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Sarah Gregory, Equity Partner at Baker McKenzie discusses improving ethnic minority representation across the business by introducing ethnicity workforce targets.
At Baker McKenzie we believe that having a more ethnically and culturally diverse Firm is integral to how we practice and deliver relevant client service. We want our Firm to be diverse at all levels and across all strands of diversity, including ethnically and culturally, so that it better reflects the society we live and work in. That is why this year as part of our gender pay gap report we also published our ethnicity pay gap, together with a range of practical measures, including introducing ethnicity workforce targets in London, to ensure better ethnic minority representation across our business and at senior levels. We will be working towards achieving (or maintaining) as a minimum, 14% BAME representation through all levels of the Firm, with a specific focus on partnership and senior leadership levels.
This is an extremely positive step for the Firm and the legal profession more generally, and one which we hope will bring about real and lasting change. We see these targets building on our ongoing initiatives and commitment as a Firm to recognise and celebrate the talent of our diverse workforce and to ensure greater pull-through rates of ethnic minority colleagues at the top levels of the Firm.
Our journey first started in 2007 and initially the focus was on our graduate recruitment process, but it, of course, takes time for these employees to advance to senior levels and become partners. Our focus has now shifted to ensuring our organisational structures are designed to support the diversity of our pipeline of talent. We have also introduced initiatives such as the Colour Brave campaign launched in our London office in 2017 which aims to engage allies and ensure that they are confident talking about matters of race and ethnicity. It's all about embracing difference and being comfortable doing so, as well as accepting that sometimes this may mean changing our own behaviours to ensure that all our talent can thrive.
One of the ways in which we demonstrate our Colour Brave advocacy is by championing our employees and protecting them when, for example, a client made an inappropriate comment in relation to race recently. Although it was difficult, we spoke to the client and made them aware of our zero tolerance to any bias. Our Inclusion Champion platform enables us to support our people to be brave and to give feedback and to deal with these situations with candour and respect. We have training for all employees on respect at work that includes scenarios of this nature; and which is more in-depth for senior leaders, who are the ones who have the responsibility for ensuring that any inappropriate behaviour is dealt with.
People are learning a huge amount through training and there also needs to be a focus on individual support and accountability through a combination of informal learning, mentoring circles and sponsorship, which over time will support our organisational change. As one of the first signatories to the Race at Work Charter, we are also ensuring our plans are aligned to the Government's good practice recommendations.
Be brave, be honest and be prepared as an organisation to become comfortable with feeling uncomfortable as it is only then that we can understand our challenges and start making changes. Huge progress has been made to improve the representation and experience of ethnic minority colleagues in the workplace, but more needs to be done. Understanding and implementation needs to be consistent at all levels – from new recruits through to partners and senior management. This is not something that can be ‘just fixed’ with Leadership Programmes