The journey towards equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) involves a long and winding road. As an organisation, you can make great strides but there are often alternative ways to do things, best practices constantly being introduced or tweaked and new ideas that come to the fore.
The fact that enhancing EDI within organisations is dynamic, can only be a good thing though. I would like to think that this means that people are looking to better themselves and their environment. At Blake Morgan we are constantly striving for improvement when it comes to equality, diversity and inclusion.
As with society, change within an organisation can take time, evolution rather than revolution but we are moving in the right direction. I have always been pushing on an open door within Blake Morgan when it comes to the subject of diversity.
Some of the steps we are taking include:
- Expanding our EDI Board
- Appointing an EDI specialist
- Signing the Women in Law Pledge
- Mentoring partnership.
Diversity and inclusion is not about making everyone the same – we are all born different; but we are nevertheless of equal value. There are many different paths you can take to make it to the same destination – a truly diverse and successful workplace. Taking a rugby analogy, by and large wingers don’t make great props – but you can’t play the game without two of each.
That being said, I am only too aware of the tendency in society to focus on the negative points of difference, not the positive, which in turn undermines confidence and aspiration in all but the most strong-minded ‘different’ individual.
As Chair of Blake Morgan, I want to make sure that we, as a firm, ensure that everyone gets the input and opportunity that they need to fulfil their potential. What we need and what we can give is different in every case – the secret to being a great employer is to ensure that we recognise the value of what is offered and are willing to provide what is needed to make the most of it.
Diversity and inclusion at the core
Diversity and inclusion should drive everything we do. We know that, apart from being good business sense, it’s just ‘right’. So how do we make sure that it is at the heart of what we do?
I think the real key is to embed diversity into our culture. For me, this breaks down into three focus points:
- Aspiration: how do we make Blake Morgan a place where all can aspire equally to all available roles irrespective of diversity characteristics?
- Challenges: what diversity related challenges do individuals experience in performing excellently and progressing – how do we overcome them?
- Voice: how do we empower individuals to speak up for change and most importantly to embrace the change they want for themselves.
Refreshing our EDI Board to evolve our strategy
Our EDI Board is tasked with making sure that we ‘walk the talk’. The Board is made up of our Inclusion Champions each of whom are tasked with promoting awareness of the challenges faced by individuals within a particular category. These include champions for LGBT+, Mental Health & Wellbeing, Gender, Social Mobility, Ethnicity & Beliefs, Family, and Disability & Neurodiversity. The role of the champions is to encourage constructive debate, and campaigning for change.
So far, the EDI Board has supported the development of our Smart Working Policy, a Gender Equality and a Mental Health and Wellbeing strategy, the formation of a group of LGBT ‘Allies’, and worked with Prime Pathways to law and other external partners.
I chair the committee, and our EDI Board is constantly evolving with new members joining and continuing the good work that has been going on for years. We welcome input from across the firm and anyone is able to get involved as an Inclusion Supporter.
A dedicated EDI specialist
Appointing an EDI specialist at the backend of 2021 was another stride in the right direction. It demonstrates the commitment the firm has to making EDI a core part of our culture. Victoria Hand devotes her time solely to EDI and to supporting our Inclusion Champions to develop strategy, action plans, campaigns and events. She will also be working with all of our Employee Networking Groups to ensure we are maximising engagement across the firm.
Women in Law Pledge
In November last year Blake Morgan announced its commitment to The Law Society’s Women in Law Pledge. This joint initiative of The Law Society, Bar Council of England and Wales, and Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) aims to create a more equal legal sector and brings gender equality to the forefront of the conversation.
By signing the Women in Law Pledge, we are signalling our commitment to the progress of gender equality, elimination of gender discrimination and to making positive change for the legal profession.
Our partnership with GROW Mentoring was launched in January this year, which is exciting. GROW Mentoring is a registered charity supporting diverse lawyers, addressing intersectionality within the legal profession and working with aspiring lawyers through one-to-one mentoring. Blake Morgan has had 37 colleagues sign up to act as mentors, including partners as well as more junior colleagues, and we are looking forward to supporting those who are just starting out on their legal career.
Supporting diverse talent
We must find ways to nurture and support talent wherever and in whomever we find it. I want Blake Morgan to be a firm that promotes aspiration for all, seeks to overcome challenges posed by the needs of diverse members of our community and gives everyone a voice to drive change in our organisation.
There may be bumps on the road but I know that we can change the way we work much faster than we ever thought possible and we have a better chance than ever to make our business truly diverse.
Kath Shimmin leads the Banking and Finance Team at Blake Morgan and was elected Chair in 2021. She has over 25 years’ experience in the finance sector, covering a huge range of client and transaction types.