Drawing on her own experience, Chair of Conyers’ Diversity and Inclusion Committee, BVI Partner Tameka Davis, outlines her thoughts on D&I priorities.

As someone who grew up in Jamaica, I was only confronted with racism when I left the comfort of home. At 16, I was awarded a full academic scholarship to represent Jamaica at the United World College in Flekke, Norway. The college is a safe space for international students with promise. Its very ethos and reason for existing was and remains to be cultivating peace and a sustainable future by uniting students from different cultures through education. It was only when I ventured off campus and into the real world that I became aware of my “otherness”, and even then my experience in Norway was one of subtle curiosity rather than racism. I came to know a much more jarring experience later, however, when I began to navigate more racially hostile environments. Absent what often felt like a herculean effort, it was exceedingly difficult to thrive in that terrain. Diversity and inclusion initiatives are about implementing strategies to avoid that experience.

Informed by my own personal lived experience, discussion with others and research, my views on diversity and inclusion are somewhat nuanced. Although I have spent the entirety of my career working in countries where I was not a minority, as a litigator I have always been a double minority, both black and female. That has made my professional journey harder than that of many of my contemporaries.

Notwithstanding this, I am not antagonistic or unsympathetic to the slow pace of change. It takes time to change mindsets forged over many generations. The American Bar Association’s 2020 report on diversity and wellbeing in the legal profession, for instance, documents that the percentage of female lawyers in America has grown from 31% in 2010 to only 37% in 2020. The same study shows that the percentage of black lawyers, just 5%, has not changed in those ten years.1 Having said that, I have been practising long enough to bear witness to some of the change that is so badly needed. Firms are now much more aware of the need to implement diversity initiatives and for them to have meaningful and tangible outcomes. Whilst it is my view that the push for diversity has ultimately been motivated by market forces rather than the altruism of businesses, there is movement in the right direction and that ought to be celebrated.

Although diversity initiatives require both planning and commitment, they have proven to be good for business. At their core, programmes which recognise and cater to the uniqueness of the workforce can only bring out the best in those teams. Diversity and inclusion programmes in the workplace should not be about tokenism or special privileges for minorities. They are programmes to attract talented individuals, whatever their race, gender or socio-economic background, and to remove barriers to career progression for all hardworking people.

As is well known, many law firms have either lost women to motherhood or seen them forgo that life experience for the sake of a successful career. No one should be forced to make that choice. Initiatives such as flexible and remote working, creativity in re-defining roles, reshaping how we view maternity and indeed paternity leave, and family centred social events are all powerful tools in ensuring the profession retains talented women. In doing so, we send a clear message that you can excel in your chosen profession and also be a mom, or whatever else you choose to be. There is the old adage that says you can’t have it all. In my view, implicit in that messaging is a flawed characterisation of what “having it all” really means. The opportunity to have a fulfilling career that sustains you, and a family of your own if so desired, is the very least one can ask of the human experience.

Of course, diversity and inclusion is not just about race, gender or parental status. It also encompasses nationality, ethnicity, age, disabilities, socio-economic background, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious beliefs and political views, in addition to many other perhaps less obvious characteristics. A firm that actively promotes initiatives which recognise that depth of the human makeup is already a few steps ahead in actualising change.

I firmly believe that diversity initiatives will not work without allies – people in positions of power and influence willing to step into the role of advisor to minorities. Whether through mentorship, introduction to clients and exclusive networks, or offering professional support to minorities in gaining the same recognition and accessing equal opportunities: the active involvement of leaders is integral to the success of these programmes. There have been and still are mentors and friends who have given me counsel and advocated for me along the way, and for that I will always be grateful. I have benefited from allyship and, in what can be characterised as a full circle moment, am now in a position to do that for others.

No discussion of diversity and inclusion is complete without considering recruitment. At Conyers we know that recruitment is central to a successful diversity programme. In addition to encouraging agencies to send us more diverse candidates, we have also adopted a blind recruitment process. At the first stage of selection, details that might reveal irrelevant elements of an applicant’s background are redacted. At the second formal interview stage we aim, as far as possible, to ensure the involvement of a minority partner to provide their perspective in deciding a candidate’s suitability. Although not a perfect process, it does assist us in our efforts to eliminate subconscious or indeed conscious biases, and focus primarily on the merit of the applicant.

As Chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee at Conyers, I am increasingly pleased by the strides that continue to be made by the firm with its Diversity and Inclusion programme. When we set about devising the programme, we aimed to ensure that it was detailed, meticulous in its approach, led to measurable outcomes, was informed by research and included concrete action-steps and opportunities for feedback. As we look to the future and the continued evolution of the firm, we hope to continue to attract and retain the diverse talent that sets us apart from our competitors, and I am proud to be on the frontline of that initiative.

This article was originally published by Reports Legal in their 2024 Driving Diversity Report. Please click here to read the original article and report.


1American Bar Association, 2020 Profile of the Legal Profession: Diversity and Well-Being.


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