Agent for Change: NSA’s Lenora Billings-Harris
BY PETER ORTIZ / © 2006 DiversityInc
An Afrikaner woman gripped
Lenora Billings-Harris in a bear hug
and tearfully told how her husband,
sons and brothers were readying
guns to kill black people.
Billings-Harris was the catalyst
for such a strong admission of hatred
just because of the color of her skin.
The woman was attending an eight-hour workshop she led on customer
service for automotive managers in
South Africa. By the end of the
workshop, the woman said she no
longer felt the same hatred and fear
that had intensified among many
South Africans shortly after the
release of Nelson Mandela in 1990.
“Just my being in your presence
lets me know that would be the
absolutely wrong thing to do and I
will do everything I can to stop
them,” Billings-Harris recalls the
woman telling her.
founder of Excel
Systems, had visited South Africa
for the first time
shortly after Lenora Billings-Harris
Mandela’s release. Organization: Excel Development
Location: Tempe, Ariz.
own life changed No. of Membersp: 3,800
when the woman
confided in her.
“In that moment I knew I needed
to devote 100 percent of my time to
diversity work,” she recalls.
The Afrikaner woman joined 60
other managers, all white, who were
required to attend the work-
shop. The woman and most of
the others never had dealt with
a black professional before.
At 26, Billings-Harris
became project administrator
for General Motors. This
month she will mark another
major milestone when she
becomes the first person of
color to be president of the
National Speakers Association
(NSA). The NSA is a leading
organization for experts in
various industries who edu-
cate audiences. “I work very hard
to help people know they are not
going to feel embarrassed,” she
says. “To do this work effectively,
you must have the trust of people
you are trying to impact.”
Legal Rainmaker: Norris, McLaughlin & Marcus’ Daniel R. Guadalupe
BY T. J. DEGROAT / © 2006 DiversityInc
Twenty years after
graduating from the
University of Pennsylvania
School of Law, Daniel
R.Guadalupe has had
moments in courtrooms.
Among them: serving as
an arbitrator for the
of Commerce. Daniel R. Guadalupe
Both the scale of the Organization: Norris,
confidential case involv- McLaughlin & Marcus
ing two large pharmaceu- Location: Bridgewater, N.J.
tical companies and
Guadalupe’s role in it were unusual.
“I had always been a litigator and
advocate, but I was playing the role
of judge,” he says. “It was very challenging to be on the other side of
A partner with
Norris, McLaughlin &
Marcus, where he has
worked since 1991,
in commercial litigation. Outside of the
office, he is involved
in several professional
organizations, including Puerto Ricans in
Columbia College graduate, is passionate about trying to “raise consciousness about the need to increase
the number of Latino and Latina
partners in major law firms—not
just associates but partners.”
The legal profession “is behind
the curve in terms of diversity management and diversity hiring …
particularly as it pertains to
Latinos,” he says.
Just 3.03 percent of law-firm
associates and 1. 27 percent of partners were Latino in 2004, according
to The National Association for
The number of Latino associates
has risen in recent years, but there
aren’t enough becoming partners, he
says. “If you want to become a rainmaker, the question is who is going
to provide the rainwater,” he says.
“We don’t have the access to the
resources that would allow us to have
the Fortune 100 clients that will generate millions of dollars in business.
We really have to hustle.” DI