The oil industry has some great female role models among its leaders – just here in Aberdeen, Deirdre Michie and Colette Cohen spring immediately to mind.
But overall, with women representing only one in four of the talent pool, there is still work to do at every level – to encourage more girls in school to take and keep up with Stem subjects and then enter Stem careers, and to stick with those careers when they have a family, so that they can ultimately reach senior executive level.
There is also a challenge to attract more workers from diverse ethnic backgrounds. Oil and Gas UK set up its Diversity and Inclusion Task Force in 2019 to tackle this issue.
And for those of you thinking this is just another example of political correctness, quite apart from the moral case for ensuring all members of society have equal opportunities to reach their full potential, there is ample evidence that more diverse workforces produce better business outcomes.
The legal function within the industry probably does better than most in terms of female representation. However, as a whole, the profession has its own challenges with diversity and inclusion. In December we celebrated 100 years since the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act which allowed women to become solicitors and barristers for the first time. The profession has made great strides since then, with women now making up 62.1% of new entrants and 50.8% of practising solicitors. But this proportion erodes through the seniority levels so that women make up only 30.1% of partners in private practice.
At CMS we regularly compare our diversity data to wider society to put the demographics of our firm into context, inform our priorities and adjust our strategy.
We are slightly ahead of the profession with more than 32% women in our partnership and are proud to have 46% women on our board, against a national average of 26%.
We also have 48% female heads of department-directors, versus a national average of 35% female managers. Twenty-seven percent of our board members are from the first generation of their family to go to university, and 23% attended a non-selective state school. However, only 7% of fee earners self-describe as black and minority ethnic (Bame) so we have more to do in this direction.
We do not have specific gender or diversity targets, but senior leaders make diversity and inclusion a priority and are accountable for delivering success in accordance with our values. Visible role models and following through on policies are both important. It is not just about women in senior roles. It is important to foster diversity at all levels through developing a flexible mind-set and supportive culture which embraces mentoring and agile working and eliminates unconscious bias.
We are committed to developing a culture which supports a shared responsibility for managing a successful work-life balance and prioritises our people’s wellbeing but we recognise this is an ongoing challenge. We have a number of initiatives in place to promote diversity and inclusion. Here are some things you can do to promote diversity:
• Our standout maternity and adoption leave policies offer new parents and carers 26 weeks’ pay at 100% salary, followed by 13 weeks’ statutory pay. These conditions are also extended to shared parental leave, enabling mothers to end their maternity leave and share the untaken balance of leave and pay with their partner. As a first in the city of London, we offer a no “claw back” of the enhanced pay period if parents do not return to work for 12 months after leave, as well as an option to apply for an extended period of unpaid leave after the leave ends. To manage the transition from working individual to parent, we also offer cutting-edge parental coaching, incorporating Myers Briggs psychometric profiling. We have initiated an open forum around parental leave encouraging employees who have benefitted from shared parental leave to share their experiences.
• Time Out, No Questions Asked – to promote a healthy work-life balance and support our people’s aspirations and wellbeing, we have introduced an inspiring initiative offering all staff the opportunity to take one month of unpaid leave, per year (on top of their standard annual level), no questions asked.
• Progressive work allocation – supported by 30% Club research, we have taken a technology-focused approach to work allocation which ensures an even distribution of work and eliminates bias.
• Our various networks to promote inclusion focus on Women, LGBT+, Bame, Enable (connecting those with disabilities or mental health issues and their allies), Social Mobility, Family and Carers, and each of the major religions.
Penelope Warne, senior partner, CMS