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November 1, 2012
Hillsborough celebrates diversity with fundraiser

“Unconscious bias,” the need for diverse members to serve on Florida Bar committees, and the history of legislation impacting diversity were topics at a diversity mixer and CLE to honor and celebrate Tampa Bay’s diverse legal and local community.

“Tampa celebrates its diversity and is strengthened by it,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said, noting the city’s diverse history and a “wealth of cultural influences that are a source of great pride in the local community.”

Participating groups included the Hillsborough County Bar Association, Hillsborough Association for Women Lawyers, George Edgecomb Bar Association, Tampa Bay Hispanic Bar Association, South Asian Bar Association, Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Tampa Bay, Real Property Probate and Trust Law Section of The Florida Bar, and the National LGBT Bar Association.

The event began with a presentation titled “Diversity Legislation and Unconscious Bias” at the Hillsborough County Bar’s Chester H. Ferguson Law Center. Dawn Siler-Nixon of Ford Harrison addressed whether a law firm could improve its work environment by considering whether unconscious biases exist and to what extent biases are measureable. She detailed how unconscious biases could affect an individual’s behavior and how awareness of these biases could diminish its negatives effects.

Tara Rao, of The Rao Law Firm, spoke about The Florida Bar’s diversity initiatives. As a member of the Bar’s Special Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, she talked about the need for a diverse membership on committees and in important roles within the Bar. The special committee has been tasked with supporting programs of voluntary associations by awarding $50,000 in diversity leadership grants through financial support of conferences, seminars, summits, and symposia designed to foster an inclusive environment that increases awareness of diversity in law firms, the judiciary, and the Bar.

Caroline Johnson Levine provided a historical journey of legislation in the United States that precluded diversity, later replaced by legislation that embraced diversity.

After the program, more than 100 attendees mingled with all of the members of the various sponsoring bars. The event doubled as a fundraiser for Nicholas Battles, the son of a Tampa firefighter, who was gravely injured while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps.

[Revised: 10-17-2014]