CBA Record July-August 2021
When Mindfulness and DEI Intersect: “Mindful DEI” By Jasmine V. Hernandez, CBA Record Editorial Board
T hi s groundbreaking program explored the intersection of mind- fulness and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). The framework stemmed from a paper written by Simon L. Des- Estages, Global General Counsel for Private Banking, HSBC, in which he espouses his theory that a mindful approach to diversity and inclusion programs may create a more successful, sustainable, and meaningful diverse and inclusive legal workplace. To introduce this unique concept and approach to DEI, Sandra Yamate, CEO, Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession, and Ray J. Koenig III, Partner and Chicago Office Managing Member, Clark Hill PLC and Second Vice President, Chicago Bar Asso- ciation, approached the topic with input from two panels – first, “FromDEI Mind- fulness to Mental Health and Emotional Well-being” and second, “Mindfulness as a DEI Strategy.” All the speakers shared insights that highlight current approaches and mindsets. Before the panels began, Des-Estages eloquently shared his own mindfulness exploration and journey. He explained how personal and professional speed bumps motived him to seek out ways he could better himself as well as create meaningful change. Des-Estages shared the impact of mindfulness practice in his life. For example, he learned the value and power of community. Perhaps his most powerful and memorable statement, “None of us would be here today were it not for the communities we are connected with and the communities that have supported us on our journeys … none of us would be here today were it not for an infinite number of people alive and gone who have enhanced our lives and successes.” He also suggested that being successful, or having a suc- cessful idea, does not necessitate personal involvement in every step. Success may be as simple as sharing your work with others, planting a seed.
From DEI Mindfulness to Mental Health and Emotional Well-being The first panel was moderated by Sylvia James, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Winston & Strawn LLP. She led a lively discussion in which the panelists shared various stressors many people face, including Covid-related stressors, racial stressors, and “sandwich” stressors (such as simultaneously caring for elderly parents and children). They spoke about unantici- pated challenges in the workplace, such as finally having a seat at the table, as well as the continued stressors attorneys may face as they continuously strive to excel in their roles. Each panelist shared what the term “mindfulness” means to them. While each interpretation differed, all seemed to agree that being in a state of mindfulness allowed each of them to extricate themselves from any given moment and be more aware of actions around them. The panel featured Michael Boykins, Chicago Office Managing Partner, McDer- mott Will & Emery LLP; Rudy Figueroa, Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, Mitsui Rail Capital LLC; Ellen Ostrow, Founding Principal, Lawyers Life Coach LLC; and Jennifer Rosato Perea, Dean and Professor, DePaul
University College of Law. Figueroa described the sensation of quieting his mind and then hearing more than the words spoken, but also the inten- tion behind them. Ostrow referenced Des- Estages’ description of being able to stand back and observe our thoughts and feelings without being captured by them. The panel also discussed tools that organizations use to foster a culture of mindfulness. Boykins introduced the mission behind McDer- mott’s Happiness Committee, and Perea emphasized the next generation of lawyers will drive mindfulness into the fabric and culture of law firms and legal employers in the future. Mindfulness as a DEI Strategy The second panel was moderated by Jef- frey Jamison, Associate General Counsel, Litigation and Senior Vice President, BMO Harris Bank. Whereas the first panel approached the topic of mindful- ness from a more personal perspective and/or well-being practice, the second panel explored the value of mindfulness as a tool to advance DEI efforts, an inten- tional strategy. Two panelists shared that the possible intersection of mindfulness and DEI efforts came to the forefront at
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