NYSBA State Bar News nameplate

January/February 2014, Vol. 56, No. 1

House of Delegates
Diversity task force sees improvement, but there is room for more

By Mark Mahoney
When the House of Delegates meets during Annual Meeting Week, it will take action on the 2013 Diversity Report Card from the Committee on Diversity and Inclusion and hear informational updates from a number of committees working on reports examining issues of great concern to the association and its members.

President David M. Schraver also will present the Ruth G. Schapiro Award during the meeting.

Committees presenting informational reports at the meeting include the Task Force on Gun Violence, the Task Force on Criminal Discovery, and the Committee on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar.

Diversity longtime concern

The 2013 Diversity Report Card is issued biennially as part of a seven-year effort to improve diversity within the 76,000-member association and its sections and committees. 

The State Bar has made “significant strides” over the past several years in expanding its availability to individuals based on gender, ethnic background and sexual orientation, but it still has “work to do,” according to the Report Card.

The report was prepared by the State Bar’s Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, which is co-chaired by Rosevelie Marquez Morales of New York City (Harris Beach PLLC) and former State Bar President Kenneth G. Standard of New York City (Epstein Becker & Green PC).

Among the key findings of the report:
• Women now chair 11 of the association’s 25 sections, or 44 percent, compared to 25 percent two years ago when the last survey was conducted.
• Only three section chairs are diverse based on ethnicity, race or sexual orientation.
• The number of section executive committees that had ethnic/racial diversity equal to or greater than their section membership rose from five in 2011 to 12 in 2013.
• Twice as many executive committees, 12, had sexual orientation diversity equal to or greater than their section membership than in 2011.
• The number of members who declined to report their diversity status continued to climb.

Of those figures, the committee said it found the level of diversity in section chairs “very disappointing,” and said the increase in the number of members unwilling to report their diversity status was of “increasing concern to the committee.”

The 38-page report also contains a detailed breakdown of State Bar membership and highlights the State Bar’s continuing efforts to improve diversity.

The House of Delegates adopted a diversity policy in 2003 that read, in part, that the association is “committed to diversity in its membership, officers, staff, House of Delegates, Executive Committee, sections and committees and their respective leaders.

In 2005, the Committee on Diversity and Leadership Development conducted the initial section diversity survey. The results of that survey were transposed into the Diversity Report Card, which is now issued every two years.

The House of Delegates will meet on January 31 at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York City. 

–Mark Mahoney