Diversity and inclusion (D&I) has been on the agenda for over a decade, with considerable research demonstrating that a diverse workforce and an inclusive environment improves business performance – and both clients and graduates looking for responsible and inclusive businesses. We’ve seen positive movements in recent years, such as the introduction of gender targets, gender pay gap reporting and support from organisations such as the 30% Club and Stonewall. Yet a Law Society report in 2017 showed that less than 20% of women and just over 20% of ethnic minorities make it to senior levels in firms.
D&I has historically been seen as an HR-led activity. And while this has enabled activity, it has sometimes prevented a clear relationship between the business strategy and the D&I strategy.
With so many initiatives in place, why does progress remain slow? The answer is inevitably multi-faceted. Leadership is key. D&I has historically been seen as an HR-led activity. And while this has enabled activity, it has sometimes prevented a clear relationship between the business strategy and the D&I strategy. Only when D&I is truly embedded in the firm’s culture and leadership behaviours do we begin to see sustainable improvement.
We also know that inclusive leaders cast a long shadow. Having a CEO who leads from the front – as is the case at Hogan Lovells – is critical. However, it’s also important to focus on the development of leaders at all levels to ensure D&I is built into the culture, while supported (but not owned) by HR.
Resource and budget is another challenge. Most firms have a stated objective to achieve better outcomes for diverse people, but they also need to have the means of driving this change. D&I responsibility is often coupled with another ‘day job’. Investment in tools to support leaders is critical, and it needs to be regularly refreshed, not a one-off.
Conversely, initiative overload can also be a risk – plenty of activity but with little measurement of the impact or effect. To increase their effectiveness, many firms are now looking beyond D&I as a series of separate strands (gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity) to more multi-dimensional solutions, with an integrated approach that leverages talent across diverse groups.
But there is also now a sense of urgency. Perhaps because we’ve been having this conversation for a decade, there hasn’t been the imperative for change. That time is now. The rise of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have been a catalyst, and the industry is responding. While still valuable and important, interventions are extending beyond celebrations of Black History Month or International Women’s Day, to more targeted efforts that bring firms and clients together to share best practice to effect change faster in the sector.
This article originates from Briefing October 2018: Win with the new