'I was trying to over-compensate for being different': Baker McKenzie's global marketing director on the importance of inclusion
Alessandra Almeida Jones reflects on her early struggle for a sense of belonging and the role marketers can play advancing diversity in law
Alessandra Almeida Jones is director of global marketing and stakeholder engagement at Baker McKenzie. This is the latest in a series of interviews with the judges of Global Legal Post's inaugural Women and Diversity in Law Awards
“I am originally from Brazil and I moved to the UK about 24 years ago. I graduated in Brazil with a degree in media studies, majoring in journalism. But the penny dropped that it was going to be quite hard to have a career in writing when English wasn’t my first language – that was probably my first challenge.
My first proper job in the UK was as a marketing and PR executive for an investment bank. I then worked in property and architecture for the best part of 10 years before I moved to law. The greatest challenge of that journey from a diversity perspective was not feeling like I belonged. When you come from a different country, culture, language and ethnicity, it can be a struggle. I’ve never encountered any material prejudice here but I have struggled with a sense of belonging, particularly working in environments where a lot of the people around me came from a very privileged, traditional background.
I worked extra hard and for a long time I was trying to over-compensate for being different as if that was a disadvantage. For me, that is why inclusion is so important; diversity is one thing but being diverse and inclusive is what makes a real difference.
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To get better at inclusion law firms need to acknowledge that certain groups within their workforce may need more sponsorship and mentorship. The legal industry is changing a lot and there is certainly a desire to change. Law firms are keen to attract people from more diverse backgrounds, but there is inertia in the system.
And this is not just about recruitment and retention. We have an opportunity to also advance diversity in the way we go to market. We are not marketing to anonymous entities, we are marketing to people inside an organisation and that person is potentially more likely to come from a more diverse background. As a marketer, you can help advance diversity in law firms by ensuring that the spokespeople you put forward are diverse – whether that is diversity of gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation. The same applies to the make-up of client teams. Not just because it’s the right thing to do but also so our clients can recognise themselves in the lawyers who will represent them.
We have come a long way but there is so much more we can do – and that is truly exciting.”
Read more awards judges' reflections on the power of diversity, equity and inclusion and how to successfully promote it
‘Tiny changes can have a massive butterfly effect’: Clifford Chance's UK inclusion head on her D&I story
‘Everyone’s been excluded': Accenture Legal's global diversity head on the power of empathy