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In brief

In an article written to coincide with International Women’s Day 2023, Monica Kurnatowska looks at law firm diversity and the importance of an evidence-based approach to inclusion and diversity.

Key takeaways 

  • 8 March – International Women’s Day – is a moment to celebrate women’s achievements and a stark reminder of how far there is to go. In the legal profession, women comprise 60% of new entrants, but only 35% of partners.
  • Law firms are required to collect data on sex and ethnicity, but they should leverage that data to analyse barriers to progress at every stage from new entrants to the profession, annual evaluations, pay decisions, recruitment and partner promotion, and leaver data. They should use the outcome of that analysis to direct resources more effectively to the most impactful inclusion, diversity and equity (ID&E) initiatives.  
  • Work allocation should be considered through a diversity lens, and firms should also rethink coaching and development and the language used when feeding back to women. A common mistake is to say that the firm wants diversity, but then to coach people to match the current “norms”. In 2017 for example, Boston Consulting Group carried out a survey of its own workforce and found that lack of mentorship was the number one topic cited in leaver data.  Informed by this, the organisation focused on strengths-based development, coaching and improving connectedness between managers and employees. They reported an improvement in female employee retention, and improved satisfaction for both women and men.
  • Employers should design policies to reflect the specific needs of women, including topics such as menopause and domestic abuse, as well as maternity and flexible working. In developing policies, it is important to consult employee networks and affinity groups – but those groups should not carry the burden to fix the problem.
  • The full article was published in The Lawyer.

Monica Kurnatowska is a partner in the Firm's London office. She is a leading employment lawyer who is recognised by The Legal 500 and Chambers UK as a "highly respected, extremely impressive and an exceptional legal mind; she has a tremendous appreciation of the details." Monica is a member of the Consultation Board of PLC Employment Online and is a regular speaker at internal and external seminars and workshops.

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