Gender diversity? Everyone has an opinion on it – it’s importance and why; how diverse their own team is; whether their company has got the policies right.
Diversity in the legal profession has
been a hot topic, and in comparison to other industries, slow to change. The
logistics and structures of large international law firms has been blamed for
this in the past but is no longer an acceptable excuse. There is a huge
disparity in diversity between in-house legal teams versus private practice and
there are several reasons for this. The main one being the long hours culture
of private practice. Until this is addressed across the board we can question
whether a truly diverse work force can ever be achieved.
As well as tradition, old fashioned
stubbornness and ignorance, there are other more nuanced and deep-rooted
reasons why diversity in the law is so difficult to achieve. Only when
diversity is addressed from the outset, during education and training contracts,
can we get balanced teams in law firms and then be able to offer a truly
diverse shortlist to our in-house clients. As well as looking at how partners
run their firms and treat their staff, we also need to look at how the clients
treat external counsel. Will a male client usually give their work to a male
partner? Do in-house lawyers’ expectations vary depending on who they instruct?
Personal and homelife is still the main reason for women not being at the top
of the profession despite women’s networks, mentoring and other incentives being
put in place. The tone must change from the top and filter through all
departments, including internal and external recruiters. We need to
re-think initiatives that may have previously created silos to create gender balanced teams.
As 2 female directors at Fry &
Brown, this is a subject close to our hearts. We both worked at large and
medium sized businesses before setting up on our own small company and we have both
experienced the gender imbalance. As recruiters, we were very much on an even
keel with our male counterparts but when it came to career progression it was
clear that sacrifices would need to be made, to satisfy our direct reports,
peers, bosses and shareholders.
So we are often thinking about what we can do to help our clients create well balanced teams, as well as how we can help those who are ambitious to achieve and overcome the obstacles. These are some of the things we do to encourage diversity:
- We ask the right
questions of our clients at the outset, providing more information than most
and gathering clear prospects, promotion and compensation criteria.
- We use correct terminology in our adverts. Missing
out anything that may be gender specific but including possibilities of
flexible and agile working.
- We source
candidates using six different methods, ensuring our database is as diverse as
- We empower candidates to go for something that
they might not normally go for, but their counterpart with the same experience
- We encourage
applicants to go for roles that don’t advertise flexibility and will ask questions
on their behalf.
- We ask clients to take part time, flexible and
agile working requests seriously and provide
personalised, practical suggestions.
- We get clients to consider candidates who are
changing careers or have taken time out.
- We educate
clients on how it can work and give examples from within other teams and organisations.
nearly 20 years’ experience each we have plenty of great examples up our sleeves.
- We request and
share flexible working and equal opportunity policies.
- We get to know our clients and engage in dialogue
around diversity – their views are as important as their actions and the attitude of the boss tells you so much more
than company policies. Those with less sophisticated official policies
sometimes have great ideas and can be more flexible to make things work for the
- We get to know
your business meaning we can identify role models in the organisation and
highlight them to talent you want to attract.
- We stay in touch
with people we have placed putting potential employees in touch with them, to
hear their experience of how diversity works in practice.
- We will share
success stories as part of our company sell – part timers who have been
promoted; women in management positions; companies who have adapted to
employees needs rather than vice versa etc.
- When appropriate,
we support using blind CVs to avoid any kind of discrimination.
- Our hosted events
are at different times to suit different people. Not just drinks in evening but
targeted breakfast seminars, lunches, webinars and group video calls at
different times of the day to make accessible to all.
- We are regularly
looking at our statistics, setting targets, measuring progress and taking
accountability, assessing how we
can do better.
- We commit to calling out any bias and bullying
that becomes evident during a hiring process. Often this can be non-conscious
and easily resolved, but we would be prepared to lose clients in any case where
it can’t be resolved.
We don’t deny that it can sometimes be difficult to get right and we’d be keen to hear any further suggestions on how we can improve.