Firmwide Director of Diversity and Inclusion
K&L Gates L.L.P.
Los Angeles, Calif.
It wasn’t easy being the daughter of the late Maynard Jackson Jr., the first African-American mayor in Atlanta. The public battles he fought on behalf of affirmative action initiatives in the southern city often took a toll on his family life. “While most children practiced fire drills at home, we had bomb drills, which we conducted each time someone threatened to blow up our home,” explains Valerie Amanda D. Jackson, firmwide director of diversity and inclusion for K&L Gates L.L.P. “Growing up in the public eye was an educational yet vulnerable experience. I learned that life is fragile and that hate and ignorance often are byproducts of pain and lack. Some of the angriest people I encountered believed that my father’s success as an African-American directly detracted from their own success.”
Jackson, who is married, says her father inspired her passion for diversity. “My father’s approach to policy, public service and inclusion greatly shaped my world view and my career. He used to say that affirmative action wasn’t about quotas; it was about acting affirmatively to ensure equality of opportunity. This resonated with me,” explains Jackson. Her responsibilities carry throughout K&L Gates’ more-than 40 offices worldwide. “My work is my passion. Some people wear their heart on their sleeve; I wear it on my business card,” she says.
Jackson graduated cum laude from Harvard University with a bachelor’s degree in government and from Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C., with a law degree. She speaks seven languages, including Spanish, which she studied in Spain and Mexico. A co-founder of The Seneca Inc., a nonprofit women’s leadership organization at Harvard, she volunteers time to other organizations involved in diversity and leadership. “I get to use my training as a lawyer, an envoy, a counselor, an intercultural communicator and a negotiator every day,” she says.
Favorite composer: Frederic Chopin
Favorite book: The Art of Happiness by Dalai Lama XIV
Languages spoken: Arabic, Persian, Portuguese