Pride in the Workplace 2021: Rosa Ostrom of Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt
Rosa Ostrom (she/her/hers)
Company: Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt PC
Programs: Pronoun awareness, fighting misgendering, disability access, summer diversity associates, work with transgender prison inmates
“Growing up with a substantial amount of privilege and with the support of my firm Schwabe, I feel like I am in a unique position to do this advocacy work. I am of the mindset that if I can, then I absolutely must advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community. It’s too important not to be doing.”
Rosa Ostrom and her Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt colleagues are going the extra mile in terms of crafting fully functional diversity policies.
For instance, Ostrom herself has passionately set about ensuring that everyone gets the opportunity to be known as their correct name and gender.
“Doing that work has been really eye opening for me, but it also just feels so necessary,” said Ostrom, an associate at the firm. She’s externally working with her colleague Sara Kobak to help transgender prison inmates have their names and gender markers corrected on their state of Oregon paperwork.
“Inmates, like any people, should have the respect and dignity to be recognized as who they are, not who they were assigned at birth,” Ostrom said. “Just because you’re incarcerated doesn’t mean you should lose that right.”
Correcting misgendering has become a key part of Schwabe’s equity initiative. Within the firm, a diversity, equity, and inclusion committee has given employees the simple option of putting pronouns in their email blocks and in firm bios.
As a queer woman, advocating for the LGBTQIA+ community is a natural fit for Ostrom. While she acknowledges that society has come a long way, gaps in access remain.
“Growing up with a substantial amount of privilege and with the support of my firm Schwabe, I feel like I am in a unique position to do this advocacy work,” she noted. “I am of the mind-set that if I can, then I absolutely must advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community. It’s too important not to be doing.”
That said, Schwabe has prominently supported LGBTQIA+ rights for some time. When seeking work, the firm was, she said, her first choice.
“I had heard such positive things about how communal and encouraging the firm is to work with for the LGBTQIA+ community,” she recalled. “There are so many allies within the firm and our broader community here in Oregon.”
Ostrom was a summer diversity associate at the firm, a program in which Schwabe carves out a certain number of positions for underserved and underrepresented groups.
“We want to make sure that people of all backgrounds feel welcome and included at Schwabe,” Ostrom explained. “Our commitment to DEI is constant, and what the goal looks like is in a state of constant evolution. For instance, when we started our DEI program, it was focused more on gender diversity. The diversity committee strove to create a gender balance, and it has truly blossomed from there to encompass many more forms of diversity. But like any program, there is definitely room to grow in many directions.”
One such direction Ostrom would like the firm to take: increasing access for persons with disabilities.
“For example, my dad has significant hearing loss,” she said. “While Covid-19 has been difficult in many ways, one unexpected positive is that everything has gone to Zoom. My dad can suddenly hear things and participate in things that he couldn’t before. It’s a barrier to access that I likely would have overlooked before. I am sure there are other instances where we are falling short that we don’t know about because we haven’t had someone say, 'Hey this isn’t working for me.' People shouldn’t have to say that to have equal access. I look forward to Schwabe doing more exploration to find and remedy our shortcomings.”
A version of this article was originally published via the Portland Business Journal.