Despite the rise of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion programs, there is still a huge disparity in the representation of people of color in professional services marketing. This under-representation is most apparent in leadership roles, highlighting that there’s still a way to go.
That’s why on this episode of CMO Series REPRESENTS we’re so lucky to welcome a leading role model who is paving the way in professional services marketing by highlighting issues related to color, culture, and leadership in law firms. Yasmin has the pleasure of sitting down with Diana Lauritson, Senior Marketing and Business Development Manager at Hogan Lovells, to share her lived experiences, the role race has played in her career and how to raise the next generation of marketing leaders.
Diana and Yasmin discuss:
- How Diana came to her career in legal marketing and her current role at Hogan Lovells
- How being a woman of color impacted the way Diana moved forward as a Legal Marketer
- The pressures related to being one of the few women of color in senior marketing roles in law firms
- Programs that supported Diana and recommendations for the next generation of women of color in legal marketing to find support
- Advice for up-and-comers in the industry
Yasmin: Hello everybody and welcome to the CMO series REPRESENTS podcast. My name is Yasmin Zand. I'm a client success consultant here at Passle, joined by Diana Lauritson, who's a Senior Marketing and Business Development Manager at Hogan Lovells.
Diana: Hi, Yasmin.
Yasmin: How are you doing today? Thank you so much for joining the podcast.
Diana: I'm doing great. Thanks so much for having me.
Yasmin: Absolutely. So for the purpose of everybody else listening in, despite the rise of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs, there's still a huge disparity in the representation of people of color in professional services marketing and most notably in leadership roles.
So we're very excited to have one of my own personal role models joining us today. So Diana to kick us off, I will ask you a question I think is gonna be a good one. How do you identify?
Diana: That is a great question. I see myself self as multiracial, but I primarily identify as a black woman. And it's interesting because I've been told that I appear racially ambiguous. So people often make assumptions about my race that aren't accurate. So, thank you for asking.
Yasmin: Absolutely. I remember the first time we met and I just referenced you talking about your experience as a black woman. And you stopped me and said, how do you know that? And I realized I should have asked first. So the context is always very helpful. Thank you. I know everyone always asks how you got into legal marketing, but since we all know it's not a traditional career path, let's talk about something a little bit more impactful. When did you realize your race would play a part in your career?
Diana: So I've always noticed race. I grew up in a multiracial household. And so depending on where I lived, I grew up in the Midwest and sometimes I went to schools where I was one of a few black kids. And so I always kind of noticed that I was an ‘other’. I hate that term ‘other’, but that's how I felt at the time. And despite that I would still raise my hand in class, I would give answers whenever I felt like I knew them. I did well in school. So when I got into legal, it was a lot kind of like that. Legal was not my first career choice. I worked in a few other fields in the political realm, in the business world outside of legal. And I noticed that legal reminded me in some ways of when I grew up and was one of the few people of color in a room and, you know, I still continued to raise my hand. I, you know, when I joined LMA I didn't see a lot of other folks who looked like me. I've been seeing more and more over the years, which is fantastic. So I've always just been aware that race would play a role, whether intentional or not at some point in my career or throughout my career.
Yasmin: Yeah. And I'm sure being one of the few people of color in your workplace, it sounds like there must have been some interesting experiences that occurred. Do you mind sharing some of those?
Diana: Oh, the stories I could tell. There's a lot to choose from, but I'll just pick a few out of the many situations over the years. You know, I was, there was one time where, you know, being one of the few people of color at a firm whenever someone had a similar skin color or maybe even curly hair. I was always confused for that person and I remember getting on an elevator and having, you know, one of the lawyers say, call me by the other person's name and I remember correcting my name and the lawyer saying, “oh, you guys all look alike”. Which, you know, for me, I was kind of flabbergasted by that situation because we don't all look alike. But that was a situation that made it very apparent where I really felt my race, I should say at the time, there was another time where a white colleague asked me to tell a black colleague to use the word ‘ask’ instead of ‘aks’ because apparently this colleague would say ‘aks’. And I declined, of course, I was not going to be the mouthpiece to correct whatever colleagues didn't like about the vernacular accent of one of my colleagues of color. But just the, the fact that that colleague felt comfortable enough to ask something like that was another kind of reminder to me that race plays a role in my career. Just something else. I think being asked to do things that subordinates should be doing. And I think that's something that oftentimes is something that women experience, not even just women of color, but, you know, leading a team and having my subordinates, you know, be invited to certain conversations where I'm asked sometimes to play supporting kind of note taker roles, not realizing that I'm the boss essentially. That's happened more times than I can count. So those are just a few handpicked examples.
Yasmin: Yeah, those are great. It sounds kind of terrible.
Diana: Or not great.
Yasmin: No, definitely not great. And I can't imagine it's easy being one of the few women of color in senior marketing roles just from your experiences. Do you feel like there's more pressure on you to perform?
Diana: I do, I often feel like I have to qualify myself a lot. Meaning, you know, rehash reasons about why I'm in the room. Or remind, I should say, about why I'm in the room, whether that's credentialing, you know, my education or my years of experience or the different industries that I've worked in or successes that I've had in similar roles at other firms, things like that.
I do feel that need to demonstrate my value more so than in other industries that I've worked in, which actually makes sense because lawyers are really big into qualifications. And so it would make sense that I would need to kind of qualify myself more in the being, you know, not being a lawyer and working in the business or the professional services side of this industry. I also feel the pressure to represent for others. Sometimes I feel like I can't fall into certain stereotypes about black women because things like being angry or upset about something can be attributed to my race rather than people acknowledging maybe the circumstances that led me to feeling a certain way. But I do recognize, you know, I'm often one of the only women of color in the room or in meetings. And I don't even know, maybe I recognize it more than other people. Maybe I'm just self-conscious in that way. But you know, since I do stand out, I feel like I'm scrutinized in a different way, but that's not necessarily always a bad thing. So, I was at a firm where things were getting a bit tumultuous and one of the members of my team received an offer to work at another firm and she ultimately turned it down and I kind of asked her like, “are you crazy?” You know, “I would hate to lose you. You're amazing. But why would you turn down this offer, given how things are going?” And she said to me, “This is the first time that I've ever had a black boss.” And she said, you know, “I'm gonna ride it out with you because, you know, I don't know that I'll have that experience again.” And so her saying that made me feel that I had a responsibility in a way that I hadn't realized before and I felt good about it instead of, you know, just feeling the burden of the pressure, I felt, you know, the opportunity of the pressure I should say in a different way. That also is to say that I've been very open with struggling with impostor syndrome from time to time throughout my career. And I recently attended the Follow Friday conference on International Women's Day where I had the opportunity to co-host a fish bowl session for senior leaders. And when I brought up impostor syndrome. You could tell the topic just really resonated with the women in the room. And I was so amazed at how many powerful, intelligent and successful women experience imposter syndrome. So, it helped hearing that I'm not alone in this. And that regardless of how much, you know, I've achieved or they've achieved that we're all still susceptible to insecurities. And I really liked how the women in the room didn't just focus on feeling out of place, but they talked about how they combat impostor syndrome and how they remind themselves that they are bad ass women, they belong, you know, they add value. So that's it was a reminder to me that even when I feel that way, not alone and remind myself that I do belong here, there's a reason that I'm here. I deserve to be here. And people in the room benefit by me being there, like I said earlier, you know, I am an example for other people of color in this industry in the room. But I do see the benefits and the opportunities that that spotlight brings.
Yasmin: Yeah, absolutely. I actually was just thinking about it and this just shows how small the legal marketing world is. But Diana, you know, I was also at the Follow Friday conference and it was fantastic and something that we actually talked about in our fish bowl which was the Rising Star Fish Bowl, which was, you know, more junior folks in that group and almost all the women of color came to that table and said, you know, “I was told that I have to smile more in the office or that I'm not friendly enough” and it was just a stark, kind of drastic comparison to what, you know, my experience and some of my colleagues experiences have been in the workplace and in that same breath, what advice would you give to your younger self starting out in your career?
Diana: From a career perspective I would tell myself that my career path will not end up where I thought it would and that's okay, but I need to allow myself the grace and the acceptance to change my mind about what I wanted to be where I would end up. There are situations in life that you just cannot anticipate and that you can't plan for. And that can be a beautiful thing. I feel really blessed to have ended up in this industry where I have made some, you know, amazing friends, great professional connections, support systems, and resources. I've been really blessed in this industry. So I didn't expect to be in on the professional services side of this industry or maybe even be in this industry at all. But I'm grateful for it and for the opportunities that it's given me. And I would also say that, you know, people have to experience them things for themselves to really understand what makes them happy and where their passion lies. And that's something I go through all the time where I think about, you know, what makes me happy every day outside of work, this industry can be very consuming. And a mentor of mine had told me, you know, find something fun to do in your week. You know, whether it's an hour a day while you're working or, you know, a couple of hours a week, find something that you're passionate about doing. And at first, I thought, oh, that would be so hard. But when I forced myself to think about it and say, OK, I need to find something that I enjoy doing right now. It could be work-related, it might not be work-related, but I'm gonna do it. It reminds me to have balance and it reminds me that there are things that are important outside of work. So regardless of how far you come in your career, you know, remember to connect with your passion. And remember that you're more than your job.
Yasmin: Thank you, Diana. That's a really wonderful piece of advice you just shared. I myself look up to you a ton so it's really great to hear that tidbit. And in that same breath um to wrap us up today, what advice would you give to those coming up behind you? Much like myself, much like the people that are working under you today.
Diana: I would tell up-and-comers to find mentors. As I mentioned, you know, in your last question, having mentors has really helped me, it supported me and my career. It's helped me grow. It's, you know, given me strength when um I'm at low points in my career. And I've had people celebrate successes with me during the high points. So I would tell people to find mentors. And when I look for a mentor, I look for people that I admire and people that I want to be like, that will, you know, when I think I wanna be you, when I grow up or wow, you just, every time I interact with you, I just leave feeling so inspired or I'm just so impressed with how you handle situations. Those are the kind of people that I look for to be mentors of mine.
And so I would say find mentors that you admire and that will push you to grow and that will be supportive, but will also keep it real with you when you need to be checked. That can be equally as important. I would also, and I think this is very important, but I would tell people coming up or the rising stars, the next generation of leaders that there are going to be times when they fear that they aren't perfect enough. And, you know, at the Follow Friday conference, they had given an example about how, you know, women can have a job application where there's 16 qualifications and they might have 14 and they're worried that they're not qualified, whereas men sometimes might have, you know, eight or nine qualifications and, and say, “you know what, I think I'm gonna move forward. This is a go I've got a shot.” And so I would tell people to acknowledge that there's gonna be times when they fear that they're not perfect enough, but to not let fear stand in the way of progress.
And one thing that I've really learned in my life is that fear is a paralyzed and I actually looked up the definition of this word. Paralyzing literally means to make, unable to move or act or to impair the progress or functioning of something or to make inoperative or powerless. And that really struck a nerve with me. You know, fear of the unknown, fear of speaking up or raising your hand, fear of making career changes when you're unhappy, that fear makes you powerless. I want to be powerful. I've prided myself in being a powerful woman when I've gotten compliments in the past. And people have told me that I'm powerful. That was one of the compliments that I felt most proud of and the times where I've pushed myself to make bold decisions, I look back and I'm proud of myself. You know, the outcomes are not always what I wanted. Sometimes the benefits are better than I expected, but I don't have regrets because even if I felt afraid I didn't let the fear control me or hinder my upward trajectory, I didn't give away my power. And ultimately, regardless of what I do in my career, I wanna be known as powerful.
Yasmin: That was awesome. Diana, thank you. I think all of us have a little bit to take home from this podcast episode today. Everybody lean into your power. I definitely think I'm going to be doing that. Going forward and I would agree with those people who have complimented you before. You are a very powerful person. So, of course, very, very grateful to have met you in this lifetime.
Diana: Thank you.
Yasmin: Well, everybody that is it for today. Diana, thank you so much for joining.
Diana: Thank you for having me.
Yasmin: My pleasure. On behalf of the folks at Passle, I hope you have a fantastic rest of your day, and to everybody listening, stay powerful and you know, keep trucking on and for us junior folks find some mentors that are gonna push you to be better. I know I'm gonna be doing that in the next few weeks. So thank you again, Diana. And everybody have a wonderful rest of your days.