Lara M. Rios Shares the Role We All Play in Creating an Inclusive Environment
Holland & Knight's Diversity Council and LGBTQ Affinity Group were proud to celebrate Pride Month and engage in the conversation for equality and embrace our diverse community by coming together without exception and supporting everyone, including our LGBTQ colleagues. During Pride Month, we took time to reflect on how we could better support our LGBTQ colleagues by sitting down with attorneys and staff to have important conversations about what this month and embracing their identity means to them. We will be presenting a weekly video series showcasing some of these conversations. We hope that the stories conveyed in these videos help advance dialogue around Pride Month as well as lead to further discussions of how we can be better allies to our LGBTQ friends, family and colleagues.
In this episode, Miami and New York Partner Lara M. Rios spoke about the role we all play in creating an inclusive environment and highlighted the strength of the LGBTQ youth, who continue to fight for the community. Ms. Rios reflected on the advances the LGBTQ community has seen, but also recognized the challenges they are facing today.
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Episode 4: Lara M. Rios Shares the Role We All Play in Creating an Inclusive Environment (You are currently viewing Episode 4)
Lara M. Rios: In its broadest sense, Pride means living openly and freely. And I recognize that I am very privileged to have the ability to navigate this world freely as a gay woman when so many other people face a lack of compassion, discrimination and persecution in their daily lives. Pride means using that privilege to empower those whose voices aren't heard as loudly and to ensure that people of all genders and orientations feel that they can celebrate who they are without fear, both in society and the workplace. At the end of the day, for me, Pride Month is really a time to celebrate the achievements we've had as a community and as a people. All the advances toward equality that have been made, but it's also a very somber time of reflection to acknowledge that there are still numerous challenges facing our broader community, both here in the U.S. and abroad. And we really have an opportunity and a responsibility to tell our stories and to continue to advocate for equal treatment of our peers who are facing discrimination in the workplace. What I like to do during Pride Month is recommit myself to pro-bono service to members of our community who are struggling and don't have resources available to them and to reflect on how far I've come personally. It's not just about gay women or gay men. It's about the intersectionality of all peoples. For me, that means bringing compassion to work, bringing a willingness to understand others and where they come from. And I really do believe that when we accept people for who they are without reservation and we create a supportive environment, it's easier for our colleagues to become friends over time and for those friends to become like family. When you create a work culture of inclusion with those dynamics, we all benefit; our firm, ourselves personally and our clients, of course, because they're getting the best versions of who we are. I do think we've made a lot of progress since when I started out in this career. But what concerns me, frankly, is all of the backlash that has occurred in the last few years politically, across the country, globally. People in our communities still face violence, still face workplace discrimination, our children face discrimination in schools, and it creates a level of hostility in the discourse. That, of course, impacts my life daily, my family's life daily. We live with that. We live, again, with an element of fear that I think we took for granted how far we've come to live without that. So, I worry about the current state and what that means for my family, but also people who don't have the privileges that I have to navigate the world as a lawyer who knows their rights. I do hope that this is short-lived and the next ten years shows, again, a level of compassion and understanding so that people at the end of the day can live their lives and contribute in meaningful ways to our society and don't have to worry about discrimination, about violence, about living in the shadows and hiding who they are. It's amazing to me that when I started my career, I was the only out woman. And now I am among many, many colleagues here at home tonight. So, I do think the younger generation has shown tremendous courage and bravery in being themselves and being out and proud at work, carrying the torch that many of us had to carry. And I think they see the importance of being their authentic selves in the workplace, sharing their stories, living their lives. I really do believe that with that level of passion and intentionality, we will continue to foster an environment at our firm and continue to direct resources to our community to support them in their struggles. Be your authentic self, your talented, your beautiful. You bring a lot to the table. And if you find yourself in an environment that doesn't support that, that doesn't enable that, leave. Take your talents elsewhere because you're too valuable to live a hidden life and to live in a way that doesn't allow you to reach your potential.