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John Bair
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Sheryl Axelrod’s Take on Diversity and Inclusion

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Sheryl Axelrod is founder of The Axelrod Firm, a women-owned law firm based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Not only is she a skilled trial attorney, recognized as one of the “Top 50 Women Super Lawyers in Pennsylvania” for the past three years, Axelrod is also a passionate and committed champion of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

It is common knowledge that women continue to be underpaid in the workplace. In the U.S. women average $0.76 to every dollar their male counterparts earn in comparable positions. Axelrod has spoken on many occasions on the matter and maintains that within law firms, those with diversity from the top to bottom consistently outperform firms that are less diverse by over $100,000 per partner! A staggering statistic.

Her research has shown that Fortune 500 Companies with the most women on their boards outperform those with the least by a 66% return on invested capital (ROI), a 42% return on sales, and a 53% return on equity. She says that corporate America is responding to these statistics and looking at their boards more carefully as a consequence.

Cedric Herring is a professor in the Sociology department at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and author of Does Diversity Pay?: Race, Gender, and the Business Case for Diversity. In his book he explains this interesting finding: If a Team A is selected based solely on intelligence and Team B is selected solely on diversity, Team B will outperform Team A over and over again. With such findings Axelrod states, “Diversity is not just good for business, it is not just good for society. It is good for the entire country.”

Axelrod has developed tips and tools to help employers and corporations become more diverse and inclusive in their businesses. These steps are outlined below.

Tools to Increase Gender Inclusion:
• Transfer to an open compensation system.
• Include representative numbers of women on the committees in charge of hiring, promotions, and pay.
• Make gender inclusion a strategic initiative. Women’s initiatives do not work.

Further Steps Companies Should Take to Benefit from Gender Inclusion:
• Set targets for inclusion and make those in charge accountable for achieving them.
• Financially reward those who best retain and promote women and minorities.
• Financially penalize those who are the poorest at retaining and promoting women and minorities.
• Implement a comprehensive program to identify and minimize bias.
• Audit hiring, pay, evaluations, and promotions for gender and minority based discrepancies.
• Check how assignments, networking opportunities, and client development resources are distributed along gender and minority lines.
• Institute flexible working arrangements.
• Check rates to ensure gender and minority parity.
• Check how books of business of those who leave are distributed.

Tools for Diversity Champions. PEP: Place, Echo, and Promote Women
Place: When you see an opportunity for a woman, recommend her for the opportunity, place her.
Echo: In group settings, echo good things you hear women say, acknowledging their idea and say that it was great. This avoids the stealing of ideas. For example, “Kathy just made a great point,” and repeat what it was that she had said.
Promote: Speak highly of other skilled women’s capabilities, personalities and professional qualities. Promote them.

All of this is good advice from a champion herself. For more information on Sheryl Axelrod, visit her website to learn more about her diversity initiative.

Equality in the workplace, and beyond, is a subject that I feel is very important, and one that I have written about in the past. Feel free to review some of my previous posts on this critical issue.