, please reach out to Tanya Bovée, Samia M. Kirmani or Michael D. Thomas.

About Jackson Lewis 
Focused on labor and employment law since 1958, Jackson Lewis P.C.’s 950+ attorneys located in major cities nationwide consistently identify and respond to new ways workplace law intersects business. We help employers develop proactive strategies, strong policies and business-oriented solutions to cultivate high-functioning workforces that are engaged, stable and diverse, and share our clients' goals to emphasize inclusivity and respect for the contribution of every employee. 
 
Additional information about the firm can be found at jacksonlewis.com.

About ACC
The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) is a global legal association that promotes the common professional and business interests of in-house counsel who work for corporations, associations and other organizations through information, education, networking, and advocacy. With more than 45,000 members in 85 countries employed by over 10,000 organizations, ACC connects its members to the people and resources necessary for both personal and professional growth. By in-house counsel, for in-house counsel.® For more information, visit acc.com and follow ACC on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

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Tanya A. Bovée

Tanya A. Bovée

Samia M. Kirmani

Samia M. Kirmani

Weldon H. Latham

Weldon H. Latham

Michael D. Thomas

Michael D. Thomas