Bendita Cynthia Malakia is both a National LGBT Bar Association Board Member At-Large and a member of the newly formed Justice Council. She’s also the Inclusion Manager for the Americas at Hogan Lovells US LLP where her team, led by Director of Inclusion – Americas Leslie Richards-Yellen, executes a diversity and inclusion strategy to develop, retain and advance diverse lawyers and business services professionals. Before joining Hogan Lovells US LLP, Bendita spent nearly a decade practicing law, first at Norton Rose Fulbright, International Finance Corporation and Goldman Sachs. Unsatisfied with the national rhetoric impacting diverse people, Bendita launched a diversity and inclusion consultancy advising corporations and law firms of all sizes on diversity and inclusion. In August of 2017, she joined Hogan Lovells US LLP.
When asked about her experience on the LGBT Bar’s board, Bendita says she is proud “we are constantly pushing to be a better version of ourselves as board members.” She is especially excited about recent efforts to diversify, which she says, “are incredibly important as someone who lies at the intersection of identities as a Black, bisexual woman.” The board often talks about and is active in ensuring that they represent their members and are reflective of what they want the LGBT Bar to look like.
“Being a board member has afforded me to have a platform to advocate for people who are at the intersection of being LGBT and other aspects of identity,” says Bendita. “Having the backing of the LGBT Bar to move diversity along has been really important to me.”
The Annual Lavender Law Conference and Career Fair has also been an influential force in Bendita’s professional life. “It’s brilliant,” she says. “There are very few large diversity conferences that are as impactful and as client and community rich as Lavender Law.” Bendita feels that the best part of the conference is that it is a family reunion that brings people together.
“One of the most powerful things for me, being Black, bisexual and married to a woman, is that there aren’t really a lot of opportunities at this level of practicing law to connect with people in very small niche groups. However, you can always count on many legal professionals making it to Lavender Law. That allowed me to build my own sub-community with other Black LGBT lawyers – which has been an extremely rewarding experience.”
There are many reasons why Bendita suggests someone join the LGBT Bar. First, she feels that the client development opportunities are second to none. “I also think that personally having a professional community of people who identify and understand you is incredibly empowering,” she adds. Finally, Bendita believes that it is especially beneficial for practitioners in parts of the country where there isn’t as much visual and actual representation to join the LGBT Bar because it is important to have a network grounded in support. “It eliminates some of the isolation than comes from being one of a few,” she says.
Above all, Bendita is guided by her belief in people and her wish that more people believed in people. “We need to keep each other’s lives and lived experiences at the center of our consciousness,” she says. “We could all progress much farther together if we constantly remind ourselves of our shared humanity.”