Impact story promoting gender equity at Osborne Clarke

Osborne Clarke set out to increase the number of women partners and reduce its gender pay gap. This impact story outlines their approach towards more inclusive recruitment and embedding diversity and inclusion in their work environment.
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The challenge

During the Summer of 2022, Osborne Clarke introduced measures to reduce its gender pay gap and increase female representation in its partnership by 2025.

We set the target of 30% women in partnership by 2025 with the aim of improving gender equality among our senior hires, partner recruitment and promotion and succession pipeline over the next three years.

The action taken

To meet this target, we developed a Gender Action Plan, which included short and medium-term actions across key internal processes and policies that aimed to improve the gender balance in senior positions.

The integrated change programme has three core principles:
  • embedding an inclusive recruitment process which delivers balanced results at all levels of seniority
  • providing opportunities for progression and promotion which are fair and transparent and reflect the pool of talent available
  • challenging the firm to create a culture and environment which meets the needs of a modern workforce

Our Action Plan is inclusive of all women, including trans women and non-binary people.

The impact

Inclusive recruitment

We supported our hiring managers at the very start of the recruitment process to set clear and inclusive criteria for candidate requirements and provided Inclusive Hiring Skills Training.

We reviewed the language used in our role advertisements and application forms to ensure inclusivity and transparency around role flexibility, adjustments, avoiding use of biased language and unnecessary educational criteria.

Finally, we improved the objectivity of our interview and assessment process, for example, through increased use of technical exercises and the use of standardised interview questions.

Supporting progression

We delivered an OC Careers Speaker Series, with an average of 142 attendees per session and piloted our OC Careers Reflection Pods with OC Gender, the firm's gender network, targeting our female senior associates (SA).

We launched a new portal to help junior colleagues learn more about the destination roles in their career journey (for example, partnership) and increase transparency around career paths.

We developed local action plans with practice group leaders to meet their 2025 diversity targets and reviewed succession plans through a gender diversity lens to create a more diverse pool of talent for leadership.

Embedding diversity in our culture and working environment

To empower our people to take meaningful action in supporting colleagues from diverse or marginalised groups and proactively drive an inclusive culture we launched our Inclusion Allies Programme, which is focused on topics related to the firm's six diversity strands. More than 350 colleagues have signed-up to the rolling programme to learn practical skills to practice allyship.

We launched the Family and Carers group as a working group of our OC Gender employee network and expanded our reverse mentoring programme to include gender inclusion. We launched new benefits supporting employee wellbeing, reproductive sexual health, fertility, menopause and a new baby loss policy to support all affected parents.

We embedded a new diversity data monitoring system to deepen our understanding of recruitment, retention, work allocation and progression for underrepresented groups. Last year, we published Osborne Clarke’s first international statement of our shared D&I priorities and commitments, prioritising gender diversity across all international jurisdictions.

How have you measured the impact of your D&I initiative?

Improving recruitment

We’ve grown the number of female lateral hires. 38% of our oartner hires, 67% of our associate director hires and 65% of SA hires in 22-23 were women. All of these figures are higher than the baseline female representation in those groups, and higher than the five-year average recruitment rate.

Strengthening retention

We are not seeing statistical significance in the attrition rate for women or men at any level, with the top line data indicating that we have improved our retention of our senior female lawyers over the last two years.

Supporting progression

Following the first year of our Action Plan being in place, we were proud to promote 50% women in our most recent partner promotions.

Overall female representation in partnership has been growing 1% year-on-year for the last three years. We've also improved promotion rates for women moving from SA to AD roles over the last two years and seen a more noticeable improvement in promotion to SA from Associate.

What are the next steps for your initiative?

We're planning a number of steps to support our efforts in year two, including:

  • investing in a new applicant system to enable us to analyse diversity enquiries at recruitment stage
  • expanding of our hiring skills programme to encompass all our partners
  • reviewing OC Careers to reach more people and deliver stronger impact
  • developing best practice guidance around flexible working, to make it more attractive to colleagues
  • reviewing, updating and increasing our suite of family and carer friendly policies

What are your top tips for other organisations?

Follow the numbers

Invest in your data infrastructure to understand where you have the greatest challenges. Is it in promotion rates, lateral hires, attrition? Our plan is built from in-depth analysis of our pay gap reporting data as well as data from our finance and HR teams.

Big isn't always better

Sometimes we think big plans have to have big programmes. This doesn't always have to be the case. Sometimes small changes can make a big difference if the data clearly highlights a problem. For example, small education programmes, targeted reverse mentoring or specific policy enhancements can signal your intention and make a difference.

Leadership commitment matters

Change is not always comfortable, convenient or cheap, which is why commitment from the top, and across the business is critical to success. Leaders have to be willing to commit to doing things differently and be willing to make the case for change in order to shift the dial.

Commit to gender equality across the legal profession by signing the Women in Law pledge.

Embed meaningful lasting change in your workplace by using our Diversity and Inclusion Framework.

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