“Diversity of viewpoint, background and opinion helps us get to the right answers to tough, complex business questions. We rely on our legal counsel for advice about how to do business, defend our company, and navigate the legal system in a complex and diverse environment. A diverse legal team is critical in enabling us to achieve our goals.”
Chairman, CEO, and President Ken Lewis summarizes his business case for diversity for Bank of America by stating: “I start with the premise that you will either succeed together because of diversity, or you will walk off a cliff together if you don’t have a diversity of opinion and experience.”
“We will not be the most admired company in the world if we don’t have a business strategy that is formed by a diverse body of thought.” Bank of America has clearly made its mark as one of the most admired companies in this country, as it gathers accolades for its commitment to diversity in the workplace from Fortune, Working Mother, and the Minority MBA magazines.
Bank of America, under Mr. Lewis’ leadership, stresses the diversity in the demographic profile of its markets and aligns the rest of its business strategies to reflect this diversity.
Even as Bank of America upholds diversity as an intrinsic corporate value, Mr. Lewis acknowledges that in order for a corporation to truly embrace diversity, “the CEO has to believe in it and be passionate about it. I believe in it and am passionate about it.”
In articulating a strong business commitment to diversity, Mr. Lewis confirms an equally strong personal commitment to diversity so that he can “demand results” from every level of every business unit.
Bank of America’s General Counsel, Paul J. Polking, reflects on how Mr. Lewis’ personal commitment to diversity enables Bank of America’s legal department to set and reach its own diversity goals: “Diversity is important in our legal department because it adds to our perspective, heightens the quality of our thinking, and enriches our discussions as a community of professionals dedicated to providing the most useful counsel to our clients on complex and sensitive legal issues…It is extraordinarily helpful to me and the legal department that our CEO feels so strongly about the importance of diversity.”
Mr. Lewis acknowledges that there can often be a “pushback on diversity efforts early on because of the fear of the unknown.” Moreover, “there’s often more conflict to manage because difference of opinion adds an influx of new and contradicting opinions into the conversation.” However, it is this very difference of opinion that creates a stronger and more competitive corporation, and with a consistent commitment from the top, diversity can be executed with profound results.