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Diversity & Inclusion: James Rowader

As vice president and general counsel for employee and labor relations at Target, James Rowader is among the Twin Cities’ most visible champions of diversity in the workplace. And he’s making the most of his platform.

Rowader’s direct reports — 19 attorneys — are 53 percent diverse, excluding women, and 71 percent women. Target’s entire legal team is 61 percent women and 23 percent diverse.

Rowader thinks he and Target can do even better. In Minneapolis-St. Paul, an area less diverse than many other major U.S. metros, that means committing to an intense, geographically diverse hiring process.

“We are in a market where the number of diverse lawyers remains low,” he said. “You have to be willing to put in more time and cast your net farther.”

Rowader’s commitment to diversity and inclusion extend to his outside counsel relationships. About 40 percent of the “key relationship partners responsible for the vast majority of [the employee and labor relations group’s] outside legal work are diverse and/or women,” he said. Target now commits to spend at least $8 million annually with minority- and women-owned outside firms, up from $1 million when the initiative began.

Outside Target, Rowader works to make the legal profession — and the wider world — more inclusive. Rowader is a member of the Minnesota Hispanic Bar Association, the Hispanic National Bar Association, and Twin Cities Diversity in Practice. He recently wrapped up five years on the board of the Hispanic National Bar Association Legal Education Fund.

And this year he accepted a seat on the board of the newly formed Minnesota Justice Research Center. Fellow board members include former Minneapolis Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton and Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington.

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