ACBA combines diversity, gender equality positions by Drew Hardman As the Allegheny County Bar Association's new Director of Diversity and Gender Equality, veteran attorney Alysia Mercedes Keating will make use of a lifetime of experience to further diversity efforts in the Pittsburgh legal community and continue the work of the ACBA Institute for Gender Equality, addressing the gender barrier in the legal profession with interactive programs for decision-makers and practitioners. The ACBA Board of Governors announced in September that it would combine the positions of Gender Equality Coordinator and Diversity Coordinator-previously held by part-time consultants Linda Hernandez and Gene Harris, respectively. Keating said the groundbreaking work of her predecessors will serve as a springboard to the next step towards positive change. "The Institute for Gender Equality and the diversity initiatives have created awareness, encouraged dialogue, and taken affirmative steps for change," Keating noted. "I will continue the efforts of my predecessors and the many members of the ACBA who have devoted significant time and effort to these diversity and gender equality initiatives." Keating said that gender equality and diversity initiatives share common ideals. "It is a natural progression to intertwine the diversity and gender equality positions since the issues facing the recruitment, retention, and advancement of diverse attorneys are many of the same issues facing women," Keating explained. "There are significant areas of overlap when it comes to issues of inclusion, and it is a natural next step that one person should oversee these efforts on behalf of the ACBA in order to maximize results." Keating brings a combination of first-hand knowledge and valuable perspective to her new position as Director of Diversity and Gender Equality. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business and Georgetown University Law Center, Keating served as an associate with the New York offices of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP and Baker & McKenzie, as well as a shareholder of Akerman Senterfitt LLP, resident in the Fort Lauderdale office. "My education and legal experiences are on the business and finance side, so I understand the financial concerns and obligations that law firms have to deal with on a daily basis," Keating said. As a female attorney of Hispanic descent, Keating understands the hardships facing women and minorities in the legal profession. Keating resides in Upper St. Clair with her husband, Philip Keating, a senior associate with Pietragallo Gordon Alfano Bosick & Raspanti, LLP, and their three children. "As a mother and lawyer, [Keating] has confronted the challenges of balancing career and family, so she understands the decisions that women lawyers must consider on an ongoing basis," U.S. Magistrate Judge Maureen Kelly said. Judge Kelly, who also serves as co-chair of the ACBA Gender Equality Committee, said she was excited to welcome Keating to the Pittsburgh legal community, noting that Keating's unique blend of professionalism, enthusiasm, and energy will be a true asset to the ACBA. Keating spent her first month as Director of Diversity and Gender Equality meeting with various Committees of diverse attorneys within the ACBA, as well as the Women in the Law Division and the Gender Equality Committee. Her goal is to gain insight into current projects and to identify new opportunities for collaboration. She is also reaching out to community leaders involved in diversity or gender equality initiatives, with hopes of linking community and ACBA efforts. According to Keating, Pittsburgh is less diverse than other metropolitan areas of similar size, but "it stands poised to transform itself and its identity by attracting diverse talent to the region." Thus far, she is impressed with the bar association's commitment to promoting diversity with projects like the ACBA Summer Clerkship program. "The ACBA is involved and well-respected in the community and has wonderful leadership and hard-working members who are committed to making Pittsburgh the best place to practice law," Keating said. "I am very happy to be a part of this forward-thinking and acting organization." Established in 2005, the ACBA Summer Clerkship program provides employment opportunities at local law firms, corporate departments, and government agencies for first-year minority law students attending the University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University, and West Virginia University. Thanks to efforts like the Summer Clerkship program, the number of minority associates hired by Pittsburgh law firms jumped from 6 percent in 2005 to 10 percent in 2010, but Keating said there is still a long way to go. "We have to educate firms on the value of creating and maintaining an inclusive organizational culture so as to retain these attorneys once hired," she noted. Keating will begin promoting the Summer Clerkship program at area law schools in November. Interested students must submit their applications by January 1. Based on previous programs, Keating expects to hear from approximately 25 to 30 applicants hoping to secure one of the 14 available clerkships. Any legal employers who are interested in participating in the Summer Clerkship program can contact Keating at 412-402-6658 or akeating@acba.org for more information. Keating is also hard at work organizing the next wave of Institute for Gender Equality programming. The eighth program in the Practitioners Series, titled "Business Development Cornerstones: The Keys to Building a Flourishing Professional Network," is scheduled for November 3 at 8:00 a.m. in the President's Conference Room at ACBA headquarters. The program features veteran speaker Debby Stone of Corner Office Coaching, who is excited about her return to the Institute for Gender Equality curriculum. Designed to help women attorneys build a professional network, the course will highlight the four cornerstones of successful business development: authenticity, credibility, leadership, and relationship-building. "The course will include key tools for business development success and will help the participants feel more equipped and comfortable when engaging in business development activities," Stone reported. Titled "GenderSpeak: Why Understanding the Culture of Gender Is Key to Achieving Effective Communication in the Workplace," the sixth addition to the Decision-Makers Series is scheduled for November 16 at 7:30 a.m. at the Duquesne Club. "GenderSpeak" will review the cultural differences between men and women, with special focus on how these differences affect communication and conflict resolution. The program features CCM Consulting's Christy Macchione, and is open to managing partners, committee and department heads, and other decision-makers. "The key, as with any look at culture differences, is that once the intentions behind behavior are understood, we can in fact improve how to work together," Macchione explained. Institute for Gender Equality programming is open to both men and women attorneys. Keating especially encourages diverse attorneys to attend, noting that women and minorities face many of the same challenges in the legal profession. The registration fee is $100 for the practitioners course and $250 for the decision-makers course. For more details or to register online, visit the ACBA website at www.acba.org, or contact ACBA CLE Coordinator Jennifer McGuire at 412-402-6612 or jmcguire@acba.org. Keating said she is proud to take the reigns of the Institute for Gender Equality, the first of its kind among bar associations. While past programs have been well received, she knows that positive change in the legal community will take time. "The Institute has done exactly what it was designed to do-educate and empower, but these are concepts that must be continued to be built upon over time for personal and institutional change to occur," Keating noted. "This change can't be affected overnight." n