When you teach people soft skills, it carries over into the rest of their lives.
“I’ve done a ton of workshops about race reconciliation with churches and nonprofits. I’m part of the Lutheran church, which is not a very diverse denomination, so I do race awareness and education. I’m a firm believer that change only happens from the inside out. You can’t be on the outside looking in, saying, ‘They need to do this, that and the other.’ You need to be inside to make a difference.
“The whole purpose of our diversity training and education is to introduce diverse topics in a way that doesn’t offend people. They are set up in a way that people aren’t so defensive about the topics. The underlying goal is to get the point across, but not be in your face, to do it in a manner that it’s received well. I’m very impressed that at Kutak Rock, people show up. You could make a million excuses in a law firm not to go to a one-hour training. The fact that people show up and participate—for me that’s huge. It’s not like we’re providing a buffet lunch for them to be here! We don’t have to do a lot of bribing,” she laughs. “Cookies and drinks, maybe? Not a lot.
Ultimately, I think the trainings are going to impact the culture of the firm. I’m happy to be a part of it because I believe it’s important. We need to bring in more diverse candidates, we need to see people differently.
One area Miriam hopes will continue to improve is in recruitment. “I think we’re still doing a lot of word-of-mouth recruitment and when people do that, they tend to bring in people in their circles,” she explains. “There are some things we need to do and places we need to be. By opening up people’s ideas and broadening their horizons, I think at some point we’ll make room for different types of people, and I’m hoping that’s why we’re doing the training and development workshops. The whole purpose is to get people thinking.
People of color or who have different backgrounds tend to ask other employees of a prospective company or firm, ‘How are you being treated? How’s it going?’ It’s not just looking at the job description and applying for a job anymore.
“When I think of applying for a job, I have to call somebody there who looks like me. ‘Do they promote? How are they with this and that?’ It’s not as easy as just looking it up online and thinking, ‘Oh, that job fits me. I’m going to go there.’ I think that’s one of the pieces that many employers miss, even with LGBTQ people. My daughter is gay and she’s always wondering, ‘How am I going to be treated?’
“It’s not just about talents, abilities and skills. It’s about how the firm looks as a whole. Most people don’t have to think about that. I’m hoping these trainings will help us see things from others perspective.
It’s an amazing time to be at Kutak Rock.