September 26, 2020 / VOLUME NO. 124
The Dissenter's Hope

This week, millions of Americans mourned the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a champion of diversity and inclusion, and an architect of modern society.

Ginsburg broke down stereotypes, leveraging the law to incrementally confront the biases behind barriers in areas like education, the workforce and in the rights, protections and benefits afforded by the government. These cases ushered women into spaces that were previously dominated by men, reshaping the America we grew up in.

"Bias both conscious and unconscious ... keeps up barriers that must come down if equal opportunity and nondiscrimination are ever genuinely to become this country's law and practice,” she wrote in a 2003 dissent

And while she advocated for a gradual approach to change, she was also unafraid — and famous — for collegially dissenting from her Supreme Court colleagues. She even marked these occasions with a special collar, or jabot. Ginsburg wasn’t afraid to be ahead of her time, even if she was alone.

"Dissents speak to a future age,” she said. “It's not simply to say, 'My colleagues are wrong and I would do it this way.' But the greatest dissents do become court opinions and gradually over time their views become the dominant view. So that's the dissenter's hope: That they are writing not for today, but for tomorrow."

These days, companies love to talk about the importance of diversity and inclusion in their workplaces; that their employees’ diverse backgrounds, perspectives, families and experiences create a stronger organization, producing better insights and results. 

In many ways, they have Justice Ginsburg to thank. But they can’t grow complacent. Ginsburg knew that some in society feel challenged by diversity. Speaking in 1998, she said the “largest problem” or challenge for America in this century would be our ability to unite around the things that make us different.

“The challenge ... is to make and keep our communities places where we can tolerate, even celebrate, our differences, while pulling together for the common good. ‘Of many, one’ is the main challenge, I believe,” she said. 

“It is my hope for our country and world.”

Kiah Lau Haslett, managing editor of Bank Director
Emily McCormick, vice president of research of Bank Director
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