In this episode, we speak to Bendita Cynthia Malakia and Fabienne Ruopp of Hogan Lovells. To know more about the different Diversity and Inclusion of initiative of Hogan Lovells visit their dedicated page here. Below is the excerpt from the conversation, edited for length and clarity. You can listen to the podcast, either via the player above or on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or Google Podcast.

Agnes Uhereczky: Welcome to the listeners of this episode of the WorkLife HUB podcast. I'm your host Agnes Uhereczky and today's episode is going to be quite special because I have not only one, but two fantastic guests on the line. We're going to be zooming in on diversity and inclusion. My guests today are Bendita Cynthia Malakia, who is the Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Hogan Lovells. And also with us is Fabienne Ruopp who is the Senior Manager for Diversity Inclusion and Wellbeing for the EMEA region for Hogan Lovells, which is an international global law firm. So we're going to be covering a little bit both sides of the Atlantic and also looking into the future.

Thank you so much for being here Bendita and Fabienne. From where I sit, it looks a little bit like there's an acceleration in the diversity and inclusion space. I also feel that the issues are tackled more in-depth and maybe also taken more seriously. Maybe we're also tackling the more uncomfortable issues. What would you say are the most pressing D&I challenges that professionals such as you are now having to work with? What are the emerging or new things that you see coming your way? Let's start with you, Bendita.

Bendita Cynthia Malakia: Absolutely. Thank you so much, Agnes, for having me and my colleague, Fabienne, participate in this very current conversation. Diversity and inclusion has been a conversation in organizations in some parts of the world for decades. Yes, there are moments right now, which are causing societies and often the entire world to pay attention and be more engaged. The rise and fall and rise again of the #MeToo movement, followed by the groundswell resurgence of Black Lives Matter, which has had some resonance globally, and it's caused some organizations to assert a new commitment or to recommit, invest or invest additional resources to expand their scope with respect to diversity and inclusion. By October 2020, the modern lawyer article, the avant-garde, a fundamental rethink of the inclusion and diversity profession of the future notes many challenges which are very present for many in the diversity and inclusion role. I'll give three.

The first is that many still don't believe in the experiences of underrepresented people. They want data, they want stories, they want the business case and the moral case. You can give people all of that and sometimes it doesn't matter because at the root of it many of us live in very different worlds even in the same societies. We each have biases that are scientifically proven that we may not be aware of. But before you can solve a problem, you have to be aware of it. Many of us are still not aware of our own biases. And even if we are, we don't understand our culpability and the outcomes that we experience in our organizations.

The second challenge for D&I professionals is that the diversity and inclusion function is often still viewed as an event planning function and a feel-good function.

We should instead be placed as strategic advisors involved in the vetting and oversight of processes throughout the business to ensure that there is not a disparate impact on underrepresented people. Additionally, we're often viewed as cost centres. However, in the legal profession specifically, we can align underrepresented lawyers to clients and ways that boost revenue for the firm, and contemporaneously meet both the client's organizational diversity and inclusion objectives and our own.

Additionally, I shepherd a justice equity diversity and inclusion or JDI consultancy for our clients, which is specifically revenue-generating for the firm and serves to provide a holistic ecosystem with which we can invest in our underrepresented talent while also generating profit. The third challenge that I'll know and then I'll hand over, we're not given enough resources or the authority to commensurate with the challenge that we're asked to solve. Diversity and inclusion is a huge priority for many organizations. But those organizations do not often offer the personnel or the financial resources to support the achievement of that priority. We are lucky at Hogan Lovells in particular to have two diversity and inclusion professionals based in Germany to help drive this strategic priority, which I understand is atypical in the market for the legal profession. One of those people is Fabienne, whom you'll be delighted to hear from, and I'll let her share some of the challenges that she has identified.

Agnes Uhereczky: Thank you very much, Bendita, for this concise overview. I think you didn't shy away from giving it to us as it is. I appreciate your candour and, and also the courage to say how you see it. So, Fabienne, over to you where do you see some of these key challenges currently?

Fabienne Ruopp: Thank you. Diversity has many challenges. But it must be also clear that diversity and inclusion is not a walk in the park, so to say. It is a cultural change as Bendita mentioned because even to have diverse teams doesn't mean it is an easy run. So, diverse teams drive innovative solutions precisely because they can be challenging, and by bringing diverse perspectives to the table, for example, you get more ideas, but you also get more people pointing out holes in your idea. It is not always easy. So the debate that can become with differing perspectives pushes everyone to think and work harder. And this is one of the most challenging aspects, I think of working in a diverse environment. I found that on many occasions inviting someone into the conversation might mean that we are debating an issue maybe a bit longer. But it also means that we end up with a stronger solution. So all in all, you can say diversity has a lot of challenges, but a lot of opportunities. And, if people understand and are aware of how to benefit from diversity, we can turn the challenges into opportunities.

Agnes Uhereczky: That's great, Fabienne. I appreciate what you just said. I think it's much better if current and future D&I professionals, who are listening to this conversation, note that enhancing diversity is going to be uncomfortable in certain ways. It's going to be hard work, and it's going to require a culture change. So the better they are prepared for this, it's going to be better for everyone. Fabienne, you are sitting in Germany, working for Hogan Lovells while Bendita is based in the US. Therefore, I wanted to tackle this issue of a global company. Because we see that there are certain differences between the trends between Europe and the US. Fabienne, starting with you, where do you see some of the differences and where do you see perhaps some of the convergence that exists between on both sides of the Atlantic?

Fabienne Ruopp: I'm happy to do so. Differences in trends between Europe and the US. I think, from my European perspective, that there are not really huge differences between Europe and the US and I would also include the UK. I think it is a different part of the journey. Europe is, I would say, at the beginning of its D&I journey. Due to their history, the US and UK are a step ahead. So some of the D&I topics come across to Europe with some delay. But in the end, I think we have the same challenges as our colleagues in the US and UK. We all fight at the end for equity and inclusion and we all want to reduce prejudices. But of course, in Europe, we have a style challenge, for example, in gathering data, how to get to know our people due to our strong data protection law, and that makes things sometimes a little bit more challenging than maybe it is in the UK or the US. Also, Europe, as itself is very diverse, we have several jurisdictions and multiple languages. So this is also something which can be a bit challenging because the language topic is not to be underestimated. When English is spoken as a foreign language and more specifically, in a D&I context, there are many pitfalls. Even more so when native speakers are part of the conversation because language and conceptual questions can overlap. For example, why do most continental Europeans never address the word race? Or, what exactly do we mean when we say woman quota? Or, why does equal treatment appear to be a desirable concept in some places? So, these are just a few examples of where communication in Europe can be difficult or evenly disrupted. But I think as I said, in Europe, we have, in the end, the same challenges, maybe with a slightly different focus on some D&I topics or strengths. And, for example - and I'm sure that Bendita can give you more insight than that - the Black Lives Matter movement is not such a present movement in Europe. But of course, and this is the case, we have racism in our society and our structures. We have to work hard on this topic to change it. So, there are a lot of similarities, maybe with a slightly different focus. But in the end, Europe is on the same journey but at another level of maturity.

Agnes Uhereczky: How do you see this from you being the Global Head? So you have this overview between the different regions. How is this for you to navigate, maybe the differences or the similarities?

Bendita Cynthia Malakia: Being a global company, there are a lot of similarities, and probably Fabienne has enlisted a couple of them. I would note that at the root of all of our diversity and inclusion challenges, is a bias, whether it's explicit bias or implicit bias. That's something that we can't get away from. And so the extent to which we understand that there is something there that we ought to be paying attention to, that we ought to be trying to structure around, that we need to make the invisible visible for people. By doing that, and to do that, you need to set up an infrastructure and processes, and you can't just be reliant on kind of good-natured and well-meaning individuals, those things are the same. We would do well to try to learn from each other with respect to the strategies that we might have available to us.

Fabienne noticed a key difference with respect to data collection and identification. So, in the United States, specifically, we can capture, measure and disseminate more diversity and inclusion identification data than in many other jurisdictions. While GDPR is starting to become a thing here, and that may change, it's still the case that we're able to do things concerning individual identification that allows us to make strategic investments in people because we know who they are, they've told us and telling us at Hogan Lovells is completely voluntary. We don't require anyone to self-identify any identity other than gender. But many others identify other diversity identifications, including race and ethnicity, LGBTQ+, and to a slightly lesser extent, disability. So, as a result, we can go find people rather than potentially having people fall through the cracks. We can go find people to figure out what they're doing, we can analyze data based on different diversity of demographics and trends, and start to understand what is the trend so that we may be able to structure a policy or a process to mitigate the impact of that trend, or we can provide specific support for people. That doesn't mean that you can't do that in other parts of the world, but you have to be a little more creative about it. I think the opportunity there is increased inclusivity. So, in the US we might be able to pull a list and say, okay, we need to have a sponsorship program and we want to focus on our racial and ethnic minority talent or LGBTQ+ talents, somewhere else you might need to have kind of a general solicitation and then have the programming be focused on certain things, and then hopefully, capture people in that way.

I think that step of inclusivity lends itself to other areas. So, for instance, the allyship initiatives were born, especially with respect to the LGBTQ+ community, more in Europe than in the US, because you don't necessarily have as much latitude to be able to specifically identify people. So, you want to capture as many people as possible to help push forward your diversity and inclusion agenda. And I think that that's a huge positive because this is a problem that isn't created by underrepresented people. It's not created by diversity professionals and every single one of us has a specific obligation to resolve it.

With respect to the business, the biggest challenge that we have concerning data globally is that at a law firm of the size and stature of Hogan Lovells, we have a lot of global clients who have operations all around the globe. Some of them are based in the United States or the United Kingdom. And they're asking for data globally, that we cannot legally provide everywhere. Given that we're a service-oriented business, and putting clients at the centre of everything we do is a strategic priority of the firm, we want to be able to answer all the questions that our clients ask of us, but we sometimes just cannot, because we're bound by legal requirements. So, we need to have a lot of difficult conversations with certain clients to indicate that we can help you navigate getting the information that you need from us through another route. We are wholly committed to diversity and inclusion around the globe but we just cannot provide this particular data. And, even where we cannot legally provide it, culture is a really big thing, we often forget in the diversity and inclusion space that we are dealing with people's identities, especially in the workplace. We're dealing with the way people feel about themselves or dealing with their families, we're dealing with the ways that their trajectories are maybe shaped because of both societal trends and what's happening in the workplace. There are some places where it is just a very sensitive thing to talk about or ask about specific identities. Even if you can legally get the information, the culture may not necessarily be there, even for positive supportive initiatives.

I think another kind of key difference is related to a little bit of what the diversity focus is. Fabienne noted that the US and UK because of their history are maybe a little bit more ahead. In the US now, I think equity is more of a focus where your job is not just diversification, which is still a huge problem in both of those jurisdictions. It's also not just inclusion, which is the way that people's ideas are incorporated, and how they get to be involved in the way that they feel that they belong. It's also about making sure that we're making specific interventions to ensure that people who have been historically underrepresented, underserved or marginalized, can potentially get additional support than others to succeed. I think that my personal experience, I'm through this role in Europe more broadly, has been that equality is a big focus. There's a little bit more sensitivity about making those specific investments and that real inclusion, especially because of the data collection challenges in the game.

The last thing, which I hope we got to talk a little bit more about later, is that in the US, I think corporations are demanding diversity and inclusion. That's not to say that that's not happening around the globe. I know that Fabienne has led a great group of corporations that are doing wonderful work for diversity and inclusion in Europe but the levels of the demands are really specific in the US. And they're requiring, oftentimes either penalties, or they're offering benefits, to the extent that we are diversified. So not just “Wow, we think you're a great place and we're honoured to work with you” but we're willing to give you more money, or we're willing to dock money to the extent that you do not live up to these specific metrics that you've either set for yourself or that we've set for all of our outside counsel. I think that's a really important distinction because sometimes in a global law firm, where we have individuals all over the world who are servicing clients who've got multi-jurisdictional teams, it can be challenging when we have a potential US or us UK based company that wants a certain percentage of racial and ethnic minorities. And then we've got a large number of the team that sits in Europe, where we cannot identify specific individuals by their race and ethnicity. So, sometimes you can get disparate results in that case, even though we're trying to meet diversity and inclusion requirements, including having more people from the US and the UK potentially being staffed on those matters, because we've got the ability to do the data collection, even though there may be people who are sitting in the broader continental Europe that may be suitable and may be best suited for that particular work.

Agnes Uhereczky: Well, thank you so much Bendita, this has been so fascinating to listen to all of that you have outlined, and a lot of it I didn't even realize. So that was very interesting and helpful. There have been several public failings around diversity and inclusion just recently, and just this past week, when we're recording this - the whole case from Basecamp was coming out. Fabienne, what do you think are the specific skills or competencies that diversity and inclusion managers professionals need to be equipped with to have a good positive impact and to be able to tackle the challenges?

Fabienne Ruopp: Well, I think, first of all, as a D&I professional, you should like people, and you should like all people. But I think it's important because Bendita said it before we are dealing with people. Therefore, you should like people. You should be curious and open-minded and able to listen to the people what they say and how they feel. Therefore you need to think of emotional intelligence. So that for sure helps to work successfully as a D&I manager. But what we also say is a sort of toolkit you need. Good communication skills, because they are key.

You must be confident to communicate with all levels of an organization. So you talk to the top management as well as, for example, to junior employees, and you always have to find the appropriate access to the people and in your role as a D&I professional.

I think it's very important that you can build a trustful relationship and that you can deepen connections to diverse people and communities. So, across all ethnicities, all genders, all sexual orientations, and all functionalities in a company, you are the bridge to a lot of functions because you are in contact with colleagues from communication, HR, the board of directors, and culture. You have a lot of interactions between the functions in your position as a D&I manager as well as you are a coach for people. So you consult people as well. All in all, I would say for this position, you need a passion for the topic; without it is not possible. Also, you need tenacity. Because cultural change - and that is what we would like to achieve - will not happen overnight. It is not a sprint, it is a marathon. So, therefore, I think you must be prepared.

Agnes Uhereczky: Would you also say, Fabienne, that D&I professionals need to be equipped to hold their grounds when it gets uncomfortable? Because I can imagine that these issues are very sensitive but can also maybe bring up painful memories for people, painful experiences, that it can get quite choppy in certain stages I would imagine.

Fabienne Ruopp: Absolutely. In an ideal world, a role like a D&I professional is maybe not necessary because we have diversity, equity, and inclusion. So you must be able to handle uncomfortable situations of course and to be strong and to fight for topics.

Agnes Uhereczky: I think the past year and a half has brought up several very uncomfortable issues. The pandemic, of course, being one, but definitely, the intensified Black Lives Matter protests and their clash with the police, for example, in the US. But also other major events like the capital insurgents. All of these events have brought up quite intense emotions in people and also emotions and experiences of people in the workplace. Some companies choose to just tell employees that they shouldn't be discussing these events in the workplace because it's not their role to solve these deep political issues. Other companies have taken the stance. So let me turn to you, Bendita. What is your take on these most pressing, most urgent, but also most painful experiences that we are somehow reckoning with, and the role of organizations and the role of the D&I managers?

Bendita Cynthia Malakia: Thanks, Agnes. This is a very present and ongoing conversation, and it often has some generational nuance and expectation in the US in particular employees, especially those of Generation Z. Some millennials believe that the organization's responsibility is to deal with the issues present within the organization, even if societally rooted or caused. So in a recent article with Layla El-Wafi, of Standard Chartered Bank, we discuss navigating employee activism and the new norm. So it's the present time for this conversation that we're having and it's extremely complex. Our clients have widespread views. You know, we've got progressive clients, and we also have very conservative clients. Regardless of which position we take, we can potentially risk business by taking a particular position. If you follow the 2020 US election and the 2021 US insurrection, there are substantial fears around the country about diversity and inclusion specifically. In addition, in the US, we have the wrinkle of corporations generally being considered people from a political contribution and a political speech perspective, and with the millennial and Gen Z populations who are fully immersed in social media, and the organizations that you belong to are a part of your brand. So other people will judge you, by the organizations that you are a part of, and they'll decide whether or not you are who you say you are. So, there's a certain amount of authenticity. And those are the generations that express their values and all parts of their lives they don't just segment work from other things. As a result, I know for myself that I can't just work for any organization, even as a diversity and inclusion professional, because let's face it, there are a lot of diversity and inclusion professionals that are just signposts for a stated commitment but don't have any authority to act or to make a change or do any of the things that the organization would want them to do.

In addition to other criteria that are important to me, what our leaders choose to do on JDI matters deeply to me. I just like to highlight, though, that I do think it's a mark of privilege, in the global context to suggest that politics and diversity and inclusion are mutually exclusive. It's also a privilege to be able to belong in a country where you have the ability, without censure to think that you and your organization can challenge what's happening on a governmental level and not risk your safety. I just want to recognize those two privileges, which lands you in two different places.

It isn't that politics and diversity and inclusion are mutually exclusive. The history of the United States specifically negates that wholeheartedly our US Constitution, for instance, which guides our political life and our way of being is embedded with racism, in particular anti-black racism, and anti-indigenous racism as well. As a black bisexual woman, I feel deeply impacted by what's happening politically, in a way that matters for my safety and my family's safety, it could also have an impact on our family's viability. It was only recently that there was a law that protects LGBTQ+ people from being fired for being out in the workplace, here in the United States. I've been lucky in all aspects of my career to always have been out. But I know a lot of people don't have that financial privilege, they don't have that familial privilege. They don't have the ability to do that and to be their authentic self. So, I recognize that I've had some ability there.

But the passage of laws that impact the way that you operate in the workplace, is political. I think it's a little bit of fiction to try to separate that. In another sphere, laws are emerging that challenge the status of families like mine, there's been a rise of anti-LGBTQ+ laws all around the country, that suggests that families that are constructed in the ways that mine are, ought to be illegal and ought not to be resourced. The idea that my organization, you know, wouldn't support my particular identity, especially, you know, as being an older millennial feels very poignant to me. I'm lucky that our organization has done an incredible amount of pro bono work concerning pro LGBTQ+ anti-racism and equity organizations and supporting and advancing the lives of women and girls. I'm glad that I've been able to vote with my feet here. But what I will say is that in most things with respect to diversity and inclusion, silence is complicity, doing nothing perpetuates the status quo. And while this is rocky terrain, that's changing minute by minute. I encourage all of us to be open-minded and ask ourselves the question: when we're choosing to speak or choosing not to speak, what values are we trying to centre? And who are we trying to serve?

Agnes Uhereczky: Thank you very much. Bendita. This was very interesting and also fantastic advice, in the end, very actionable. What you were just saying reminded me on the previous podcast episode a while back where we had Caroline Fredrickson on who wrote the book Under the Bus, which looked at how the US Constitution and all the laws and different legislation piling up since then, has been throwing women, especially women of colour, under the bus and disenfranchising them even further.

I know, you have offices in Russia, so how do you, or, can you differentiate this political activism between the different markets, different countries where you are based? Or do you have to have a single kind of policy that is going to be applicable to all the offices? How can you deal with this?

Bendita Cynthia Malakia: I think many organizations are trying to figure out what the right line is. I'm part of a consortium of diversity and inclusion leaders at law firms specifically, and this is a question that's coming up, how do we draw the line? Given that most of us have offices in many jurisdictions around the world, is there a single policy that works and for the moment, I think the answer is inconclusive.

I do think that you need to go culture by culture. I think you need to figure out what's the best that you can do at this particular time with the resources that you have. I think, as a law firm, maybe it's not necessarily always making a particular statement. Maybe we can speak through the pro bono work that we choose to do, or the Community Investment hours that individuals that are not lawyers happen to do. So, I don't think that there's a particular guiding line, I think that this is very much in flux.

But I recommend focusing on what's the will and the desire of your people. Which people are you trying to attract, and retain at your organization? And at the core, like, what do you believe in? Every organization has values, every organization makes decisions about what they want their culture to be. I think ultimately, our leaders need to make decisions based on how we best support the people that we have. What are our values? What decision is going to best support those long term and sometimes conflicting items? I think it's a really hard challenge that all of us are trying to balance. But I would say that I don't think that we can be in a world much longer, where our organizations in particular in the US, and I think down the line, maybe in some other parts of the world, we can't be in a place where we choose not to speak.

Agnes Uhereczky: Well, thank you. I think it's a very interesting and very timely conversation. It is good to know that this is something that is evolving, and organizations can try to come up with their strategies on how they approach this, and what works for them, what's not going to alienate customers was not going to alienate clients and employees, but on the other hand, is going to be consistent with their values and their beliefs. Every day trying to leave the world a little bit better than how we found it.

Now, moving on, and changing the topic a little bit here. Of course, we cannot ignore the elephant in the room, which is the pandemic, which is still ongoing at the recording of this podcast. So I wanted to ask maybe Fabienne, starting with you, has the pandemic in any way, changed or impacted the work that you do? We have seen remote work just being really widespread and more and more conversations around work-life integration, and also how the epidemic has impacted women and some other groups differently than others. Would you say that there were some aspects of your work on diversity and inclusion that have been boosted by the pandemic and maybe some other areas that had to suffer a setback because of the pandemic?

Fabienne Ruopp: I would say although there have been some welcome changes in areas such as flexible or agile working, in many cases, the pandemic has also brought additional challenges for us. For example, for people with caring responsibilities, falling more heavily on women, and diversity and inclusion are at risk in this crisis. But critical for success for business recovery, resilience, and re-imagination, I think, and for any employee from an underrepresented or marginalized group, the pandemic is causing a lot of challenges.

So first, I would say the pandemic is having a disproportionate impact on health, for example, outcomes for people of colour, people with a disability, or other marginalized groups. Second, I think many of the jobs being cut as a result of the pandemic are disproportionately held by women or people of colour. Third, many companies are cutting diversity and inclusion initiatives. They consider this as nice to have or not central to the success of their business. Therefore, I'm very happy that we as Hogan Lovells have done it differently because we named diversity and inclusion as one of our strategic priorities for the firm last year, so right in the middle of the pandemic. This was a very strong signal, because, of course, we already established a culture of inclusion and diversity before the pandemic. We already offer programs such as flexible work time, remote work, which are known to be particularly beneficial and inclusive for women and other people with caring responsibilities, but I think generally beneficial to all employees. So, I think it has a lot of impacts, unfortunately, more negative impacts. But, of course, we also have some positive things; we can work over distance and offer a lot of ways to connect people; we have a lot of networks installed, and people who support the connecting dots we have in the firm. But maybe Bendita can give you some more insight about how the pandemic works for us and how we cover it.

Bendita Cynthia Malakia: At the beginning of the pandemic, diversity, and inclusion was in jeopardy. There was an early study at the end of April 2020, that indicated that it was the fastest declining role with the budget loss more intensely than any other role in organizations, other types of roles and functions around the globe, which is telling. You might even think that people are waiting for an opportunity. The others couldn't refuse to try to minimize diversity and inclusion, you saw where organizations thought that diversity and inclusion fell off in the context of their priorities. For us, in the US, in particular, the killing of George Floyd prompted an incredible turnaround with respect to resourcing these functions and putting them as a priority. As a practical matter, we know that whatever happens in society has a disproportionate impact on underrepresented people. For instance, where underrepresented people are disproportionately dying from the pandemic, and women and LGBTQ+ people are taking on an even more burden with respect to caregiving and having to return to the site the trauma that they had long left, and disabled people that essential services be rendered inaccessible or even less acceptable. We know that there's work to do, and I'm proud of the work that Hogan Lovells has done to support these communities through its pro bono and Community Investment work.

But it's not just about the health disparities, it's also about the workplace. Fabienne talked about the agile working initiatives, and we've had global agile working policies in 2015. So we were an early mover with respect to this. And so it's relatively easy for us to go offline. But I'm heartened by the increased adoption and acceptability of it. A McKinsey study earlier this year demonstrated the horrible impact of the pandemic on women. Everyone's calling it the “she session” and an on mass departure from the workplace that hasn't been seen since the Great Recession over a decade prior. Most people of colour and people with social mobility opportunities I know have had one or more family members die of the virus, or of living situations that make it challenging to work effectively.

That overlaid with some of these racial and ethnic crises, and other social identity movements that are happening are such that it makes it challenging for people to perform optimally in the workplace. Much of what has happened on top of executing our diversity and inclusion strategy has been comforting and care. Fabienne knows this much better than I do as wellbeing is a core part of her remit and responsibility. But it's been about expanding empathy and making sure that people who in the best of times, that may not be kind of “Top of Mind” are kept top of mind while we are not face-to-face. So, I think that the innovation that Fabienne has mentioned, that will happen out of a pandemic, is a long-lasting, positive impact and opportunity. It's my hope that we will take a step back and have a fundamental rethink of the way that our organizations work. When we are reimagining the future, I think lots of organizations are actually in the middle of doing that right now, we will create a new world that's better for underrepresented people.

Agnes Uhereczky: I hope so. And, as you said, with the rollout of the vaccine, and some of the case numbers going down, people are now at the phase of discussing the return to the office or hybrid work is the new, “mot du jours” that has been coming out. So I hope that as you say Bendita, there will be a pause and rethink and not just us blindly going back to how it was and thinking that that's just the normal because there must be a chance to use this crisis to think differently, and as you said, ensure that if the next crisis comes, which will, then we do not make the same mistakes with regards to the least represented groups, women, LGBTQ+ and people of colour. So before we go to the last question, can I just ask you to share with listeners a website or your social media where people can go and find out more about the initiatives of Hogan Lovells and your work and maybe get in touch with you?

Bendita Cynthia Malakia: Sure, if anyone wants to find me I'm easily found on LinkedIn. I also have a website: https://benditamalakia.com/. It includes all of my articles and thought leadership as well as some coaching that I've done in the context of trying to increase the inclusivity capacity of leaders. At Hogan and Lovells our diversity and inclusion pages are tagged right on the front. That's how much of a priority it is. And so we encourage you to visit that.

Fabienne Ruopp: You can also find me on LinkedIn. And for the German-speaking community, you can also find me on Xing, there's my profile. And as Bendita mentioned, you can get in contact via our company homepage.

Agnes Uhereczky: Thank you very much. Now coming to the last question, which is more or less always the same here on the WorkLife HUB podcast, I would like to ask you both to advise other D&I professionals, or future diversity inclusion professionals, based on your experiences. How can they have even more impact on their work? What could be the one thing that they could do to generate impact or make it impactful? What would be your advice? We start with you, Fabienne.

Fabienne Ruopp: Yeah, happy to do so. My advice is: don't give up. Because as I said before, diversity is not a sprint, it is a marathon and sometimes, honestly, I think it's an ultra marathon. So, therefore, my advice is don't give up and that you need a passion for this topic. But of course, passion is very good, but sometimes not enough, because you also need support from the top. D&I, I think, has more impact, if it's part of a key priority for the strategy of the company, and that's what I would advise organisations to implement. So this is more helpful than having a written policy, which is also very important. But most important is to have this impact from the top or support from the top and to have role models who demonstrate every day that D&I is not just lip service, it is a living reality in your company. That would be my advice.

Agnes Uhereczky: Thank you very much, Fabienne. This all sounded great. Bendita, in your experience, what would be your advice for D&I professionals to have more impact or to create impact?

Bendita Cynthia Malakia: Of course, as Fabienne had mentioned, on leadership, strong leadership from the top that believes in diversity and inclusion is incredibly important. I would also note that focusing on building a process that doesn't require you to rely on the discretionary engagement of a leader is going to yield you more results in the medium and longer-term. If you can build D&I into every single thing that you do you don't have to necessarily convince everyone case by case that this ought to be a priority. So I recommend that. I also think that having the right mindset is important. Each of us needs to centre empathy, humility, and vulnerability in our work. That's been my mantra for this year. And while I fall short on some days, I think it's really important for us to live that and to be authentic and everything we do who we are as an individual is often going to be the measure of how the organization is doing, or what the organization can do with respect to diversity and inclusion because so much of our work happens behind the scenes concerning individual or process intervention. You become the living representative of what diversity and inclusion can be. So, you have to use that responsibility wisely.

With that in mind, most importantly, and lastly, I would say, take care of yourself. This work, as Fabienne noted, requires an incredible amount of resilience. It requires you to show up every single day with a renewed spirit, and a willingness to use everything that you have at your disposal to try to make your organization and the broader world better for people that have been historically marginalized and maybe currently marginalized as well. And so take care of yourself. Focus on wellness and recognize that our issues were not created on a particular day and you will not resolve everything on this particular day, but by working a little bit every single day, you will make a change.