By Laura Quaglio
When Lloyd Freeman CLAW’07 was asked to moderate the Alumni Workplace Engagement Business Forum: A Conversation on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, he didn’t have to think twice. As chief diversity and inclusion officer at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC, Freeman has spent his entire career championing diversity in individual law firms, as well as across the legal industry.
The seed of that interest was planted on his second day at Rutgers Law School–Camden, when he was awarded a diversity scholarship by a local firm. “It’s funny because it was purely by happenstance,” he says. “My scholarship was supposed to be from another fund, but there was a mix-up, so they offered me the diversity one instead. I learned firsthand how impactful diversity programs can be.”
In the years after his graduation, Freeman became the firm’s first person of color to rise through the ranks from summer associate to partner, all the while expanding his role in the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) space. (In three years, he increased the hiring of people of color by 72 percent and women by 65 percent.)
In addition to focusing on DEI full time in his current position, Freeman is a sought-after speaker and has published many articles on topics such as implicit bias, imposter syndrome, and allyship. That last one—allyship—is one of the issues where you’ll see Freeman “standing on tables to make a point.”
“As we work to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in every workplace, it’s incumbent on everyone—and I mean everyone, but especially white men—to be an ally and help create opportunity and access for underrepresented individuals. This is the only way to take a profession that is 85 percent white in a different direction.”
For those in this group who don’t have any idea where to begin to help, Freeman offers this actionable advice:
Reach out with intentionality
Freeman encourages executives to commit to sponsoring one or more employees from an underrepresented group. He tells them, “I’m putting this person on your radar. When I come back in 90 days, I would love for you to tell me that you had three substantive conversations with them and introduced them to a client.” It’s even more powerful when white men do this without a nudge from their diversity team.
Providing this sort of sponsorship (above and beyond the bounds of mentorship) is what will eventually change the literal complexion of the profession, he adds. “Serving in the critical role of a sponsor helps workplaces to create a diverse pipeline of people who have come up through the ranks—they’re homegrown—and it prepares them for leadership roles. That’s what leads to true inclusion.”
Be an upstander and a disruptor
Don’t be a bystander, be an upstander, says Freeman. If someone suggests passing over a woman for a business trip because she has children, disrupt that. Ask, “Why?” If the employee on her own says she doesn’t want to travel, that’s OK. Otherwise, why not consider her? This principle can apply to any workplace opportunity and any employee at risk of being left out. Why not invite them to meetings, have them quoted in a press release, or send them to a training or event? Being a disruptor can have far-reaching effects: Because you invited them to the table, they will be better equipped to apply for promotions, too.
Pay attention to percentages
Freeman does not subscribe to hiring quotas, but he does ask hiring managers to at least consider people from underrepresented groups. A good goal? At least 30 percent of the candidates who were interviewed should not be white men. If you’re in a nondiverse workplace, you may want to increase that percentage. At times, he’s aimed for a breakdown of 50/50 or better.
Think beyond the binary
“We often get trapped in this Black/white, binary/nonbinary, man/woman mindset,” says Freeman. It’s not that simple, which is why his monthly newsletter is called Dimensions of Diversity. “It’s hard enough to be a woman in the legal profession. Now imagine being a woman of color who’s LGBT in the legal profession. Many people have an intersectionality of diversity. So in my work, for example, if you are doing an equity audit, it’s important to look at all of these dimensions to ensure that no one is being undervalued as an individual.”
Leave a legacy you’re proud of
Freeman says that public policy often drives corporate changes. “For example, the Marriage Equality Act pushed me to work on a gender-neutral parental-leave policy a few years ago at my prior firm,” he says. “Effective change management requires creating and amending the long-lasting policies in the workplace.”
“Those are things that are going to outlive [you],” adds Freeman. “I want to make sure that I leave every organization better than how I found it, especially in the diversity and inclusion space. I want my legacy to be a profession that is exponentially more progressive and way more welcoming.”
This article is part of a series developed in partnership with Alumni Workplace Engagement and Alumni Career Resources that feature prominent Rutgers alumni providing expert knowledge on timely topics.