Promoting BAME inclusivity in the workplace: A toolkit for firms

We’re committed to promoting diversity and inclusion (D&I) within the legal profession, to reflect the diversity of our society.

This toolkit is designed to give firms practical advice, tools and inspiration to improve D&I in their workforce. It’s been put together using feedback from our D&I regional forums.

Using a diversity calendar can be useful when planning events. These mark events including:

  • religious festivals
  • Pride celebrations
  • celebrations like International Women’s Day

Try Inclusive Employers’ calendar or the calendar by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

Promoting employee inclusivity helps raise awareness about black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) achievement and celebrate difference.

From a business point of view, promoting inclusivity can even help firms to meet their objectives.

The business benefits of promoting diversity have been highlighted in several reports.

In 2017, the CIPD reported that Britain could add £24 billion to GDP if full BAME representation was achieved in the labour market.

Race in the workplace: The McGregor-Smith review (2017) suggested that proactively promoting inclusion led to a more engaged and connected work culture.

McKinsey & Company’s Delivering Through Diversity report (2018) claimed that companies in the top 25% for ethnic diversity were 33% more likely to achieve profit above the industry average EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes) margin than those in the bottom 25%.

According to these and others, promoting workplace inclusivity can:

  • help your firm become an employer of choice
  • recruit the best talent – publicise your BAME employee initiatives and events to applicants
  • encourage diverse entrants to the profession and improve retention, aiding social mobility
  • improve performance, as diverse teams can be more productive
  • win formal recognition and awards
  • form part of corporate social responsibility – open to community
  • attract a wider client base
  • improve client feedback and retention
  • reduce the likelihood of discrimination claims

Employers that want to improve the diversity and inclusivity of their workforce can ask themselves these questions to help decide what action is needed.

  • What information do we have about the issue (for example, reports and feedback)?
  • What does it tell us?
  • What information do we lack?
  • What information would we like to have?
  • How are we going to get it?

We’re committed to promoting diversity and inclusion within the legal profession to reflect the diversity of our society.

Based on Census data from 2011, BAME communities make up 14.1% of England and Wales’ total population (up 7.9% from 2001). This figure is predicted to increase to between 20 and 30% by 2050.

Data from our annual statistics series shows a gradual increase in the number of BAME solicitors in the profession, from 709 in 1990 to just over 20,000 in 2018.

Ethnic background of practising certificate (PC) holders (2001 to 2018)

BAME solicitors now represent 16.9% of PC holders with known ethnicity, or 14% of all PC holders.

% of BAME private practitioners and % of BAME partners, by firm size (2018)

Amongst BAME solicitors, women outnumbered men across all groups (72% of African-Caribbean solicitors were women), and Asian solicitors had the highest representation (8.2% of all PC holders).

BAME solicitors, by gender and ethnic group (2018)

Review the data

Diversity monitoring is an important means of implementing and promoting diversity in the workplace. Use the data you collect to help you design or amend HR policies that will attract and retain a talented workforce.

By comparing data gathered from various parts of your organisation, you can identify where you could benefit from broadening the talent pool.

You can also contrast these figures with the wider labour market to get an idea of whether you urgently need to address equality within your workplace.

If so, you should investigate how and why this bias might have developed.

It may be useful to look at the proportion of BAME solicitors in your region and compare your BAME staff data against the local BAME population.

BAME share of PC holders and BAME share of the general population, by region (2018)

Fostering a more inclusive workplace culture is not without its challenges. Barriers can include:

  • resources and budget
  • competing diversity priorities
  • fear of backlash from non-BAME staff

Critics of inclusivity argue it could lead to losing clients and could affect the bottom line.

Internally, there may not be enough BAME employees – some of them might feel increased pressure to take part, or fear being labelled or “pigeonholed”.

GDPR may make it more challenging to connect with or engage different groups of employees.

Events

  • Panel sessions – organise an event where you bring together a panel of BAME speakers. The topics could range from success stories and getting into leadership roles to intersectionality
  • Diversity workshops – ideas might include ‘bringing your whole self to work’ or ‘let’s talk about race’
  • Guest speaker spotlights – invite a BAME guest speaker from the legal or non-legal sector to talk about their career
  • Black History Month (BHM) quiz – raise money for a BAME charity by hosting a social quiz
  • Intersectional events – listen to and engage with the experiences of those with more than one minority identity
  • Food celebrations – invite staff to bring in dishes from their culture, for example hosting a Caribbean or Indian lunch
  • Religious and cultural festivals – recognise and celebrate festivals such as Diwali and Eid

Staff networks

  • BAME staff network – create a forum for staff to discuss and raise issues, as well as organising social events
  • Book club – this could focus on work by BAME and other minority authors
  • Mentoring and reverse mentoring
  • Allies

Communications

  • Social media – use your social channels to recognise events like BHM. For example, start a Twitter poll on the most iconic black person in the last 100 years. Share podcasts like this one: Is it important to celebrate diversity in the legal calendar?
  • Visuals and decorations – we had a free photographic exhibition with profiles of black and Asian lawyers. Celebratory flags for BHM can be flown above the building to mark the month

This section provides detailed examples of good practice from firms who have made BAME inclusivity a priority.

Herbert Smiths Freehills

Summary

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) is keen to attract and support BAME talent. BHM presented an opportunity to invite young aspiring black lawyers to the firm, whilst raising awareness of and celebrating black achievement.

Issue to be resolved

HSF has recognised that whilst the proportion of applications it receives from BAME candidates is representative of the student population, there is an issue with ensuring these candidates progress to the interview stage and then whether they accept vacation scheme and training contract offers.

Through its BAME Committee (a committee comprising trainee solicitors, with sponsorship from HSF's Multiculturalism Network) and the graduate recruitment team, HSF is engaged with a number of African and Caribbean Societies at universities across the UK and other diversity-focused organisations. The firm is also involved in several initiatives including being part of the first Aspiring Solicitor Black Mentoring Scheme.

The firm is keen to foster relationships with potential candidates from these groups. HSF is aware that it needs to demonstrate a highly diverse and inclusive culture at the firm with role models at all levels to encourage these candidates to choose HSF as their employer of choice.

Action taken

HSF's BAME Committee was keen to host an event specifically for BHM, recognising the importance of celebrating the month at the firm as part of HSF's wider goal of promoting an inclusive working environment.

This also presented an opportunity to build on HSF's connections with potential black candidates.

The BAME Committee arranged an evening with Catherine Johnson, a writer and now Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, who is known for her work in historical fiction. Collaborating with the graduate recruitment team, the BAME Committee invited students from HSF's partnered African and Caribbean Societies and members of organisations including Rare Recruitment Bright Network Black Heritage Group.

On the evening, Catherine shared her views on the importance of black history in education in an engaging and informative discussion led by a committee member of HSF's Multiculturalism Network.

Attendees were then able to network with members of the firm and engage in open discussion about BHM and the firm's work towards promoting diversity.

Result

The event was successful and feedback from the students in attendance was extremely positive. A partner in attendance said:

"Students were impressed we put on the event. Some expressed surprise that we had not done more to spread the word about it at their universities and thought this would be a good way to raise our profile in this area."

HSF has taken on board this feedback and will do more to promote future outreach events. The BAME Committee has more such targeted events on its agenda.

Addleshaw Goddard

Summary

Addleshaw Goddard (AG) is a proactive member of the Race Campaign, a Business in the Community race equality initiative, which “stands to promote diverse leadership on boards and at senior level, diverse representation and progression in the workplace”.

In 2017, based around recommendations raised in the McGregor Smith Report, the firm established an internal BAME sponsorship programme, led by senior partners across the firm. The aim of this initiative is to progress initiatives linked to BAME attraction, career progression and retention in support of the firm’s diversity strategy.

Issue to be resolved

AG is conscious of the need to do more to increase the ethnic diversity of its trainee population. Its ambition is to enhance the diversity mix of its workforce and be an inclusive place to work.

The firm is also keen to build a BAME network and establish a series of initiatives with meaningful outcomes.

Action taken

AG has held several BAME events across its offices which have been opened up to external audiences. They have also held lunches to discuss a range of topics. Panel discussions have proved successful and the firm will continue to roll out this programme.

In June 2019, the firm piloted a BAME lunch event for colleagues, engaging with colleagues from across the office and providing a platform for experience and ideas sharing.

To increase the ethnic diversity of AG’s trainee population, the firm has invested in a relationship with the Bright Network, which “seeks to connect bright students with quality career opportunities”.

Over the last year AG has worked to establish an internal BAME sponsorship programme encouraging the support of the AG partnership group up to board level. This has formed several strategic alliances with a broad range of reputable networking organisations and business contacts to support the firm in its D&I ambitions.

The firms inclusion partners across AG’s ethnicity work stream have worked with other partners and the HR team to look at how they can build a BAME network and establish initiatives with meaningful outcomes.

The firm has collated excellent feedback and plans are ongoing for the coming months to expand on the work already done.

Panel events

AG has run a rolling flagship event with a panel of senior BAME role models within the legal sector and other professional service firms to encourage debate and outline the issues that the sector is facing. These are all inclusive but mainly target the BAME population.

The panel of specialists have so far talked at events in Leeds and Manchester with upcoming plans for London. The audience target is a mix of undergraduates, trainees and fee earners at all different levels. It provides an opportunity to listen to the career progression opportunities, how to overcome challenges and to ask senior people questions about their stories.

The events have the following objectives:

  • hear from some leading BAME players in the legal services sector
  • hear and learn about the panelists' experiences and obstacles they have had to overcome
  • debate and discuss strategies which the sector should adopt to ensure diversity and BAME inclusion
  • share positive experiences and tips for success
  • network with professionals and business people interested in this issue

The events present themselves as fantastic networking opportunities for attendees to build key relationships with BAME professional networks.

Both events helped AG to continue to seek opportunities to grow its reputation amongst students, clients and the wider business sector as a progressive employer in support of the wider BAME agenda.

The events are also crucial in creating role models and demonstrating success stories of BAME representatives who can encourage and provide guidance to anyone facing challenges.

Networking lunches

AG hosts informal networking lunches where internal BAME colleagues are invited to discuss with inclusion partners, and other internal role models, about how their careers have progressed within the firm and how they can be supported in their own career progression. Off the back of the lunches, AG develops mentoring and sponsorship opportunities.

Result

  • AG is closer to establishing a fully operational BAME network
  • The firm knows which employees are interested in deepening their involvement with BAME initiatives
  • There is a more open culture in terms of sponsorship and support
  • Feedback has been excellent from both internal and external events
  • Completion of an internal diversity audit has increased in terms of self-declaration

Eversheds Sutherland LLP

Summary

For Eversheds Sutherland (ES), BHM represents an opportunity to reflect on continuing efforts to promote inclusion and advance racial equality.

As part of the firm’s wider strategic goals, it has set targets to increase the representation of ethnic minorities across all levels of its UK business and to create an inclusive environment that reflects the world around us.

Issue to be resolved

ES knows that it needs to increase its current levels of ethnic diversity as its demographics are not as reflective of the wider population as they should be.

The firm is committed to changing this, which is reflected in its publication of UK BAME targets to help advance its efforts and focus in the area of ethnic diversity. These targets are:

  • all UK (including partners) – 14% by 2022 (currently 11.85% as at May 2019)
  • UK partners – 10% by 2025 (currently 5.33% as at May 2019)

ES announced its targets to increase representation of BAME colleagues in the run up to BHM.

Action taken

During BHM, ES ran a series of panel speaking events in its UK offices. The session explored the links between social mobility and race in the context of the legal profession.

To focus on widening participation and access to the profession, the firm used its networks and social media to open these events up to:

  • its candidate and talent pools
  • students
  • those currently working in the profession

One of ES’s core values and a key element of its D&I approach is collaboration. For these events, the firm invited its clients to join the group of panelists and to join in the open discussions about working together to address changes across the profession.

Having clients’ input not only helps to support the inclusion agenda more broadly but gives them an insight into the work that ES is doing to make a positive impact.

For the last two years, ES has also offered a paid work experience placement to eight BAME law students in conjunction with one of its clients. This gives the students the opportunity to experience both the in-house and private practice aspects of the profession.

ES recently produced a client ‘D&I Brochure’, clearly explaining its strategic goals and priorities in this area.

As part of the firm’s BHM celebrations, it also ran a ‘Let’s Talk About Race’ webinar with Business in the Community. Over 170 colleagues dialled into the session, which aimed to:

  • build confidence around acceptable language and terminology to use when talking about race
  • raise awareness of why speaking about race is necessary and how to best do this

Result

These events are part of ES’s ongoing efforts to increase ethnic diversity and embed an inclusive culture. Its D&I strategy sits at the heart of its core business goals, and the firm’s Ethnicity Network supports these activities and generates ideas to take forward.

Allen & Overy

Summary

At the highest levels of the legal industry, even in the most international firms, people from minority backgrounds are under-represented.

Movement on this issue has been slow, but Allen & Overy (A&O), like many firms, is trying to make faster progress. The firm is aiming to broaden representation of different races and ethnicities, particularly at senior levels.

Internally, A&O is focused on having conversations that can help make it a truly diverse and inclusive place. It aims to better understand the barriers that exist, such as lack of role models and unconscious bias, and undertake a range of initiatives to help address these.

Celebrating BHM is an opportunity to continue the conversation on ethnic and cultural diversity and celebrate our shared history and achievements.

Issue to be resolved

A&O wants to build a balanced workforce across the whole organisation. Ensuring people from different ethnic minority backgrounds are well represented is a priority for the firm and is something being tackled at a local level across its network of offices.

Internationally, groups that are under-represented in top professions differ from country to country, so A&O’s work focuses on addressing the specific issues that exist in each country.

Action taken

Where local regulations allow it, A&O asks its staff to record their race and ethnicity data so it has an accurate picture of its partners and employees and can track progress on increasing diversity across the business.

As well as attracting and recruiting more people of different races and minority ethnic backgrounds, A&O’s focus is on ensuring that its working environment is inclusive for everyone.

To help achieve this, the firm launched:

  • a ‘Race & Ethnicity @ A&O’ network in London
  • an Asian Affinity Group and Black and Latinx Affinity Group across both of its US offices

These work to promote role models and increase awareness of cultures.

In London, A&O has celebrated BHM twice. 2018’s celebrations included a talk with David Olusoga about the contributions made by black Britons who have shaped our society.

Sandie Okoro, senior vice-president and general counsel at the World Bank, joined to discuss her career and experience advocating for diversity and inclusion. Finally, Sir Trevor McDonald OBE discussed his experiences as one of the first black newsreaders on TV.

In 2019, David Olusoga came back to talk about the Windrush generation, and the office hosted the 56 Black Men exhibition and an event with its creator, Cephas Williams.

The 56 Black Men project features 56 photographs of black men wearing hoodies. Cephas talked about the conception of the project and how he is working to challenge the stereotypes black men face in the media. The images include politicians, teachers and business managers.

Often the barrier to race and ethnic diversity is a fear of talking about it. Celebrating BHM helps to:

  • open up that conversation
  • recognise the contributions of black Britons to British society
  • dispel unhelpful stereotypes and myths where they exist

A&O has also introduced a reverse mentoring programme and is publishing regular interviews – ‘conversations about race’ – with colleagues, as dialogue promotes openness and understanding around these issues.

In the UK, A&O was one of the first major law firms to report on its ethnicity pay gap, alongside its gender pay gap, in the hope that transparency would drive more action and progress.

At a graduate recruitment level, A&O works in several ways to ensure that it recruits from a diverse candidate pool.

This includes working with organisations, such as Rare Recruitment in the UK, to promote the firm’s opportunities to diverse communities. The firm also works with other external organisations including Aspiring Solicitors and NOTICED.

Result

The Race & Ethnicity @ A&O network has been set up to:

  • support and mentor lawyers and other professionals
  • raise awareness of BAME matters
  • encourage understanding across the firm
  • help recruit and retain diverse talent

The activities of the network group support the wider business objective and strategy of building a more representative workforce, along with initiatives such as profiling BAME role models, to start a more open and candid dialogue about race and ethnicity.

Hogan Lovells

Summary

Over the past year, Hogan Lovells (HL) has undertaken several actions to address the issue of BAME retention, progression and inclusion at the firm, resulting in the launch of a new BAME network.

HL’s BAME network will focus on improved race fluency, discussion and education. It will seek to eliminate any race-based micro-aggressions whilst encouraging questions and curiosity from fellow peers.

The firm is committed to becoming a leader in diversity and inclusion, so that all its people can be themselves and feel empowered to succeed.

HL knows that diversity makes it a better law firm and helps attract the best talent, drive innovation, and deliver the best experience for clients.

Issue to be resolved

HL has a strong track record in graduate recruitment, having seen a significant increase in the percentage of training contracts accepted by BAME candidates to 31% in 2018/19.

However, the firm has seen that representation of its BAME talent drops off as seniority increases. It commissioned an external consultancy, Caerus Executive, to explore how to increase progression and retention and promote a more inclusive culture for the firm's BAME employees.

Action taken

The key recommendations from the Caerus Executive consultancy exercise included:

  • establishing an employee network with a focus on race and ethnicity
  • developing 'race fluency' within the firm to enable more open conversations around race
  • increasing the visibility of BAME talent, particularly at senior levels

HL is in the process of establishing a new BAME network called Race & Ethnicity at Hogan Lovells (REAHL) which is co-chaired by Liam Naidoo (counsel) and Abena Poku (senior business development manager).

Practice group leader and International Management Committee board member Michael Davison will also support the network as executive sponsor.

Result

REAHL has created terms of reference which set out the goals and aspirations of the network, which are aligned with the firm's overall strategic objectives.

BHM 2019 provided a timely opportunity to launch REAHL while also celebrating the achievements of black Britons and encouraging colleagues to be curious and engage in conversations around race.

BHM 2019 at HL was themed 'The Impact of Black Britons' and included multiple events covering African art exhibitions, Afro-Caribbean cuisine, Afrobeat dance classes, and fun facts in the firm’s weekly bulletin.

HL collaborated with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, SMO Contemporary Art and the BBFA to launch a ground-breaking art exhibition titled 'No Room for Fear' in which 13 artists presented works.

Reggie Yates was the guest speaker at HL’s biggest event of the month. During the event, Reggie discussed several topical issues including the significance of authenticity in the workplace, mental health and why difference should be celebrated. The event was a collaboration between Hogan Lovells and NOTICED, an inter-firm diversity organisation.

Mills & Reeve

Summary

Mills & Reeve is keen to support a more inclusive workforce, including BAME.

To achieve this, the firm has looked at various ways in which it can raise awareness across the business. BHM is an opportunity to highlight BAME achievement and promote inclusion.

BAME solicitors are under-represented in the profession and face barriers at the point of entry, retention and progression. The firm is committed to reducing these barriers and attracting and supporting BAME talent.

Issue to be resolved

The firm wants to make sure it:

  • raises issues regarding barriers to BAME people entering the law profession
  • enhance recruitment practices so they are more inclusive to BAME candidates
  • raise awareness of BAME issues across the firm, including intersectionality

Action taken

The firm ran several initiatives during BHM 2019.

‘Let’s Talk About Race – an intersectional approach’ panel event

This event raised issues around BAME and multiple identities, or intersectionality. Often race is a taboo subject when discussing D&I. The firm wanted to raise issues regarding intersectionality and how mental health and sexual orientation may affect BAME communities.

The session covered issues such as:

  • how BAME communities have more adverse experiences and negative outcomes within mental health services (and how this could impact staff in the workplace)
  • racial bias
  • stigma, fear and secrecy – cultural issues regarding mental health
  • sexual orientation and faith
  • coming out as BAME LGBT+ in the workplace

Recruitment for BAME network

Mills & Reeve developed terms of reference for the BAME network to:

  • support the firm’s priorities to enhance BAME inclusion
  • increase awareness
  • provide an internal support resource

These were shared with the firm in addition to recruiting members.

Promoted BAME learning

During October, Mills & Reeve launched its new Learning Management System (LMS). To coincide with BHM, staff were informed about racial bias and unconscious bias training and invited to complete the course.

Intersectionality/recruitment

To support the firm’s work in addressing recruitment, BAME and social mobility, Mills & Reeve had a soft launch of their forthcoming BAME legal award in partnership with Birmingham Black Lawyers (BBL).

A student will be offered work experience in Mills & Reeve’s Birmingham office, a mentor and funds to support them with their studies. This will be via an application process which will be assessed by BBL. The work experience will commence in early 2020.

Hosted BBL event

The event provided an opportunity to bring together BAME students and lawyers. It included entertainment, inspirational speeches from lawyers and an opportunity to network with legal professionals.

Promotion on intranet (Mercury)

Throughout the month there were internal announcements that raised issues and awareness across the firm. These included:

  • Windrush – history and recent Windrush scandal regarding rights to remain in the UK
  • black Britons who have made an impact within the UK in a range of sectors
  • black achievers both in the UK and worldwide
  • training and awareness information and videos
  • raising the profile of the BAME network

Result

The initiatives described are part of a long-term programme to enhance BAME inclusion within the firm.

Reporting and monitoring regarding impact will be discussed at the firm’s Diversity and Inclusion Steering Group.

Weightmans

Summary

Weightmans is committed to developing and maintaining a more diverse and inclusive workforce, particularly around BAME. To achieve this, the firm is looking at ways in which it can raise awareness across the business around issues that impact BAME employees.

BAME solicitors are under-represented in the profession and face barriers at the point of entry, retention and progression. The firm is committed to reducing these barriers and attracting and supporting BAME talent.

BHM is an opportunity to highlight BAME achievement and promote inclusion. As part of its BHM commemoration activities, Weightmans took the opportunity to organise a BAME-focused speed networking event which included an inspiring keynote speech from a leading BAME lawyer, Harold Brako.

The event was aimed at creating a platform for staff and a cross section of guests (from within the profession and other professional circles) to discuss some of the barriers and issues related to BAME representation within the profession.

The goal is to build on the momentum of the BHM event to create a BAME roundtable event that sees both members of the profession and other stakeholders, like clients and recruiters, coming together to share best practice and lessons learned.

In the longer term, Weightmans hopes these activities will lead to the creation of vibrant BAME staff networks which are active across the country. This will help to provide:

  • BAME staff access to internal resources that can support them on their journey
  • the space for non-BAME staff to get involved and champion diversity initiatives across the board

Issue to be resolved

Research into this area has shown that businesses with diverse teams outperform those without and ultimately this positively impacts the bottom line.

Organisations with a poor track record of D&I often have poor representation across the board and this is an issue that has plagued the legal profession for quite some time.

The knock-on effect is that there are very few senior role models within the profession that upcoming BAME lawyers can identify with. This runs the risk of reinforcing age-old stereotypes about the profession.

Weightmans is committed to ensuring that it is a fully inclusive and diverse workplace and is continually looking into ways to improve in this area.

As the business becomes more inclusive, Weightmans is keen to put mechanisms and support in place to ensure that all employees feel that they belong and can achieve their full potential.

Action taken

Weightmans, working collaboratively with the Law Society, sponsored the BHM BAME Speed Networking event.

The event was open to all Weightmans staff and a cross section of guests, which included other law firms and professionals from the finance sector and public sector. The event was widely publicised by both Weightmans and the Law Society to ensure maximum exposure.

The event had three key objectives:

  • to highlight that senior BAME role models do exist
  • to promote dialogue around topical BAME-related issues with both BAME and non-BAME professionals
  • to equip BAME professionals with targeted networking tips to ensure that, as they progress and build up their respective networks, they have the tools to help them succeed

Following on from the event, a future roundtable event is planned to further address some of the BAME-related issues that have been identified and to build consensus around steps to help address some of these issues.

Several other initiatives are either underway or being planned, including the creation of BAME staff networks, internal policy updates, and recruitment and retention initiatives.

Result

The event has helped raise awareness and stimulated discussions internally around BAME-related issues.

New networks have been created with attendees and the firm is exploring opportunities for collaboration.

Stewarts

Summary

Stewarts is the UK's largest litigation-only solicitors’ firm. They specialise in high-value and complex disputes, working for both corporate and individual clients.

The principles of diversity, equality and inclusion are important to Stewarts and are embedded in the ethos and culture of the firm.

The firm is committed to providing a workplace which embraces diversity and encourages innovation and opportunity for all, which adds value and contributes to the success of the firm and the wellbeing of their staff.

It’s important that its partners and staff can share perspectives, life experiences and ideas in an inclusive environment.

Issue to be resolved

The firm’s Inclusion Committee conducted a D&I staff survey in 2018 which identified cultural diversity as one of three areas that were most important to partners and staff (the others being mental health and well-being and gender).

As there had been no formal committees or employee networks advocating around inclusion issues prior to 2018, there had not been a coherent plan to highlight issues affecting, or that were important to BAME partners, staff in the firm and the wider profession.

On an individual and more ad hoc basis, raising awareness of various inclusion issues was always supported by the firm. There were also fewer BAME employees at Stewarts in previous years.

BHM, like other cultural dates of significance, is an excellent opportunity to raise awareness within the firm and start the conversation on cultural diversity and inclusion.

Action taken

In 2018, led by two members of staff and with the support of the Inclusion Committee, Stewarts celebrated BHM for the first time. They had an article on its intranet and African and Caribbean snacks brought into the firm’s offices in Leeds and London.

These initiatives were well received and opened up the space for dialogue on ethnicity and race. This success was built on significantly for BHM 2019.

The Inclusion Committee was established in February 2018 to ensure that D&I issues were addressed, actions and objectives were defined and mapped and outcomes were measured, broadly employing a D&I Maturity Matrix to track the firm’s progress.

The firm also created Diversity Champions, who are individuals across the firm who champion D&I, work directly with the Committee and provide support to partners and staff.

Stewarts also has focus groups, broadly organised around the protected characteristics, whose aim is to focus on objectives, raise awareness and share ideas with each other and the Committee.

The cultural diversity focus group has been crucial to planning and delivering BHM events at Stewarts.

Anyone in the firm can participate in the focus groups. While not formal employee networks, they give everyone who is interested an opportunity to contribute to D&I at Stewarts.

For a number of years, Stewarts has worked closely with external organisations that support BAME and/or socially disadvantaged individuals aiming for a career in law.

This includes offering short-term work placements but has also resulted in a more diverse paralegal pool at the firm, with more individuals identifying as BAME being recruited.

The firm is aware that challenges remain with progression to trainee level and beyond, and with increasing diversity at senior levels. This is an ongoing issue which Stewarts is reviewing and continually looking across the profession to identify potential solutions.

Several events and activities took place for BHM 2019. On the back of the positive reception of BHM celebrations the previous year, two members of staff, together with others in the cultural diversity focus group, Diversity Champions and members of the Inclusion Committee planned and executed the following:

Speaker events

Stewarts hosted two speaker events for staff in the Leeds and London offices. Both were at maximum capacity for attendance. The aim of the events was to open a healthy dialogue on diversity and have the difficult discussions surrounding the topic.

African-Caribbean food was served at both events to give people a literal taste of the BAME experience.

Satisfaction surveys were circulated after both events and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive with 100% of those who responded rating the events as good or excellent.

The surveys invited suggestions for future events and the responses indicated that staff would welcome more events on diversity and inclusion.

Leeds event

‘Where do you stand’ with Martin Pemberton (ex-footballer). Martin focused on conscious/unconscious bias, identity issues affecting people of mixed heritage, and offered some solutions on how to address BAME issues with children of multiple ethnic backgrounds.

The speaker’s central point was that we shouldn’t make assumptions about people based on their race/gender/age but instead judge people on what they do and say.

He made clear his view that the first step towards tackling prejudice is to accept we all have prejudices we have learned/acquired over the years.

London event

Breaking barriers and shaping the future’ with Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu and Dr Tunde Okewale MBE. This event focused on intersectionality, the lack of diversity in the legal field and the problematic definitions and constructs surrounding diversity.

Portrait gallery

The firm created a portrait gallery of influential black Britons, mainly contemporary figures, which was displayed in both offices.

The aim of the gallery was to celebrate achievements of individuals who resonate with and provide inspiration for many of Stewarts’ BAME – and non-BAME – staff. The portraits, which had short bios attached, also educated partners and staff about BHM and the contribution of these individuals to British culture.

Published biographies

Fuller biographies of each of the individuals featured in the portrait gallery were published throughout the month on the firm’s intranet homepage.

An article explaining BHM and its origins was published at the start of the month as well as information on some of the other BHM events that were taking place in London and Leeds, particularly events aimed at the legal sector.

A dedicated BHM page was created on the intranet to collate all the bios and articles published.

Screensavers

Screensavers, displayed on all Stewarts’ office PCs after a period of inactivity, were created with bite-sized facts about notable achievements. Examples included Eric Irons, the first Black magistrate in Britain and Dina Asher-Smith’s 2019 World Championship win.

BHM promotion

BHM was also featured on the Stewarts website. The firm and individual staff posted on social media about the above activities, which were then shared by Stewarts and other staff members. This broadened the audience considerably.

Result

BHM 2019 at Stewarts was supported across the firm, with senior management taking an active role in shaping plans, participating in events and facilitating budgets. There was very high engagement across the firm with all the events and activities.

In accordance with the Inclusion Committee’s wider strategy, the cultural diversity focus group is currently drafting medium to long-term objectives which will be presented to the committee.

The committee will review the objectives and planned actions with the focus group. Agreed actions will be taken forward by the focus group, working with relevant other areas of the business as identified. The focus group will update the committee regularly on progress.