On Thursday, 2nd September 2021 we held a fantastic diversity and inclusion webinar in partnership with Payet, Rey, Cauvi, Pérez Abogados, a leading law firm based in Peru. The event focused on three key topics: diversity as a core strategy; effective allyship; and implementing inclusive policies and processes.
The event featured three brilliant speakers from Payet, Rey, who lead and support their D&I initiatives: José Antonio Payet, Founding Partner; Susan Castillo, Partner; and Mayra Aguirre, Principal Associate. They were joined by a selection of in-house counsel from across Latin America with significant D&I expertise: Dr. Alejandra Castro, Head of Law, Patents & Compliance PACA, Bayer; Dolores ‘Lola’ Conde, Legal COO, Santander; and Gonzalo Smith Ferrer, Chief Legal & Governance Officer, Corporate Secretary, Falabella S.A. The event was hosted and moderated by Ellie Gerszt, D&I Manager at Chambers and Partners.
After the initial welcome from Ellie, José Antonio offered his introductory remarks on how “diversity makes us richer”. Addressing both the “human side” of D&I and the business case, “talent is a competitive advantage”, he offered some rousing thoughts on why D&I must be a core strategy for all organisations.
As one of the founding partners of the firm, it was then no surprise that José Antonio turned his attention to a topic he is very familiar with – leadership. He began by praising the initiative of Susan Castillo, a key driving force for positive action at the firm, before focusing on the core requirements of being an inclusive leader: “Don’t be neutral, be positive. That means two things: very concrete things like health insurance that allow people to access benefits; and it also requires an inclusive attitude that becomes part of a culture.”
Diversity as a Core Strategy
The introductory remarks were then followed by an incisive panel discussion, with our four experts sharing key insights on the topics. Dr. Alejandra Castro took the first question and continued the theme of inclusive leadership: “We need to speak up, to make sure as leaders we are examples of inclusive leadership.” Moving from a focus on the internal culture at Bayer, she then discussed her vision for working with outside counsel to ensure D&I is prioritised in the relationship: “When we hire law firms, we make sure they have D&I principles because that will make the difference in the future.” All panellists agreed that being able show progress on D&I was important.
This was backed up by Lola Conde, who reinforced the importance of tracking progress, “we measure our D&I data in each location,” and asserted that “D&I is the Santander way – it adds value and it is embedded.” Susan Castillo added a further layer to this point, commenting: “Since last year we have been gathering metrics to measure the success of our policies. We conducted informal surveys to find out how many people attended events, whether we reached the right people, whether they found it useful.”
Implementing Inclusive Policies and Processes
On the topic of implementing policies, Gonzalo Smith Ferrer spoke eloquently about the process undergone at Falabella as they introduced a fantastic gender transition policy: “We did three years of legwork before introducing it to understand what people in the company believed. We did a lot of work to sensitise people towards D&I. Over those years, opinions were trending and moving, and then we launched the policy.”
The process of introducing the gender transition policy, by raising awareness of key issues in preparation for taking positive action, mirrored Gonzalo’s own D&I journey as he became a major ally: “I was completely blind to it. When I moved to a US-based organisation I didn’t realise how significant it was for a Latin person to be in my position. I got to feel the pain that others feel by not being included, or at the table, or their workplace isn’t being conscious or proactive towards D&I.”
On the topic of allyship, Dr. Alejandra Castro had some fantastic words of encouragement for those who do not feel qualified to work on advancing D&I: “Don’t be afraid to step up regardless of your age, gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity.” This was echoed by Gonzalo, who also addressed the realities of making change in large organisations: “Be extremely vocal. Speak up, as loud and as frequently as you can. If you want to convey a message to 80,000 people, it’s not enough to just tell the people around you.”
As the conversation moved on to the events of the last 18 months and how the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities, Lola centred the discussion on crucial themes: “In times of uncertainty we have to come back to basics, principles and values. It has to be pragmatic, effective and efficient. We need action plans. It’s not only a matter of language, it’s respect.” Gonzalo further emphasised the importance of boldly addressing injustice and retaining confidence in the value of this work: “Any perception of people getting favourable treatment can be responded to by showing the systematic inequality. No injustice we are addressing now is equal to the systematic injustice that exists and the challenge we are addressing”.
The panel discussion was followed by an audience Q&A before Mayra Aguirre closed the session with a summary of the key takeaways. Her comments tied together the threads of the panel discussion and showed how “inclusive environments help everyone feel confident being themselves so they can perform better at work.” To finish off, she threw the gauntlet down to organisations that don’t address D&I through improved policies and inclusive culture, highlighting the role of creating talented teams: “Organisations are made up of their workforce so organisations that don’t have D&I policies are going to find themselves left behind.”
To watch the full webinar on-demand you, register by clicking here.