How Diversity and Inclusion roles are shaping the Birmingham business community

Diversity and Inclusion
Birmingham businesses are realizing D&I roles are necessary to a successful and welcoming company. Photo via Jon Eastwood for Bham Now.

When discussing why Diversity and Inclusion leaders are so essential for the workplace, I like this quote by Katherine Phillips: “Diversity jolts us into cognitive action in ways that homogeneity simply does not.” So, how do these roles benefit and improve Birmingham’s business community? Let’s take a look.

A vital position in large companies

Diveristy and Inclusion
Diversity and Inclusion, or D&I, leaders help stop unconsciously bias hiring decisions. Photo via Unsplash

Diversity and Inclusion might make you think of a one-person HR department filled with paperwork listing complaints about annoying coworkers, à la Toby from “The Office.” He’s more of an example of how NOT to act when in a role like this one.

Instead, Diversity and Inclusion leaders and departments are focused on making everyone feel comfortable and confident about their ideas, thoughts and contributions. They also provide an outside perspective to ensure one singular voice isn’t being heard throughout the company—refer back to homogeneity.

“I think it speaks volumes that an organization is willing to invest resources to focus on the diversity of its workforce. Law firms, in particular, have historically had a low number of diverse lawyers. 

Where there is no assignment of responsibility, the focus on inclusion and diversity can be easily lost. Any law firm, in fact, any business, must be willing to make serious efforts to address inclusion and diversity.”

George D. Medlock, Jr., Director of Inclusion and Diversity at Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP

Let’s break it down into three parts: recruitment, retention and advancement

This is not a formula every company follows, but it is how George describes his role. Bradley is a great example of a company specifically hiring an employee for Inclusion and Diversity purposes in the Birmingham business community.

Recruitment

“My role in the recruiting process includes my membership on the firm’s recruitment committee, where I have a voice in the schools at which we recruit, the evaluation of candidates, and interaction with the summer associates.”

Retention

“My role in the recruiting process includes my membership on the firm’s recruitment committee, where I have a voice in the schools at which we recruit, the evaluation of candidates, and interaction with the summer associates.

Additionally, I serve as a resource to the firm’s affinity groups which include the Lawyers of Color, LGBTQ+ affinity group, and the Winn Initiative women’s group.”

Advancement

“As for advancement, I also serve as a member of the firm’s associates committee, where I have a voice in the reviews of the associates.  I also have regular meetings with the firm’s managing partner, the board, the Inclusion and Diversity Committee as well as with practice group leaders to evaluate engagement and inclusion for all attorneys at the firm. 

Lastly, I also regularly work with our clients and organizations in furtherance of these efforts.”

Here is just a small list of prominent Birmingham businesses with these roles

UAB
Learn more about UAB’s office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Photo courtesy of UAB.

Vulcan Materials

  • Who: Natalie Bolling | Website
  • Title: Attorney, Employment & Compliance
  • Background: Natalie previously worked as an attorney at Baker Donelson and Frilot Partridge.

Birmingham Museum of Art

  • Who: Dr. Emily G. Hanna | Email
  • Title: Senior Curator of the Arts of Africa and the Americas as Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • Background: Before joining the BMA team, Dr. Emily taught at Georgia State University and Spellman College. She has curated over twenty-five exhibitions of African, African-American, Native American, Caribbean, and Folk Art since coming to Birmingham.

UAB

  • Who: Anita Clemon | Email
  • Title: Assistant Vice President for Institutional Equity
  • Background: Anita has been with UAB for over 30 years Director, HR Compliance. Assistant Vice President – Institutional Equity

Regions

  • Who: Clara Green | Email
  • Title: Head of Diversity and Inclusion
  • Background: Prior to Regions, Clara worked as the Diversity and Inclusion Leader for GE Power and Talent Development Leader for GE Power & Water Power Generation Services. 

Bradley Law Firm

  • Who: George D. Medlock, Jr. | Email
  • Title: Partner and Director of Inclusion and Diversity
  • Background: Prior to Bradley, George was the vice president and deputy general counsel for Comcast Cable.

Brasfield & Gorrie

  • Who: Natalie Kelly | Website
  • Title: Corporate Responsibility Manager (responsibilities focus on advancing sustainability and diversity and inclusion initiatives within the company)
  • Background: In addition to a background working in construction, the corporate sector and entrepreneurship, Natalie also founded and published local green living websites MyGreenBirmingham.com and MyGreenMontgomery.com.

How else Birmingham is incorporating Diversity and Inclusion positions

Diversity and Inclusion
 Shipt is currently hiring a Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. Photo via Greg Harber

Businesses are learning that you cannot have a thriving and relevant company without making a determined effort to recruit talent outside a similar set of people. Birmingham companies, such as Shipt are actually currently hiring Diversity and Inclusion positions.

“By investing in this role, Bradley is demonstrating its commitment to growth in the area of inclusion and diversity, not just to the local business community, but also to all of our attorneys and to our current and potential clients.”

George D. Medlock, Jr.

Have you heard of Joonko?

Back in 2018, Joonko announced they were moving their headquarters from San Fran to the Magic City. Its services, however, are for companies nationwide. In my not-so-tech understanding, the startup offers software tools to promote diversity and inclusion in hiring and personnel decisions.

The problem? Hiring managers tend to look within the same set of people who share the same interests and backgrounds as everyone else in the workplace. Joonko helps augment and manage diverse candidates. It, “creates a pool of pre-qualified, diverse candidates and improves the diversity in participating companies’ talent acquisition pipelines.”

The bottom line

Diversity and Inclusion leaders have been a hot topic in the business world for a few years now, but the discussion shouldn’t be left to simmer. From a business perspective, the facts are unignorable— inclusive teams make better business decisions up to 87% of the time.

That’s not cherry-picked either, look at any scholarly article or research and the results come up the same every time. If your company values innovative and new ideas, creating a Diversity and Inclusion position is key to that success.

What are your thoughts, Birmingham? Share it with us on social @bhamnow.