Affinity groups and a justification for non-male groups – new co-author Jane DiRenzo Pigott

I welcome to Law Department Management Jane DiRenzo Pigott, the Managing Director of
R3 Group LLC. Jane, a former partner in a leading Chicago firm, founded its diversity program and over the years developed a leading reputation in the area of law firm and law department diversity. Her periodic blog posts will comment and counsel on issues related to diversity.

By contributing author Jane DiRenzo Pigott, R3 Group LLC

Many organizations, including corporations and legal departments, employ affinity groups as a tool for retention, promotion and recruitment. Without broadly establishing the business case for these affinity groups, they may appear to those not included in an affinity group as favoritism or, worse yet, discrimination. I was at a law firm last week that has a nascent women’s affinity group which that day was hosting a lunch for the women summer associates. What stopped me in my tracks was that the male attorneys had organized an informal lunch for male attorneys for the same day.

How can one gender-specific event (the one held by the women) be encouraged and supported by the firm while the second gender-specific event (the one held by the men) not smack of passive aggressive behavior that underscores a widening gender divide?

The reasoning I’m about to put forward is not going to satisfy everyone. The women’s event is necessary to establish community, which in turn fosters and promotes, among other things, retention. Men in law firms as well as in law departments not only already have community, they are the majority, especially in the most senior ranks. That difference alone makes one event strategic and one event offensive.

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