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Microsoft updates program to encourage diversity in partner law firms

Blair Hanley Frank | Aug. 5, 2015
Microsoft has overhauled a program for promoting diversity at the law firms it works with, to promote higher representation for lawyers of different minority groups in the firms' leadership ranks.

"The program, and most especially its focus on diverse firm leadership, brings a clear, measured and meaningful approach to this critical issue," she said.

Overall, Snapp said the company expects to pay out US$15 million over the next five years as a result of the 2 percent bonus. That said, any transformation caused by Microsoft's incentives won't happen overnight, especially since the company's new goals focus on lawyers in leadership roles. Snapp said that Microsoft wants to run the program for 3-5 years in order to see "real trend lines" as a result. She pointed out that diversity and inclusion efforts are usually slow going, and that change is slow even in the broader legal community.

"Let's put it this way, it might be another 50 or 75 years, at the rate we're going now, for there to be an equal number of female partners as male partners," Snapp said.

For its part, Microsoft is trying to lead through its own legal department. According to a company blog post announcing the changes, 58 percent of lawyers in the Legal and Corporate Affairs group are women or minorities, while 41 percent of the most senior people in the department are women or minorities. Snapp said that Microsoft believes its more diverse representation has made its legal department stronger and helped the company succeed.

The legal department's program is only one part of Microsoft's ongoing inclusion efforts. CEO Satya Nadella identified diversity and inclusion as key pillars of the company's mission, and highlighted Microsoft's training for its employees to prevent unconscious bias. It comes after Nadella was criticized last year for saying that women should trust in karma to provide them with a raise -- a statement he later rescinded.

Technology companies have been putting more effort into improving diversity and inclusion recently. Just last week, Intel announced it would double the referral bonus of an employee who refers a woman, underrepresented minority or veteran who eventually gets hired. The proof will be in the pudding for these programs, however.

 

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