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Helping People and Communities Thrive: Taking a DIRECT Approach to DEI Initiatives

Helping People and Communities Thrive: Taking a DIRECT Approach to DEI Initiatives

Lurie.pngMinneapolis-based Lurie, LLP is no stranger to supporting underserved communities. In fact, the firm itself was established in 1940 to address the lack of opportunity for its founders in the midst of a challenging financial and political climate, including widespread anti-Semitism, following World War II.

“When you are a firm that started because of some type of ‘anti,’ it gives you a certain foundational cornerstone,” said Beth Kieffer Leonard, managing partner of Lurie. “We’ve always had a commitment to serving and giving back to the Twin Cities community.”

Lurie is a growing accounting, tax and advisory firm of over 180 employees, with offices in Minnesota and Florida, striving to be a place where team members can bring their whole, authentic selves to work.

In 2020, following the murder of George Floyd, Minneapolis was at the geographic epicenter of our nation’s recognition of racial injustice. The message for change was clear, and per its custom, Lurie sprang into action, both internally and externally in its hometown.

“When you see something that is complete injustice, it isn't hard to make the commitment to do something about it,” said Kieffer Leonard. “We were a community in trauma. This was about human beings. Our responsibility as business leaders is to do what’s right and elevate our work in this area.”  

The response from Lurie was to mobilize thoughts into action through the creation of its DIRECT program. DIRECT – which stands for Diversity, Inclusion, Responsibility, Equity, Community, Talk – was designed to bring important issues into the spotlight, deal with tough questions head on and empower team members be strong advocates for the city and diverse communities they serve. A key aspect of DIRECT is to talk. Lurie has brought in guest speakers to lead discussions on these difficult topics, ranging from understanding the Minnesota racial disparity challenges, unconscious bias and community outreach.

“While these concepts aren’t new to Lurie, we also recognize that our people are good-hearted and may be somewhat sheltered and naïve at the same time,” said Howard Wilensky, partner at Lurie. “The amount of education, learning and understanding that has happened within our firm, during a relatively short part of our overall journey, has been unbelievable.”

Beyond education and advocacy, the DIRECT program focuses on diversity in employment, as well as retention and advancement, with a broader community focus.

“Organizations bring in people of color, different ethnicities, etc., but that’s just the beginning,” said Tammy Dehne, Director of Human Resources for Lurie. “We focus on having an accepting culture and environment that creates pathways for success, where everyone feels valued and included.”

Each of these ongoing initiatives are shared and emphasized throughout the firm, starting at the top. Lurie leadership understands that this is both a business imperative and the right thing to do, sending a clear message about the firm’s culture.

“Our firm’s first point of view is always ‘how do we help,’” said Kieffer Leonard. “Because of the culture we have at Lurie, we have the ability to respond and tackle tough issues. It’s not hard to change or expand your thinking when you already have a culture that is accepting, supportive, open-minded and inclusive.”

Lurie is just one of our Moore members helping their communities thrive. Click here to find your local firm and learn more about how we are helping you thrive in a changing world.