Advancing Diversity Equity and Inclusion in Fairfield County: Disrupting Bias Towards More Inclusive Outcomes

Aug 19, 2019

How can diversity, equity, and inclusion be progressively woven into our daily work with colleagues and clients? This question was addressed at Fairfield County’s Community Foundation’s recent breakfast for our Professional Advisors, a group of estate planning experts—financial advisors, attorneys, CPAs and more. Keynote speakers included Cecil Thomas Esq., Attorney at Greater Hartford Legal Aid, Inc., and Karen DeMeola Esq., Assistant Dean for Finance, Administration and Enrollment at University of Connecticut’s School of Law. They challenged and engaged the group by delving into topics like the impact of implicit bias and the strategies to disrupt it. The speakers also shared insights on how to advance diversity, equity and inclusion with clients, colleagues, and workplace systems.

“Organizations that are participating in these types of workshops are helping to lead a movement. They start asking the important questions. And they are hard questions. What can we do to improve policy or practice so that we can address barriers in the way of achieving our goal? Can we make this organization reach a level playing field?” said keynote Cecil Thomas.

Thomas also shared “hiring data” from across varied Connecticut law firms. These numbers demonstrated the stark representation in gender and ethnic diversity in the legal industry.

“When you look at the data, there’s something going on both in terms of the allocation of resources and the allocation of various positions of power. And when you’re bringing people into your organization, it’s not enough that a company looks a certain way or has a certain balance. Everyone needs to have meaningful inclusion in the fabric of your organization,” Thomas shared.

Karen DeMeola highlighted the importance of seeing things differently. She emphasized that the most diverse companies and groups outperform others when they take part in innovation and collaboration. This provides institutions the ability to move forward.

“Demographically our world is shifting and changing. And so the ways we can collaborate across all industries, and all departments really matters.” DeMeola shared.

The breakfast was also the first time the Community Foundation invited members from its Professional Advisors Council (PAC), Rising Professional Advisors Council (RPAC) and Emeritus PAC to come together to specifically learn about this critical topic of diversity, equity and inclusion. The group engaged in valuable networking and participated in interactive exercises and discussions around building a diverse and inclusive workforce.

RPAC member and event attendee, Matthew Smith of Wiggin and Dana LLP shared, “The Foundation helps keep us connected by providing engaging and educational programming, along with networking opportunities. They give us the tools and resources to be an advocate for our communities, and to best serve our clients.”

The Community Foundation continually offers opportunities to Council members to learn about trends in philanthropy and tools to enhance their client relationships. In turn, Council members serve as ambassadors, raising awareness for the Foundation as a resource for charitable giving and strategic regional initiatives. The Community Foundation values this partnership with our Council members, striving to provide meaningful experiences to help address the pressing needs of our communities.

The Foundation is developing future trainings for our Professional Advisors to engage in important topics like diversity, equity and inclusion. Committing to, and integrating these practices will help move us toward a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive community.