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IMS Female Leaders Offer Empowering Lessons to “Break the Bias”


IMS Honors the Many Women Who Contribute to Our Success

On International Women’s Day, team members throughout IMS Consulting & Expert Services took some time to recognize and applaud the many women who contribute to the company’s success.

In honor of all the women of IMS, the DEIB committee hosted a well-attended forum entitled Breaking the Bias: Empowering Lessons From Women in Leadership. During this virtual event, four women in IMS leadership positions shared personal stories concerning the challenges they have faced on their path to success and the ways in which they foster inclusive and productive teams at IMS.

Panelists included Arely Cure, Director of Strategy & Consulting Support; Erica Evans, Director of Expert Search Services; Christina Marinakis, JD, PsyD, Jury Consulting & Strategy Advisor; and Vivian Taylor, Vice President of Human Resources. The forum was moderated by Michelle Diago, Senior Director of Acquisitions & Integration.

Facing Challenges

When asked about the challenges they have faced working in the legal profession, our panelists shared that they have sometimes had to work hard to dispel implicit biases that people held toward them on the basis of their gender. Implicit biases are stereotypes, often unconscious, that are attributed to an entire group of people—be it on the basis of sex, race, religion, or some other factor.

Arely noted that, at times, women are required to put forth immense effort in order to earn trust and respect. She said, “Trust and respect should not be gender based. I have found in my career, however, that if you find the right allies and advocates, you can overcome this bias and have wonderful success.

Christina stated that she too has encountered circumstances during her career in which co-workers or clients made assumptions based solely on her sex. She said, “I like to take these implicit biases and turn them into triumphs.

She described a term in psychology known as the contrast effect in which bias leads people to quickly make presumptions, either positive or negative, about how a person likely compares to others. The contrast effect can work to a person’s advantage or disadvantage, but even when Christina has found herself on the short end of the initial presumption, she knows how to employ this psychological phenomenon to her benefit. “When people have lower expectations for your performance, and then you perform a task well, you exceed their expectations by so much, they suddenly see you as not just competent—they see you as a star,” she said.

Achieving Success

Discussion about the pathways the panelists took in order to attain their professional levels centered around some of the rituals they follow that enable them to be productive. The speakers also discussed mentors—both men and women—who inspired them and helped them to reach their career goals.

In response to the question about rituals, Erica said that although it might sound counterintuitive, when she gives herself permission to unplug from technology and take some time for herself, she ultimately becomes a more productive professional. Her routine is to turn off her phone early in the morning or an hour before bedtime, just to give herself a mental rest.

In this technological age, people sometimes feel compelled to be always accessible,” Erica said. “Working yourself continuously, though sustainable for a period of time, does not lead to the most productive version of yourself.

When asked about people who have influenced her throughout her career, Vivian said that many people have been inspirational, but none more so than her mother. Her mother was an immigrant to the United States who exhibited great persistence. Vivian said that by observing her, she learned the value of working hard, struggling, taking risks, and being fearless.

I try to replicate and model the values she instilled in me and pass them on to my daughter,” she said.

Honoring the Team

Each one of the women on the panel expressed how much they value their workplace teammates and how they hope to use their positions to support and uplift them.

Christina stated that she has been inspired by the leadership style of Dr. Merrie Jo Pitera, Senior Director of Jury Consulting at IMS. Christina said, “She demonstrates an ability to balance high expectations and demands while maintaining compassion and patience, and I try to mirror that.”

Vivian said it’s important to not only pay attention to the work goals of the team but also to the human component. She finds that by being authentic and taking the time to develop relationships with colleagues, the team becomes more cohesive. “There is nothing greater than working at a company where you feel good about the people you work with, the mission of the company, and its vision for the future,” said Vivian.

While Erica agreed that relationship building is important, she feels there is one knowledge-based area to which women need to devote more of their attention, and that area is business financials. As a mentor, Erica advises both men and women that if their aspiration is to move up the professional chain, they must achieve greater understanding of company financial goals.

Arely brought the conversation back to its starting topic (bias) when she talked about how, as a leader, she feels it is important to ensure she engages in bias-free decision-making. Arely said her leadership style has been very much influenced by a manager she looked up to back when she was employed at Lockheed Martin. This manager used various techniques designed to put everyone on an even playing field. One technique she thought was particularly effective was when he eliminated the possibility for bias when he reviewed analysis reports without observing the names of the employees who submitted them.

One of the best ways to break down stereotypes is to get to know people as human beings first and foremost, and forum moderator Michelle Diago did a fantastic job of helping everyone in the company to become more familiar with the values and mindsets of four IMS women who hold leadership positions. Viewers expressed that they thoroughly enjoyed the discussion and are proud to work for a company that is dedicated to meeting the needs of both team members and clients alike. The company motto is “Together, we win"—and every member of IMS is dedicated to fostering this principle every day.

Special thanks are due to Employee Engagement Specialist Mara Butler, Senior Marketing Manager Tiffany Thompson, and the entire IMS DEIB Committee for planning this inspiring event. The DEIB committee is dedicated to breaking down stereotypes, eliminating barriers, and motivating team members to value each other as human beings who are working together to achieve a common goal.

At IMS, our common goal is to provide attorneys and their clients with the high-level tools they need to succeed at trial. Read more about our integrated services here.