When Mark Bloom and Melissa Kibler asked us to serve as co-chairs of the College's Select Commission on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (the “DEI Commission”), we leaped at the opportunity without hesitation. This is a pivotal moment in American and world history. All of us are fortunate to live in this moment and to be presented with a chance to alter the course of history in our industry for good, like our fore parents, whose consciences in the 1950’s and 1960’s would not allow them to keep silent while fellow citizens were denied basic constitutional rights because of skin color, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender.
It is well established that the bankruptcy bench is the least diverse of any of the federal courts. Likewise, the bankruptcy bar, financial services, and professional insolvency community, in general, sorely lack diversity. Some of these disparities are historical, but some can be attributed to the lack of mindfulness on the part of those of us who are among the best and brightest and most accomplished in the profession. As leaders in the profession, our communities and our firms, we are in unique positions to create and foster opportunities that promote sustained diversity, inclusion, and equity for all walks within the sophisticated world of debt restructuring.
We are happy to report that there is some progress. The College has committed itself to greater levels of inclusion in ways that are both visible and meaningful -- more diverse speaker panels and the election of diverse individuals, both as Fellows and to the all-important roles of leadership within the organization. The Judicial Fellows spearheaded development of an organized list of diversity and inclusion programs ranging from middle schools to professional bar associations in the U.S., which formed the basis for an extensive resource for judges developed by the NCBJ (of which we are both past presidents). And, of course, the College has created the DEI Commission to lead and enhance the College’s internal and external efforts on diversity and inclusion initiatives.
Fellows of the College have been involved in many efforts over time to improve diversity and inclusion. It would be easy for us to say that not much else can be done on a larger scale to change the trajectory of the profession to make it more inclusive and afford greater access to diverse insolvency professionals. That approach, friends, sells short the creative talent, ingenuity and resolve of the College Fellows whom we have encountered and who regularly appear in our courtrooms. We can accomplish anything to which we set our hearts and our minds to make our profession look more like the broad cross-section of people whose interests we serve. Given the diversity of the many persons whose lives are affected by the important work we do, it is especially important that we have more diverse voices in the many conference rooms and courthouses where bankruptcy and insolvency matters are resolved.
To illustrate the concern and enrich our understanding of why Fellows should involve themselves in this noble effort, please take a moment to listen to the podcast link produced by Awadagin Pratt, a world-renowned classical pianist and conductor of African American descent. Mr. Pratt is married to Jill Meyer, CEO of the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce, who is one of the first women managing partners of a major Cincinnati law firm. Set to classical music, it is a very powerful piece, that focuses attention on the need for all of us to end our silence and inactivity in this pivotal and historic moment in our journey toward becoming a more equitable and inclusive society. We all must participate in this effort, so that our insolvency world is an active partner in this journey that affords access to all persons measured by talent, tenacity, hard work and drive rather than limiting opportunity through artificial barriers fueled by stereotypes or unconscious biases. https://www.artofthepiano.org/ (Episode 2 of this podcast).
You will be hearing more from the DEI Commission as we undertake the important task ahead. We are hopeful—confident—that all Fellows will heed the call. Thank you for taking the time to consider the contents of this email.
All the best,
Hon. Laurel M. Isicoff and Hon. Jeffery P. Hopkins
Co-Chairs of the American College of Bankruptcy Commission on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion