In late 2018, we published the Profile of the Profession report and our response to it. That report was a chance to reflect on the progress we collectively have made, whilst also noting the work we still need to do to achieve an equal, diverse and inclusive profession.
Since then, we have built on this by working closely with the profession and, in the second half of 2019, we asked members to host roundtables focusing primarily on gender equality. Organisations – law firms, in-house teams and local faculties - hosted these and the discussions focused on a number of important matters. These organisations sent in their findings and we’ve compiled overview documents on four main topics: flexible working, bias, bullying & harassment and the gender pay gap.
To a large extent, these chime with the challenges set by the Minister for Community Safety for the profession last summer: to end bullying and harassment immediately; to adopt family friendly flexible working policies by 2023; and to see a 50/50 gender balance of at partnership level by 2028.
As we grapple with the challenges of Covid-19, we know there may be some who ask why we are focusing on equality and diversity now? The answer is simple: even in these difficult times – indeed perhaps more importantly than ever – the promotion of equality and diversity is the right thing to do. We have made so much progress in recent years towards equality in the profession that we cannot slide backwards.
The four issues focused on by the roundtables give telling insights from across the profession. We acknowledge these issues cannot easily be compartmentalised. In fact, they flow through each other. For instance, bias will likely play a role in shaping attitudes about flexible working and is one of many reasons behind the gender pay gap. We did ask groups to focus on these areas, so they could explore complex issues in a safe, structured way these important issues and feed their thoughts back to us.
The four reports are fascinating, if at points difficult reading. We thank the many members who took part in the roundtables for their candour and the spirit in which they took part in the process. We know the discussions were not always comfortable but they were necessary and all in the profession should be thankful they took place.
We would urge all in the profession to consider them and consider what they, and their organisations, could do to help build a more inclusive profession.
The Equality & Diversity Committee of the Society will now look at these reports in detail and and we will publish a way forward in the summer of 2020. In the meantime, we would encourage you to read the reports. They give a unique and telling insight into the experience of our members. Their stories are important and we would encourage all in the profession to consider them.
If you have any questions or require advice on your gender equality journey please contact firstname.lastname@example.org