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Celebrating Diversity in Compliance

Celebrating Diversity in Compliance

Dean Boozang: “Diversity entails having people of differences all working together. We have to accept that sometimes we will encounter misunderstandings, that sometimes people experience the same thing in a wholly different way.”


Seton Hall Law hosted its Second Annual Celebration of Diversity in Compliance on February 3. Co-sponsored with Johnson & Johnson, Ernst & Young, pharmaceutical company UCB and regional utilities provider, PSEG, the program combines thoughtful, incisive presentations with a robust networking reception afterward. This year’s event welcomed more than 150 students, attorneys, and compliance professionals throughout the New York metropolitan region.

Michele Meyer-Shipp ‘95 (pictured, above left), Vice President & Chief Diversity Officer, Prudential Financial, moderated a lively panel discussion comprising Damien Atkins, General Counsel, Panasonic of North America, who also served as keynote speaker; Clive Davis, Vice President & Chief Compliance Officer, UCB Pharma; Sujata Dayal, Vice President, Health Care Compliance & Privacy, Johnson & Johnson; and Javier Robles ’94, SVP/Group Head, Anti-Corruption and Regional Compliance Counsel, MasterCard.

Dean Kathleen M. Boozang opened the program, acknowledging the breadth of the members of the compliance community that comprised the audience. “This audience as well as tonight's keynote speaker, compliance panel, and our sponsors, represent alumni, faculty of Seton Hall's many compliance programs, employers of our students, leadership of the compliance and legal professions and finally and most importantly, role models and mentors of the professionals who come from groups historically underrepresented in the compliance and legal professions.”

In his keynote speech, Damien Atkins reflected on the pivotal role that compliance plays in an organization’s culture. “Compliance properly understood, is deeply integrated in the culture of an organization and its ability to impact an organization is tremendous,” he said.

Atkins went on to explain how diversity actually plays an integral role in ensuring corporate compliance. “We all here know the benefits and the business rationale of having a diverse workforce,” Atkins said. “Diverse organizations are stronger, they're more valuable. Research has shown the diverse teams are more innovative and perform at higher levels. Research has shown the organizations that built diversity and inclusion into their teams reap the benefits of new ideas, more debate, and ultimately better business decisions.

“Why is any of this stuff important to compliance and ethics?” Atkins continued. “It's important because diversity, diversity in skills, in background, life experiences, gender, ethnicity, in my view is the most powerful weapon that we have against one of the leading causes of ethical and compliance challenges organizations face. The root cause of a lot of these issues are conformity or contextual pressure as the way sociologists look at it. You know what I mean: ‘I did it because everybody else did it this way.’ Or, ‘that's the way things are done around here.’ The psychological evidence is clear that people's decision making and actions are heavily affected by the social context in which they find themselves ... Having a different mix of people of age, gender, race, background, and experiences is most likely to disrupt the effect of the need for conformity.”

Clive Davis concurred: “When I think about compliance, the strongest and most robust compliance program's going to be the one that is fully leveraging diversity,” he said. Drawing on the example of investigations within a corporation, he commented, “When those decisions are being made, you don't want everyone thinking and sharing the same perspective. You want a cross-section of perspectives. You want men in the room, you want women in the room. You want people who have worked in the field and haven't worked in the field, different disciplines. Again, I think diversity enhances the richness of both dimensions. At the end of the day I think if you want a stronger compliance program, I haven't done the research, but I believe that diversity and inclusion is only going to strengthen your program.”

Javier Robles offered important advice to a student who wanted to know how he, as a junior team member, might make an impact within a corporate environment. “You need to have mentors, you need sponsors, and they are there … more now than they were 10 years ago,” he said. “They may be of color, but they need to support you. Most important, you should raise the conversation. You should be brave, you have to be brave about it.”

Dean Boozang concluded the program, commenting on the challenges that most organizations face in broadening their diversity – and why it matters.

“Diversity entails people reflecting infinite differences, all working together," she said. "We have to accept that sometimes we will encounter misunderstandings, that sometimes people experience the same thing in a wholly different way.”

And yet, she concluded, accepting a status quo is not the answer. “Even though we won't always agree on what the answer is, the lesson I've learned is you've got to figure it out,” she said. “That it's not okay to just accept it, that we work together to change it.”