In 2021, employment law attorney Taylor Dewberry was named Smith Anderson’s first chief diversity officer. Her practice focuses on employment-related counseling and defending employers against claims involving discrimination, wrongful discharge, retaliation, harassment, and civil rights claims.
After graduating with honors from Stanford University in 2014 with her bachelor’s degree in American studies and a minor in African American studies, Dewberry got her J.D. at Washington University School of Law in in 2017. Since then, she has worked as an attorney at Smith Anderson in Raleigh.
Dewberry has been recognized by Best Lawyers, “Ones to Watch,” The National Black Lawyers Top 100, Top 40 Under 40, and Executive Notes Editor, “Washington University Journal of Law and Policy.”
Dewberry’s memberships include District 9 representative, Young Lawyers Division, American Bar Association; co-chair, Diversity and Inclusion Committee (2018-22) and co-chair, Disaster Legal Services Committee, Young Lawyers Division, North Carolina Bar Association; Wake County Bar Association; and executive board member, Black Law Students Association.
In the following Q&A, Dewberry chats with North Carolina Lawyers Weekly about diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.
1. How do you create a sustainable DEI program that keeps the issue at the forefront of employee’s minds?
To create a sustainable yet engaging DEI program, the company must create a program that is both focused on a diversity mission and also adaptable to changing cultural movements and current issues. For example, the company could have a focused mission to support employee resource groups to encourage greater inclusion and also be open to additional employee resource groups that its employees suggest.
2. What is the best piece of advice for a company that is crafting or adjusting its DEI strategy?
In crafting a DEI strategy make sure that DEI efforts are not expected to be fully run and managed by diverse employees alone, make sure that you encourage ally employees to participate and share the workload for DEI initiatives. The benefit is three-fold: (1) there are more hands for the workload; (2) there are more opportunities to share information between groups; and (3) it shows that employees of all backgrounds are committed to the DEI mission.
3. How do you best measure diversity and representation across all levels of an organization?
Diversity is a challenging metric to evaluate because diversity has different meanings to different people. Companies should look around at their metaphorical “tables,” and ask themselves whether there are a variety of voices, perspectives, backgrounds, and outlooks who have a seat at their tables and if not, take steps to change that. For example, recruiting in places where there are diverse candidates and encouraging diverse employees to pursue leadership roles.
4. How has a post-COVID pandemic workforce with high turnover affected DEI strategy implementation?
The strategy remains the same – to create a workforce where everyone is appreciated for what makes them unique and is included despite their differences. Adding new employees to the mix only creates new opportunities to bring employees into the company culture and get new ideas and perspectives from them.
5. What inspires you as you lead your company’s DEI efforts?
I am inspired to create a workplace that allows employees of all backgrounds to feel included and bring their authentic selves to work each day. In being authentic at work, we will create a safe haven for fostering new and fresh ideas.