As part of our celebration of #PRIDEMONTH at TMA, we’re shining a light on LGBTQ members of the TMA community. These members truly demonstrate the power of community and why we are #BETTERTOGETHER.
When we first decided to embark on this project, one name immediately came to mind: Allen Kadish, a restructuring partner at Archer & Greiner, P.C., a 175-lawyer full-service law firm, in its New York City office.
An influential TMA member for many reasons, Allen Kadish is a shining example of “walking the walk” when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I). Not only has he been a vocal leader when it comes to advocating for progress, Kadish has truly embodied what it means to bring your whole authentic self to work.
Kadish’s journey with TMA is one that begins like many other TMA members. He became active in TMA when a friend invited him to a TMA New York City Chapter committee meeting. “I got put on a committee and made friends and connections, and ever since I’ve been in the thick of it,” says Kadish. “Pretty soon I discovered I had hundreds of friends and professional colleagues through TMA and really expanded my professional network.”
As a strong advocate for DE&I, Kadish found a home at TMA. “TMA has been in the forefront of the restructuring industry in addressing diverse professionals and the issues of diversity,” says Kadish. “When other groups were reluctant to tackle DE&I issues head on, TMA was out there doing it and has been leading on DE&I issues for a long time. That is to TMA’s credit and leadership.”
It's hard to imagine how many gay professionals were not out at work in very recent history. “Fifteen years ago, many LGBT restructuring professionals were private. We could count the gay lawyers at events and not all of them were out,” says Kadish, who describes his own process of coming out in the workplace as happening very slowly over time by building trusted relationships with colleagues and as a result of firm changes and life challenges.
Kadish recalls interviewing at a new firm in his 30s and telling the partner, for the first time, "'This is my life, and if you have any issue with it, no sweat, I can go back to my office now.' He became one of the biggest advocates for bringing my whole self to work,” says Kadish.
Kadish points out that the restructuring industry was a natural community to embrace the benefits of diversity. “Until the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1978, restructuring was a second-tier practice,” Kadish says. “While this has been changing ever since, restructuring professionals had to fight harder, which meant we were welcoming to leaders of all different stripes because that’s what it took to succeed,” adds Kadish.
Kadish served an integral role in helping the TMA community become the champion for diversity that it is today. He and TMA CEO Scott Stuart also were part of a small group that launched WorkOUT in 2009. This networking group was the beginning of LGBT professionals organizing in the restructuring industry when LGBT professionals had moved in small circles and were hesitant to organize openly. “WorkOUT was a place of fellowship and mentorship,” says Kadish. “Professionals were networking in the group so they could accelerate business relationships but also to help each other and find others who were like themselves,” he adds.
“I did the first chapter diversity event when I was Chair of TMA New York City in 2016. We had several speakers, one of whom was a representative of the Chief Diversity Office of the State of New York, on the business case for DE&I. We addressed DE&I in business issues of all kinds. One of the best questions that was raised at the NYC diversity event was how do we retain women after their second child? If the glass ceiling is broken at the hiring stage, how do we retain women and diverse professionals at mid-career? This is still a challenge—but look where we are today,” adds Kadish.
“We’ve come a long way in terms of expectations around diversity and bringing your whole, authentic self to work, including updating our pronouns to respect everyone,” says Kadish, adding, “Young professionals today take the approach of just being themselves, they’re proactively seeking role models—judges, professional leaders, and thought leaders—who are like them. They’re bringing their whole selves to work. That’s the way it is, so if you’re in the market for clients or colleagues or younger professionals you can’t ignore it.”
Now, when recruiting young professionals, Kadish says candidates expect diversity and want to make sure they’re not alone. He likens it to someone saying “I’m left-handed. I want to succeed as I am. Show me how a left-handed person has succeeded in your organization.”
Of course, businesses aren’t embracing DE&I just because it helps with recruiting efforts. “That’s the moral of the story with all DE&I initiatives,” says Kadish. “If you don’t have a diverse workforce, you’re just leaving talent behind. If you think this is hard to do, you’re looking at it the wrong way.”
Kadish believes that there is something about affinity that helps people trust one another and that establishing trust with clients or prospective clients, colleagues, and others can help someone succeed both professionally and personally. “Clients reach out to restructuring lawyers and advisors to solve a problem. Clients put trust in the professional to problem-solve, and being your authentic self builds trust. A lot of the business owners and players we are dealing with are people who have put their lives’ work into their business. The trust factor has to be there,” says Kadish.
And certainly, embracing those who bring their whole selves to work is one way for businesses to hold onto their star employees. Kadish recalls a time when he was headquartered in New York, but an employer let him sit in its Miami office in the winters because it was necessary for the health of his partner, Jimmy. “The last thing this law firm wanted was its New York partners wintering in Miami but they were extremely kind to me and my partner, says Kadish. “At the time it was a real risk. It wasn’t my idea; it was due to the encouragement of a sponsor, and the firm management’s response was ‘Allen, if it’s good for you and your partner, it’s good for us.’ I think it was a life-saving strategy and I’ll always be grateful.”
Kadish adds, “When Jimmy passed, the restructuring community stood up for me in a way that I never could have anticipated ten years earlier. The lesson for me was, you bring your authentic self to your work and you make true relationships.”
What advice would Allen give to someone who is worried about bringing their whole selves to the workplace? “Do what is comfortable for you, but give your colleagues and clients a chance. It works for me.”