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Removing Obstacles for Women and Diverse Associates: The Launch of Project Ganesha



Ganesha is a Hindu God known as the remover of obstacles. Motivated by her passion for supporting women and diverse attorneys and promoting health and wellness, former APABA President Miko Brown created Project Ganesha to remove obstacles for attorneys who identify as women and come from diverse backgrounds. During the pandemic, Miko became more aware of the importance of mental health and physical health in her own life and others in the legal profession. She observed many people leaving the profession and found that a big reason people are leaving is because they feel like they have to choose between having a successful career or maintaining their health and well-being. Miko does not think you have to make that choice. 


Firms have implemented strategies to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion and to improve mental health and wellbeing but these strategies are often not talked about in conjunction, and instead seen as separate challenges. Project Ganesha fills that gap. Based on her experience as an associate and partner in a big law firm, Miko saw firsthand that firms want to create more equitable and diverse environments. They want to see women and diverse lawyers succeed. But sometimes the simplest solutions are the hardest to see. As a result, simple steps like encouraging partners and associates to talk regularly about their professional and personal happiness are missed and harder fixes are prioritized.  However, the more complex strategies of incorporating inclusive language and minimizing unconscious biases, for instance, won't be successful if women and diverse lawyers leave or never join firms because they believe that professional success and personal well-being are mutually exclusive. After talking with young lawyers about why they leave or do not enter private practice in the first place, Miko learned that most don’t believe that partnership is attainable and desirable.   Project Ganesha gives associates and partners practical steps to change that perception that they can start taking today to move the needle and see change in their organization. This practical approach aims to prevent associates and partners from feeling powerless and paralyzed about how to improve the success rates and retention of women and diverse lawyers. The Project Ganesha playbooks and training give people tools they can implement and leave them thinking “Yes I can do this! This is one hundred percent in my control and I can take these steps.” 


Because the entire organization could benefit from Project Ganesha's strategies, all firm lawyers are encouraged to participate. The firms will receive Partner, Associate, and Ally playbooks.  Group and individual training is also available for each playbook to supplement the teachings and concepts.  The coaching helps these new concepts stick by continuously working on them and providing accountability. 


Project Ganesha’s short-term goal is to convince law firms that the program is worth trying out.  The number of women and diverse partners and the attrition rates of these attorneys have not changed much in the past two decades. Project Ganesha offers a new strategy. Project Ganesha’s long-term goal is for the practices it advocates to become the new standard for law firms in Colorado and regionally. 


You can help spread the word about Project Ganesha! 


If you are an associate who wants to participate, you should tell your firm you want them to sign up for Project Ganesha and support your participation. Advocate for a different way of approaching how to create a more diverse and equitable legal community. Firms will be more willing to engage with this program if they hear about it from their own associates.


If you are an in-house lawyer, sign up to be a mentor! Project Ganesha is gathering a committed group of in-house lawyers who want to support women and diverse lawyers. In-house lawyers can serve as mentors to help get associates more comfortable talking with in-house lawyers. Many associates think in-house lawyers are too busy to mentor and the associate does not want to bother them. The mentorship program helps create bonds between associates and in-house lawyers, which is critical to building confidence. 


Project Ganesha is a nonprofit and will also be accepting donations if you want to support this work monetarily. Donations and proceeds Project Ganesha earns will go toward supporting law students and addressing the pipeline to get more diverse attorneys into firms. Project Ganesha plans to work with Law School Yes We Can to support future law students with a living stipend so they do not have to work while studying for the LSAT. Project Ganesha also hopes to offer summer stipends to law students who accept unpaid internships that will help them build their resumes, gain valuable experience, and foster important relationships. 


You can learn more at Project Ganesha at https://projectganesha.org/ and reach out to Miko Brown at info@projectganesha.org.  


 


Aili Miyake is a 2L at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law (DU) focused on studying civil rights and labor law. She is the Vice President of the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association at DU and is interning with APABA Colorado. Outside of school, Aili enjoys painting, baking, and ice skating.

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