by Catherine Brinkman

For years the business sector focused on helping women of color advance in the workplace…. but, a few years ago, some of those women asked where are the men of color?

Laurie N. Robinson-Haden, CBS’s Senior Vice President, Assistant General Counsel of the Litigation Group, took the question to heart.  As the founder of Corporate Counsel Women of Color (CCWC) when her members started to ask where are the men color, the organization launched a Men of Color survey. The CCWC created CCMC, the Corporate Counsel Men of Color, soon after.

Robinson-Haden and her team are putting together a one-day symposium for men to attend on  June 15, 2018 in Washington, D.C.  The event will address the results of the survey and offer breakout sessions on ways to address key issues.

Laurie N. Robinson-Haden isn’t just looking out for women of color.  She is looking out for people of color.  Her goal is to create a strong pipeline of people of color for companies to call upon when there are position openings.

Moxye spoke with Laurie about her career, the importance of creating a sense of community and how she is working to make change. 

Tell me a little about your childhood.

I was raised in Fort Washington, MD outside of Washington, D.C. I had a happy childhood. My parents always encouraged me to be all that I could be. They were always supportive of the things that I was interested in. That support made a big difference.

You have a few degrees.  Where did you attend school?

I received my B.A. from North Carolina Central University – both my parents are graduates of NCCU. I received my law degree from Indiana University School of Law at Bloomington.  I went back to school after a 20-year hiatus and received a Certificate in Entertainment Media Management from NYU.

What inspired you to attend NYU some 20 years after law school?

My certificate from NYU is one of the things I am very proud of because it something not planned and very unexpected. I work for CBS Corporation and I was interested in learning more about the entertainment business to better serve my clients. I went online to read some entertainment articles and in the internet search information on NYU’s program popped up. I went to their catalogue and signed up for an evening class called “How to Program a Channel.” It was taught by a scheduler from HBO. The class was fascinating. And after that class ended, I was so interested and curious about other subject matters, I signed up for another class, then another class. Next thing I knew, I was on the road to completing the certificate in Entertainment Media Manager.

When did you know that you wanted to become a lawyer?

My father–who is now deceased—was a labor and employment attorney. I looked up to him. I watched him when he left in the mornings with his brief case. I would see him when he would put legal papers in it. When I was a teenager, he let me type his papers. I knew I wanted to practice law. Though I initially went to law school to be an environmental lawyer, I ended up practicing labor and employment law like my father.

Thinking about yourself, what characteristics do you embody that got you where you are and How did those characteristics help separate you from other lawyers?

I have hustle, drive, passion, commitment, creativity, and most importantly the execution skills. Anything that forms in my mind, I know I have the skills and tools to bring it from the drawing board into actualization.

Being a woman of color, what roadblocks did you encounter early in your career?

Early in my career, I encountered the road blocks of trying to find sponsors within my organization. Sponsorship is critical to one’s career success and upward trajectory. Having a sponsor can make or break you. In situations where I have had a sponsor, it has made a world of difference in terms of access to quality assignments and the ability to develop my skills at a higher level.

How did you overcome those roadblocks?

My faith in God has helped me to see my way through. Even in time of uncertainty and/or discouragement, I remember in my heart that the “joy of the Lord is my strength.”

Which roadblock was the most emotionally draining for you?

My biggest challenge when I first started practicing law when I moved to New York City was not seeing diversity. I grew up in an African-American community and attended a HBCU. It was shocking to me when I got in the workplace to see less than a handful of people of color.

How did that impact your career moving forward?

Seeing the problem with the lack of diversity only made me more determined to help fix the issue.  It resulted in the formation of Corporate Counsel Women of Color, an organization of 3800 women of color attorneys in the United States who work primarily for Fortune 1000 and Forbes 2000 companies. So now when companies say, “we can’t fill that job with diverse candidates because there are no diverse candidates out there,” we can now send them a full list of qualified women of color who would be perfect for that job. There is no excuse now.

You recently became a mom.  Congratulations!  How has that changed your perspective on career?

Now at 45, I am trying to figure out work-life balance. But, I am blessed to have had my baby in a season of maturity. I am more established in my career, I can   dedicate more time to the development of my child to make sure that I am present when we are together and to make sure that I give him the time that he needs for his growth and development.

Let’s talk about Corporate Counsel for Women of Color (CCWC).  Tell me more about the organization.

CCWC is a 501 c 3 organization. It was founded in 2004 to address the challenges that women of color faced in the legal profession. CCWC was founded because there was a void, we were able to come together through an empowered way to fix it.

Today there are over 3,800 members.   Why has it been so successful? 

The need has been so great, and we have been able to come together to fill the void. We network, we share best practices, and we support one another’s careers.

Related Article on Moxye Below:

Corporate Counsel Men of Color Launches Inaugural Career|Life and Power Networking Conference

In a climate where there is daily mention of the gender pay gap, men in positions of power and abusing it, and the blatant sexual harassment that haunts offices nationwide you and your husband did a 180 and started to focus on helping men with their career advancement.  CCWC formed CCMC (Corporate Counsel Men of Color), last year. Why?

Interestingly, men of color were focused upon when CCWC launched back in 2004. When you talk about diversity and inclusion in the workplace, men of color and women of color both need to be top of mind at the company and included in the workplace of D & I won’t work. As for sexual harassment and abuse of power, that should never be tolerated from anyone and is unacceptable.  We plan to provide programming on these topics.

What instigated the “Men of Color” survey?

Many of the women commented that they noticed that men of color on their jobs were being slowly pushed out the door or were nonexistent at their companies. We did not understand what was going on with the work experience of men of color because we never focused on it. The survey was launched to ascertain how they felt about their careers and advancement opportunities in corporate America.

You are holding the CCMC’s Men of Color Career/Life Strategies and Power Networking Conference this June in Washington DC.  Why should men attend this event?

This event will empower, inspire and uplift. This event is for career minded men looking to advance in their careers and looking to leave a legacy behind.

For more information on CCMW and the June 15th CCMC’s Men of Color Career/Life Strategies and Power Networking Conference visit www.ccmenofcolor.org

For more information on CCWC and upcoming events visit www.ccwomenofcolor.org

About the writer: Catherine Brinkman has a sales career spanning 2 decades. She has won numerous awards including Rookie of the Year and Silver Sales Associate for Dale Carnegie, a global training company. In early 2016, Catherine started her own consulting business, partnering with sales and marketing teams to increase revenue. She works with everyone from Silicon Valley giants to small startups. She has a fun, comic approach to her consulting, having studied satirical writing at The Second City. She can be found at cb@bhyconsulting.com and on Twitter @catbrinkman

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