Legal change agent carves out role to increase diversity in McDonald’s law department and beyond

February 22, 2021

As the first attorney in her family, Kristen Jones is used to charting new territory. 

She was the first and only Black partner at one of Chicago’s top law firms. She also built the firm’s first Diversity, Equity and Inclusion strategy. Now, at McDonald’s, she’s pioneering a new role as senior counsel and the company’s first Director of Legal Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI).

“With Reggie Miller recently joining the company as the Chief Diversity Officer, there has been an even greater push to accelerate and align DEI strategy across the enterprise – integrating our approach so we’re more effective,” Kristen explains. “By leveraging our scale in the legal space and other fields, McDonald’s has the opportunity to create more positive impact, and be a leading voice in the DEI landscape.”

“By leveraging our scale in the legal space and other fields, McDonald’s has the opportunity to create more positive impact, and be a leading voice in the DEI landscape.” 

Kristen’s initial focus at McDonald’s will be to bring the in-house legal department in accordance with the Mansfield Rule, which tracks and measures if legal departments  demonstrate commitment to increasing diversity for leadership and governance roles, hiring opportunities and outside counsel retention by considering candidate slates of at least 50% women, lawyers of color, LGBTQ+ lawyers and lawyers with disabilities.

“If we’re ready to have transparent discussions, we can really move the needle,” she says, adding she’s noted interest across the company in having those “courageous” conversations.  “The result of that work will be diversified leadership, diversified partnerships with suppliers and sustained growth in that direction – an environment where everyone feels, ‘I belong, I can advance.’” 

“If we’re ready to have transparent discussions, we can really move the needle.”

Kristen developed the skills and passion for DEI work in her career as a labor and employment attorney, including cases of discrimination.

“What I learned defending management in litigation is that often the conflict stems from cultural competency and education,” she says. “With DEI training, if we give managers the proper tools on the front end, they’ll play a role in making the workplace more inclusive.” 

McDonald’s Creates “EMPOWER Award” to Honor Law Firms Committed to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.

A culture of inclusion and emphasis on values are key elements of what drew Kristen to McDonald’s full time. While at her law firm, she served as outside counsel to the company and already knew the legal team well.  

“The McDonald’s Legal Department has fantastic leaders who are prioritizing creating a supportive environment and great workplace culture, “ she says.

“Belonging and inclusion are the heart of DEI, so it speaks volumes when leaders take time to champion and value it. Visible commitment and action by leaders to reward and acknowledge those on their team who are doing likewise is the key to integrating the DEI principles into the fabric of our company,” Kristen explains.

“A culture where we are all living out the DEI principles in our day-to-day interactions and decision-making in the workplace – that’s the ultimate goal, and we’re well on our way.”

Meet other Black McFamily members helping to shape McDonald’s into the brand it is today.

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