Armstrong Teasdale announced that the firm has created a dedicated Diversity, Equity and Inclusion department, and named Partner Meshach Rhoades the chief diversity officer. In her role, she will lead the execution of the firm’s strategy, as well as ongoing and new initiatives to build and sustain a culture of inclusion and belonging.
Rhoades is an experienced litigator and trusted advisor to senior management in all facets of complex commercial and regulatory litigation, and as such, she will continue to maintain an active legal practice in addition to her new role. She has long been a champion of inclusion efforts both professionally and personally, and demonstrates her commitment through her own involvement with local and national organizations such as the Center for Legal Inclusiveness, Leadership Council on Legal Diversity, Colorado Hispanic Bar Association and Latinas First Foundation.
“While the firm has had both attorneys and staff serving in leadership roles dedicated to inclusion for years, I’m honored to have the opportunity to direct those efforts moving forward, and I appreciate firm leadership trusting me with this incredibly important responsibility,” said Rhoades. “As a diverse attorney myself, I have a personal perspective on and interest in recruiting, retaining and advancing diverse professionals. We must hold ourselves accountable, and consistently ask ‘what more can we do?’”
Rhoades previously served as co-chair of Armstrong Teasdale’s Inclusion Committee, alongside St. Louis Partner Sarah Sise, who will maintain her role as chair of that committee. Sise practices exclusively in the heavily regulated and constantly evolving field of employee benefits and executive compensation. In 2020, she was named among the St. Louis Business Journal’s Most Influential Business Women. Throughout the course of her career, she has participated in many diversity and inclusion-related efforts, including with the St. Louis Regional Chamber’s Diverse Business Accelerator and the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity.
Further, Denver Legal Secretary Stephanie Hendrickson will serve as executive assistant to the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion department, in addition to her other roles at the firm.
In January 2020, Armstrong Teasdale outlined six strategic goals that would lead the firm into the future – one of which centers on promoting diversity, inclusion and equitable treatment firmwide. The restructuring and creation of a dedicated Diversity, Equity and Inclusion department, effective Nov.1, 2020, echoes the firm’s investment in related efforts. In the past year, Armstrong Teasdale also created two employee resource groups which have driven increased engagement and opportunities for respectful discourse firmwide.
“The new structure is directly aligned with our strategic goals and is critically important to supporting our continuing growth across the country,” said David Braswell, managing partner of Armstrong Teasdale. “Diversity, equity and inclusion have long been core values at our firm, and I am confident that Meshach and the broader team are well-equipped to advance our strong progress in this area.”
The new structure also involves the creation of a role for Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, for which the firm is conducting a search. The role will focus on the implementation of trainings and programs, alignment and support of employee resource groups and affinity groups, and take a targeted and intentional approach to diversity recruiting, retention and advancement at all levels.