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Shawnna Williams is one of the 2022 AL DÍA 40 Under Forty honorees. Graphic: Maybeth Peralta/AL DÍA News.
Shawnna Williams is one of the 2022 AL DÍA 40 Under Forty honorees. Graphic: Maybeth Peralta/AL DÍA News.

2022 AL DÍA 40 Under Forty Honoree: Shawnna Williams

Shawnna L. Williams, Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, will be honored during the 2022 AL DÍA 40 Under Forty on Aug. 26.

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The third annual AL DÍA 40 Under Forty event serves to highlight and showcase some of the most diverse and impactful young professionals across the Philadelphia region. 

At this year's event, taking place Friday, Aug. 26, Shawnna Williams will be one of the 40 honorees. 

Biography

Shawnna Williams serves on the Diversity and Inclusion team at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, LLP. In her role, she leads and assists in the internal and external firmwide trainings, programs and events, lawyer and professional staff affinity group initiatives and D&I Committee management. She also has helped create procedures for and assisted in the development of new Practice Group talent management programs to ensure all attorneys receive fair opportunities. 

Williams is also the incoming Vice Chair of the Young Professionals Council (YPC) Advisory Board of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia, where she co-founded YPC’s first Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Subcommittee of the Advisory Board. 

In addition to those roles, Williams is also an artist specializing in pencil-drawn and oil-painted portraits inspired by resilience, moments of solidarity and anti-racism, and embodiments of self-love and self-reflection. Her personal artwork and client commissions have been shown locally in Philadelphia, as well as nationally and internationally. 

Williams has also illustrated children's book centered around diverse representation, serves on DEI committees within the Greater Philadelphia region, and is a volunteer artist for Bethesda Project's Annual Portraits of Home campaign. 

As part of the lead-up to the AL DÍA 40 Under Forty event, AL DÍA asked each of the honorees a set of identical questions and collected their responses. 

Here are Shawnna Williams' responses: 

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your professional career? 

Often, D&I professionals are personally and professionally combatting the inequities, bias and microaggressions they are tasked with educating their colleagues about. Especially during times when local, national and global oppression is on display, it can be difficult to manage the emotional and mental toll of this work while remaining optimistic, and informed of current events to develop and facilitate content.  That’s only one aspect of this role and career; for the most part, this work is an extremely rewarding way to be part of “the solution.”

What are steps that can be taken to improve diversity, equity and inclusion in your industry? Why is it important to do so?

A career in law can be one of the most lucrative and socially impactful careers one can pursue. It can be disheartening to hardworking attorneys to be presented with the unnecessary but common barriers of bias, racism, misogyny, ableism, homophobia, etc., as a result of poor leaders, firm culture and/or awareness.   Thankfully, firms like Morgan Lewis strive to advance DEI with innovative and inclusive firm affinity groups, programs, and initiatives (which I am so grateful to be apart of!), as well as, measuring progress via certifications like Diversity Lab’s Mansfield Rule. The Mansfield Rule measures whether law firms have affirmatively considered at least 30% women, lawyers of color, LGBTQ+ lawyers, and lawyers with disabilities for leadership and governance roles, equity partner promotions, formal client pitch opportunities, and senior lateral positions – a major component in improving DEI within firms!

What does being a leader mean to you? 

A leader is one who challenges, motivates and supports those around them to perform at their best. An inclusive leader also assesses their own biases and experiences, keeps DEI at the forefront of their planning and actions, and asks: What perspectives are we missing? Who is trying to get into the room, but can’t? Does everyone have what they need to stay in the room? Are everyone’s ideas heard? Who are we impacting?

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In 5 years, I see myself as a well-balanced leader, continuously and fearlessly pushing for DEI in the corporate, creative and personal facets of my life.

The 2022 AL DÍA 40 Under Forty event will take place Friday, Aug. 26 at The Vie at Cescaphe. To learn more or purchase your ticket, click here

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