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The Singapore Corporate Counsel Association’s (SCCA) diversity and inclusion committee has a big year ahead working to realize its goals, says the association’s vice president, Dharmendra Yadav.

“More chief legal officers and their legal teams are being tasked with leading or handling diversity and inclusion within their respective corporations,” says Yadav. “We believe this is happening because directors and senior management regard corporate counsel as ethical gatekeepers and guardians of good professional conduct.”

Yadav says diversity and inclusion is also a sensitive matter that needs to be compliant with applicable law, but also managed responsibly. “Given Asia’s cultural context, it requires mastery of mediatory and facilitation skills that help generate goodwill and build consensus,” he says. “This development is compatible with SCCA’s belief that better counsel lead to better corporations and, in turn, better corporations create better communities.”

The mandate of SCCA’s diversity and inclusion committee is to consider and implement ways in which the association and its members can better champion diversity and inclusion in corporations, and better address problems of discrimination within the workplace.

The committee’s current objectives include:

  1. Providing a regular platform for counsel interested in diversity and inclusion to come together and discuss issues affecting them in their professional capacities;
  2. Creating awareness among counsel about diversity and inclusion in the workplace;
  3. Empowering counsel by providing access to resources that highlight the benefits and importance to business of championing diversity and inclusion at the workplace & in the community; and
  4. (Undertaking any other activity that helps the SCCA to champion diversity and inclusion in corporations and better address problems of discrimination within the workplace and in the community, while being mindful of domestic sensitivities.

The committee has now formed a wider SCCA diversity and inclusion network to help drive the conversation within the legal profession. “So far, we have about 30 legal teams and law firms represented on this network and we want to grow that to 100 by the end of 2018,” says Yadav.

“They include: international names like IHS Markit, Accenture, Total Oil, Bloomberg, American Express, AIG and Citibank; large local law firms like Rajah and Tann, Allen & Gledhill, Withers KhattarWong and Dentons Rodyk; and even boutique law firms like Tan Kok Quan Partnership and Providence Law Asia. Participation is voluntary so it will always be open to members of this network to decline participation.”

An inaugural SCCA diversity debate and collaboration with race relations charity OnePeople.SG is also an outcome of that network.

“We are happy that the Singapore Press Club has agreed to partner us in this annual initiative,” says Yadav. “The debate is intended to be humorous, and to help SCCA drive such conversations using a light-touch approach. We are also working with other groups like Lean In (a global women’s network), SG Enable (a charity championing workplace access to those with special abilities) and InterAlia (a Singapore LGBT+ lawyers network), in their activities.”

Last year, SCCA’s Diversity & Inclusion Network also joined Accenture’s legal team in an outreach effort called Dignity Kitchen to support the elderly and persons with disabilities.

The association’s annual Women In-House Living Life (WILL) Summit, held in conjunction with International Women’s Day, has also created a unique platform for women lawyers to meet annually and to discuss matters confronting them within the legal profession.

“For SCCA, we hope our diversity and inclusion journey will be one that grows from strength to strength,” says Yadav. “It is a journey that we do not take lightly. It is a journey that we will make responsibly and sensitively.”