Kanarys, Inc. and the National Bar Association Women Lawyers Division’s First of its Kind Survey Reveals 7 in 10 Black Women Lawyers Have Experienced or Witnessed Discrimination or Bias at Work

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The Women Lawyers Division (WLD) of the National Bar Association (NBA) is a section that was established in 1972 as a vehicle for women in the practice of law to address the issues and problems that particularly affect interest and concern African American women.
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Kanarys, Inc., a diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) technology company focused on providing the tools organizations need to create long-term systemic change around DEIB challenges, and the Women Lawyers Division (WLD) of the National Bar Association (NBA), established in 1972 as a vehicle for women in the practice of law to address the issues and problems that particularly impact, interest, and concern Black women, today announce the results of the State of Black Women in the Law DEIB Assessment Report.

Sponsored by the National Bar Institute, the goal of the report is to illuminate and pinpoint specific challenges of Black women attorneys on a broader scale and identify solutions for addressing those challenges. The assessment, which polled members of the NBA WLD, affiliate chapters, and other Black women’s legal organizations and networks across the country, revealed that although strides have been made, there remains more work to be done. In fact, nearly 1 in 2 participants have been tasked with educating others about DEIB (47%), even those that do not formally have a DEIB role. Further, 7 in 10 participants reported experiencing or witnessing discrimination or bias (70%), adding to the emotional burden they often carry.

Additional key takeaways from the survey include:

  • Participants reported a lower-than-average sense of belonging. While the majority of participants agreed their workplaces are committed to improving diversity, nearly 7 in 10 respondents would not remain at their current organization for two more years (66%) with a lower-than-average sense of belonging.

  • The burden of arranging DEIB training and implementation is unfairly delegated to Black women attorneys as nearly half of the participants are charged with leading and educating others about DEIB (47%).

  • Black women lawyers and professionals have a positive outlook when it comes to expressing their opinions with nearly 7 in 10 of the participants feeling that their opinions in the workplace are valued (67%).

  • There is still a fear of reporting DEIB issues to an immediate manager and HR as well as being silenced and dismissed, with 14% of respondents reporting being fearful of reporting DEIB issues.

“Before I co-founded Kanarys, I practiced law as a private equity attorney for over 12 years, and it was the inequities I faced as a Black woman in law that motivated me to dedicate my life to creating systemic change within DEIB,” said Mandy Price, co-founder and CEO of Kanarys. “I’m honored that our organization has partnered with the NBA WLD to illuminate the unique experiences and challenges faced by Black women in the legal industry. While this report revealed great progress, the results also show that there is still much to be done. We hope the findings will accelerate progress within the legal industry and beyond and foster an inclusive and equitable culture for Black women.”

“Black women remain significantly underrepresented in the legal profession and growth is sluggish. To drive progress, it was necessary to evaluate the true experiences and sentiments of Black women lawyers,” said Krystal Studavent Ramsey of the NBA WLD. “We hope this report helps organizations understand the work that needs to be done to further the advancement of Black women in the legal industry. While the NBA can work to help elevate and promote its members, progress can be made more quickly when more organizations prioritize recruiting, retaining, and promoting Black women collectively.”

For 30-plus years, studies have shown that DEIB is not only the right thing to do for employees, but it’s also equally good for the bottom line. According to McKinsey, companies with 30% or more women on their executive teams are more likely to outperform those with less or no women executives. Furthermore, companies with ethnic diversity have been shown to outperform companies by 36% in terms of profitability. However, for organizations to leverage the potential of DEIB, they must understand the lived experiences of their employees and put accountability measures in place. Studies have also provided a critical look at the underrepresentation of Black women in the upper echelons of business, despite their high rates of education, achievement, ambition, and active engagement in the labor market.

The metrics and insights from this report can serve as a baseline for future evaluation in supporting and advancing Black women in the law and for informing institutional DEIB initiatives and strategies in the years to come. “Black women lawyers should be represented in higher percentages in leadership in every sector of the law, e.g., law firms, corporations, government, law schools, and nonprofits,” said Alfreda Robinson, 77th Past President of the NBA, and NBA and NBI board member.

For more information, please view the State of Black Women in the Law DEIB Assessment Report here: https://nationalbarinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/digital_NBA_WLD_Report_Final_digital.pdf

About Kanarys
Kanarys is a technology company focused on providing the tools organizations need to create long-term systemic change around diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) challenges. Working alongside mid-size enterprises and Fortune 500 companies, Kanarys transforms DEI work with data by providing the framework, benchmarking, and data companies need to incorporate best-in-class DEI into every area of the organization. Like a canary in the coal mine, Kanarys helps organizations ensure healthy work environments by revealing DEI blindspots before they become a problem. For more information on Kanarys, visit www.kanarys.com.

About the Women Lawyers Division of the National Bar Association
The National Bar Association (NBA) was founded in 1925 and is the nation’s oldest and largest national network of predominantly Black attorneys and judges. It represents the interests of approximately 66,000 lawyers, judges, law professors, and law students. The NBA is organized around 23 substantive law sections, 10 divisions, 12 regions, and over 80 affiliate chapters throughout the United States and around the world.

The Women Lawyers Division (WLD) of the NBA is a section that was established in 1972 as a vehicle for women in the practice of law to address the issues and problems that particularly impact, interest, and concern Black women. Through the WLD, women have made a significant impact on the goals and directions of the NBA by participating at all levels of the organization. The WLD has achieved its goal of adding positive direction to the NBA and establishing a new dimension of the sensitivity of the NBA as it addresses legal issues affecting women, children, the family, and the African American community as a whole. The WLD has concentrated on issues of specific interest and impact on women, and as a result, brought these issues to the forefront.