“When it comes to diversity and inclusion, we have to continually find many ways to talk about it openly, even if this involves having difficult conversations,because although it may feel challenging, the end result will be worth it for everyone“ states Sandra Bang, Chief Diversity and Talent Strategy Officer at Shearman & Sterling LLP.
She continues, “Having dialogue, listening to each other’s stories about how we learn, develop, grow,and achieve career successes – hearing a diverse range of perspectives – will help support everyone better, and create a more inclusive environment.
Ms. Bang started her legal career as a litigator in Toronto, Canada. She also spent a year as a provincial prosecutor stating, “This was an incredible learning experience for me because I had to think on my feet every day, not always knowing what cases I was going to handle on a given day, nor which cases would settle or proceed.”
Bang then went into legal recruitment and professional development, and moved to New York City in 2004 where she continued her work in the legal talent management space with firms such as Weil, Gotshal & Manges and Chadbourne & Parke before joining Shearman and Sterling in 2008.
She continues, “Diversity and inclusion has always been an inherent part of the legal talent recruitment, development and management work that I’ve done. I am excited about my current work as it allows me to spend the majority of my time on diversity and inclusion. And this work is about engaging people, and strategically creating an inclusive work environment where everyone can feel like they belong and do their best work and advance their career. The business case is clear: the research and data show that better results are achieved when you have both an inclusive environment and diverse teams.”
She is enthused about diversity and inclusion as an integral part of the firm’s business strategy and sees that clients are also committed to moving the needle on diversity and inclusion. She comments,
“I think the efforts being made in the legal industry on the diversity and inclusion front has moved up a notch as the benefits of collaborating on this topic are evident. It is exciting to work closely with clients and having dialogue around how we can help each other create change from both a business and organizational perspective.”
Feeling Engaged and Feeling included
As an executive who has spent several years in professional development and is a certified coach, Bang feels that talking to people, particularly those from diverse backgrounds, about their career path – listening to what people want to achieve, giving them feedback that will help them get to where they want to go, and providing opportunities to achieve new experiences and success – is both a business imperative and the right thing to do. She shares,
“Having a sense of belonging in our work environment and feeling understood is essential. If you are are in a business environment and you constantly feel like you don’t belong, then you can’t do your best work. Coaching leaders and managers to lead and manage inclusively, and create diverse teams with members who feel included and understood in the workplace will not only help people achieve and serve clients better, but also produce better business results.”
When asked what career advice that she would give her younger self or to others, she says, ‘that it is more than ok to fail’ and recounts that the idea of perfectionism had a stronghold grip on her for a long time. She shares, “It wasn’t until recently that I realized that it’s ok to fail and fail fast. That’s how you learn. When you fail, you pick yourself up, and try something differently. Ultimately, it is about taking more risks.”
She is a strong advocate for encouraging people to ask for what they need and want to advance their careers, particularly women and people from diverse backgrounds. The subject of entering into conversations comes up, with Bang advising people to be smart and strategic around their asks, but to face their own fears by asking ‘the questions that we are afraid to ask’. She says, “You won’t get what you don’t ask for.”
Bang believes that Millennials will continue to have a significant impact on how the needle will be moved on the topic of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. “Millennials know that there is a business and competitive advantage to having a diverse team, where there is diversity in perspectives, thoughts and insights result in a better outcome.”
Shearman & Sterling is taking all of this into consideration as it takes its diversity and inclusion strategy to the next level. With recommendations resulting from an inclusion diagnostic, the firm has created a new global Task Force, headed up by the firm’s Senior Partner, and will take a data driven approach to designing and rolling out initiatives and programs to better help everyone achieve career success at the firm. Shearman continues its close work with clients on co-hosting diversity and inclusion education and awareness programs, as well as advancing know-how and networking opportunities on topics such as Blockchain and the FinTech industry generally.
“It’s exciting to be working collaboratively with both internal and external clients,” says Bang, “to create learning and advancement opportunities for women and people from diverse backgrounds and experiences in particular. Using data and client driven approaches, that align with business strategy, to advance diversity and inclusion initiatives, is what it is all about.”
Renewal and Life outside work
Outside of work, Bang enjoys spending time and traveling with her family. She comments that traveling provides so many opportunities to learn and share — including the diverse communities within and outside the US, and of different perspectives and experiences.
“Traveling with my kids always presents tremendous learning opportunities for me. I love hearing their perspectives on things we do, places we explore and people we meet. They remind me that there is great optimism to be had because people remain curious, and as the world becomes increasingly more connected, there is a greater sharing of culture and stories.”