Insights (Blog) - Diversity & Flexibility Alliance

Spotlight on Flex – Indira Sharma

The Spotlight on Flex showcases professionals from member organizations who exemplify personal and professional success while working a flexible schedule. Their stories illustrate the long-term benefits that flexible schedules offer to both individuals and organizations.

This month, we are pleased to share insights from Indira Sharma, Counsel and Chair of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee, Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP (Baltimore, MD).

Diversity & Flexibility Alliance: How have you made flexibility a priority and a success through your schedule?

Indira Sharma: I started working at Saul Ewing right after I graduated from law school in 2006 and was on a full time schedule from 2006-2010. After I had my first child at the end of 2009, I returned to work reduced hours at 65 percent for about a year before transitioning to 70 percent reduced hours. I don’t have a set schedule; as it is with the practice of law, it just depends on the day. Instead of focusing on what days I’m in the office or not, I focus on making myself available. When there’s extra time, I spend it taking care of more things at home for my family and the community.

It’s been trial and error to get to this point. At first I thought I would take a certain weekday off, but I realized it wasn’t realistic as a litigator. So when there are family commitments, I work around them just as I would work around a deposition schedule. There are times where I’ve had to bend for work and times when I’ve had to bend for my personal life – it just depends what’s more important at the moment.

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Action Step – If You Think Your Organization is a Meritocracy, It’s Probably Hurting Your Diversity Efforts…
But Here’s What You Can Do About It
(Part 2)

The Alliance’s Action Steps are designed to assist organizations with implementing practical strategies and policies related to diversity and flexibility.  Members can access full versions of all of the Alliance’s Action Steps in the Member Resource Center

In Part I of this Action Step, we explored why debunking the notion that most organizations are meritocracies is essential to the success of diversity and inclusion efforts. To support this link, we discussed how evaluative processes such as promotion decisions are often less about objective, merit-based criteria and more influenced by in-group favoritism and other cognitive biases that tend to provide greater access to people in majority groups and less to others. With that background, we offer the following three steps to tackle the notion of meritocracy and open the channels for greater diversity and inclusion among those who advance in your workplace.

First, have a discussion about the factors other than merit that may help or hinder promotion in your organization. This can be an emotionally-charged topic, and could cause some people to feel that their achievements are being attacked. For this reason, it may be best for the discussion to be led from the highest levels of your organization, or to have a more generalized discussion of meritocracy in your industry. Questions that can help stimulate discussion include: What do we mean by “merit”? In determining who gets ahead, what should we prioritize: intelligence or hard-work; book smarts or experience; business development or results; people skills or revenue generation? What, if any, role should where a person was educated or personal connections play in who gets promoted? What is our explanation for why people at the top of our organization/industry are not more diverse? What makes it easier or harder for people to advance in our organization/industry?

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We’re Part of Your Team

With the New Year just six weeks away, you’re undoubtedly beginning to make your plans for 2018 and developing a strategy for the advancement of your diversity and flexibility initiatives. As you begin to map out your plans, we hope you’ll remember that you have the Alliance to turn to for support. Consider us part of your team. Whether you’re a Diversity & Inclusion professional with increased responsibilities and a decreasing budget, or a human resources executive tasked with bias training, we can help. We can serve as your trusted advisor and, if you’re a member, we encourage you to schedule your Strategic Planning Session soon.

Maybe you’d like to see more women in leadership or you’re wondering why so few professionals are using your flex policy. Our Policy Reviews are one of our most popular Member Benefits and we can help you to identify what’s working and what’s not. If you’ve participated in our Law Firm Benchmarking Study in the past, make sure you make some time to review where your firm stands in comparison to your competitors and where you can improve.

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