Judith A. Harris, a Member of law firm Norris McLaughlin, P.A., and Co-Chair of its Estate, Trust, and Individual Tax Practice Group, was a panelist for the Lehigh Valley Business “Diversity and Inclusion Mastermind Summit” held virtually on September 16. Dolores A. Laputka, a Member of the firm, a member of its Management Committee, and former Co-Chair of the Business Law Practice Group, introduced Harris. Norris McLaughlin was proud to sponsor the event.
“We must listen actively to those who say they are impacted by systemic racism or other bias. Each day we hear about initiatives designed to address these issues, but all too often, those initiatives do not address or remedy the true issues at hand in an organized, effective, and ongoing manner. Organizations must commit from the top down to implement such changes through recruitment, training, and establishing a firm culture of diversity and inclusion, at the very least,” said Harris.
Laputka added, “We need to find ways to bind our futures together, so that we are moving forward in lockstep toward common goals – that’s when these initiatives and programs on which we spend so much time discussing, are going to lead to lasting change.”
About the Lehigh Valley Business Diversity and Inclusion Summit
The “Diversity and Inclusion Mastermind Summit” was the first event of its kind that Lehigh Valley Business has put on to encourage inclusive workplaces for local businesses. The discussion addressed how creating a more diverse workforce is not only good for social progress but also crucial for the financial well-being of a company. Harris was joined by William D. Brown, CEO of FIA NYC Employment Services, and Desha Dickson, Associate Vice President of Community Health at Tower Health and Co-Chair of the Reading Hospital Diversity & Inclusion Council. Eric Ellis, M.A., presented the keynote, and Qiana Cressman, Executive Director of Donor Operations at Miller-Keystone Blood Center and publisher of Emerge Woman Magazine, moderated.
Harris specifically addressed why it is important for the composition of a board and management team to reflect the community it serves, how male-dominated organizations find ways to make sure diversity is a priority in leadership, how Norris McLaughlin’s global legal team has helped underserved communities, and what progress looks like in the Lehigh Valley. Other topics included systemic racism or a lack of diversity and inclusion in the workplace; how to move from acknowledgment to support and lasting change; how to begin to diversify employees and leadership in companies and organizations with demographics that may have a disproportionate number of minorities in that area or who need to start improving the pipeline of diverse candidates; resistance to expanding an approach to diversity and inclusion; and the long-term consequences of ignoring diversity, equity, and inclusion.
About Judith Harris
Harris has over 30 years of experience in the areas of taxation, wills and trusts, estate administration, business matters, and tax-exempt entities. She works with clients to structure the optimal transfer of a client’s wealth and business interests to younger generations with minimal tax consequences.
Harris is President of the Board of Trustees for the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, a board member since 1993 and former officer of the Allentown Symphony Association, and a board member of the Lehigh County Agricultural Society. She is a board member and past President of the Fund to Benefit Children & Youth, Inc., and a former board member and Executive Committee member of the Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Harris is past President of the Estate Planning Council of the Lehigh Valley and served for ten years on the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority board of governors. From 1993 to 2000, she was an adjunct instructor of “Wills, Trusts, and Estates” at Penn State University’s Lehigh Valley Campus.
Harris earned her LL.M in Taxation from Villanova University School of Law in 1991; J.D. from American University in 1986; A.B., cum laude, from Bryn Mawr College in 1983; and a Diploma from the Pushkin Institute, Moscow, USSR, in 1982.
About Dolores Laputka
Laputka focuses her practice primarily on tax-related matters, whether connected to a family’s closely-held business, or estate planning for one of the principals. Her prior experience as a Certified Public Accountant enables her to handle complex business and tax-related matters for corporations, limited liability companies, and partnerships; as well as succession planning and financial and estate planning for families and executives at all levels.
Since Laputka moved to the Lehigh Valley in 1990, she has been involved in many organizations in the community. She is General Counsel and past Chair of the Board of Directors of the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, Member of the Board of Directors and past Chairman to the Allentown Art Museum of the Lehigh Valley, Board of Directors of the Lehigh Valley Estate Planning Council, past President and Board Member of the Allentown Rotary Club, and past Board Member of the Lehigh County Community College Foundation.
Laputka earned her J.D. from Duquesne University School of Law in 1978 and her B.A., cum laude, from Boston College in 1975.