Stacey J. Mobley: Committed To Diversity

Sunday, February 1, 2004 - 00:00

The Editor interviews Stacey J. Mobley, Senior Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel, DuPont.

Editor: Stacey, the last time we interviewed you, you were starting your term as NAACP's National Campaign Chair. Did you reach your $5 million target?

Mobley:
I am pleased to report that we exceeded our goal. Because we continue to receive checks on a daily basis, we still don't know by how much.

Editor: Was the corporate community helpful?

Mobley:
Yes. They were outstanding. Many corporations contributed, including such long time NAACP supporters as American Airlines, AT&T, Bank of America, Coca-Cola, General Motors, Ford, Goodyear, MBNA, The New York Times, Shell Oil, State Farm, UPS and Wal-Mart. I greatly appreciate the support not only of these dedicated supporters whom we have come to rely on, but also of those individuals and companies that contributed for the first time as a result of our efforts. We personally reached out to DuPont's primary law firms (PLFs) and legal service providers and we're very proud of their wholehearted response.

The broad support of this year's campaign convinced me that, as never before, corporate America recognizes the importance of diversity in the workplace as a key to their business success and views the NAACP as an essential ingredient in that success. This was gratifying.

Editor: I understand that part of the funds raised will be applied to encouraging minority young people to seek professional careers.

Mobley:
Right. The educational efforts of the NAACP reach out to local communities across the country. Studies show that minority youth are not adequately informed about the opportunities available to them and do not understand that education can open doors that too many of them assume are closed. The NAACP intends to make an effort at a grassroots level to make minority young people, particularly those in college and high school, aware that a good education is the key to success and that it is available to them if they reach out for it.

Editor: Why is DuPont so committed to diversity?

Mobley:
Our corporate goal is sustainable growth in a global economy. We view expanding our activities in world markets as essential to our long term success. To attain this goal, we believe that our workforce should reflect the diversity of the countries in which we do business. Success in business depends on our ability to come up with great ideas. We need to draw upon the perspectives of people who come from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. Only then will we be able serve the special needs of our customers, wherever located. We also feel that as a matter of principle our workforce and our suppliers should reflect the diversity of our customers. Our focus on diversity is not just with regard to race, gender or country of origin. Because it is respectful of all people, as we go into different markets in Asia, South America and Eastern Europe, we are going to be better equipped to compete and serve our customers.

Editor: Why does DuPont prefer to retain law firms that practice diversity?

Mobley:
We have seen first hand that when you use a diverse law firm, you get better solutions to your legal problems. This is because people from different backgrounds and cultures provide special insights that otherwise would not be available. Their life experiences alter the lenses through which they see problems.

I want the lawyers that represent us in different jurisdictions to reflect the composition of the judiciary and juries. I want the judge or jury to see the company and our representatives as members of their community who represent their values.

Editor: How is DuPont and its law firms and legal service providers going about interesting more minority young people in pursuing law as a career?

Mobley:
Working with the Association of Corporate Counsel, we established the Pipeline Project. We began the Pipeline Project as a way to address the fact that the percentage of minority students pursuing legal careers is very low. We also realized that it is too late to reach out to students at the college or graduate school level because they have already chosen their career paths.

The Pipeline Project works with kids beginning when they are in junior high. At that age, it is likely that their only experience with lawyers is what they see on TV. They probably have never met a lawyer in person. This lack of a role model is what leads many students to believe that the legal profession is not for them. The Pipeline Project shifts this perception by giving them positive role models and a better understanding of the law.

Let me illustrate how the Pipeline Project works in real life. DuPont has two lawyers, Michael Clarke and Evelyn Brantley, who work with a group of junior high school students at a community center here in Wilmington. They have regular sessions with these kids in our formal conference room where they hold classes and eat pizza surrounded by portraits of our prior general counsel. They find themselves in an environment that they might otherwise not have an opportunity to experience.

Over the last year, the young people have grown more comfortable with this new experience, developed a bond with Mike and Lyn and gained more self confidence. One of their assignments was to read Juan William's biography of Thurgood Marshall. A lot of the children did not know who he was. They have now come to appreciate what the law is about. They find in Justice Marshall and the successful minority lawyers they have met role models of the kind of success they can aspire to. The program has helped the children gain confidence in themselves and appreciate the fact that these people did it and that it is possible for them to do it too. We will view the program as a success if we inspire even two or three of these kids to go through college and then law school - two or three that would not have done it without this effort. We are working with ACC to help distribute the toolkit that shows how to develop a similar program in other communities.

This is the fourteenth year that we sponsored a Martin Luther King program centered around his birthday. On the Sunday before his holiday, we held an educational convocation that was open to the community. At the convocation, Dr. Ben Carson, the world-renowned neurosurgeon from Johns Hopkins, shared his story with the children. He spoke about how as a child he was viewed as the dumbest kid in class and how his progress to the top of his profession was aided by a supportive family and the mentoring provided by others. On the Monday holiday, we had a program for DuPont employees.

Editor: Have you encouraged your Primary Law Firms (PLFs) and legal service providers to get involved in the Pipeline Project and other projects that encourage minority students to aspire to legal careers?

Mobley:
Absolutely. In addition to becoming involved in the Pipeline Project, many of the PLFs are contributing to the objective of filling the minority pipeline by adopting schools, sponsoring law day programs, and giving educational programs. We are also proud that our firms are involved in mentoring programs for high school students and in scholarship programs. We maintain a central repository of information about all of these programs and a contact list of the firms that are involved in particular programs. If a firm is interested in participating in a program, we encourage them to contact us and talk to PLFs that are already involved.

Editor: Many minority children suffer the initial handicap of inadequate educational facilities. Is DuPont doing anything about that?

Mobley:
We have lawyers that volunteer to help improve the education system. We work on education reform with other Delaware-based companies through the local business roundtable of about 15 businesses. Wilmington Trust Company and MBNA have also been particularly active.

Our focus has been on encouraging the schools to introduce accountability based on setting performance standards and measuring student achievement. Putting it in business terms, we encourage the school system to strive for production and results, not mere activity. You cannot expect an educational system to do its job if it does not hold people accountable for results. With accountability, you can then track the return on your investment in a way that says that this is what we spend per student and this is the result.
Our initial attempts were discouraged because a lot of people felt that education is local and that we did not have standing to be involved. We responded that the business community is a customer for your product, the students, and, if you are not able to meet our needs, we will be forced to look elsewhere for talent. That means that you will be depriving many of your students of the opportunity to work for us.

Editor: What is the role of professional organizations?

Mobley:
The ABA has had a number of presidents who have been dedicated supporters of diversity. Bill Paul, recognizing the financial need of minorities who aspire to go to law school, established what is now a thriving ABA scholarship program as well as generally promoted diversity programs within that vast organization. I am proud that an African American, Dennis Archer, is the current president of the ABA and that he is dedicated to strengthening the efforts of the ABA to take serious steps to diversify a profession in which minorities still represent a disproportionately very small percentage.

We work with all the great organizations. I have found that the ABA, MCCA and ACC each leverage what the others are doing. If you look at some of the players in the ABA, they tend to be the same people who are also active in MCCA and ACC. We participated recently in a joint ACC-MCCA program in Washington. I am pleased that these organizations are working together on a common mission - the fact that their focus and memberships differ makes their joint efforts even more effective.

Editor: Your network of PLFs and legal service providers has been carefully selected and trained by DuPont and encouraged to practice diversity. Do these attributes make them attractive to other companies looking for outside counsel?

Mobley:
Very definitely. Along with diversity, our PLFs also bring value through their willingness to work on early case assessment, their use of Six Sigma and new technologies, and their understanding of how to build a partnering relationship with their clients. Because we feel that our PLFs and legal service providers are truly our partners, we go out of our way to help them find new clients, not only as individual firms but also as a group of firms that have been trained to work together on regional and national litigation. We welcome calls and visits from companies that would like to explore the use of these firms.

Editor: Is there anything you would like to add?

Mobley:
I think that people in our profession have the duty to improve it - that includes making it more representative of the population as a whole. Because I am general counsel, people assume that I should get the credit for what has been accomplished here. However, I have many colleagues that are working just as hard or harder to make diversity a reality - Tom Sager, Hinton Lucas, Julie Mazza and the whole team here. We are eager to share our best practices with other companies.