In today’s corporate discussion, diversity has become a real buzz word. And rightfully so: the way we work to eliminate discriminatory behavior and promote equal opportunities will shape our future. A workplace with diverse talent enhances creativity and innovation, which contributes to a more stimulating work environment. The fact that mixed teams of decision-makers are more innovative and successful in financial terms is particularly well received by the business community.
The comprehensive study by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company entitled, “Women in the workplace 2018” compiled data from 222 American companies (almost 12 million people) answering a survey about their HR practices, as well as input data from 70,000 American employees relaying their experiences regarding gender and career opportunities. According to the companies leading the research, it was the largest study of its kind.
The conclusion from the study was that company commitment to gender diversity at that point was at an all-time high for the fourth year in a row. Despite this commitment, progress continues to be too slow—and may even be stalling. One of the most powerful reasons for this is that we have blind spots when it comes to diversity, and we cannot solve problems that we do not see or understand clearly.
In the legal community in Finland and Sweden, the main diversity focus is on gender equality. The legal community has next to no barriers to entry for women; more than 60% of the students admitted to study law at local universities are women. However, the number of women reaching top positions in the legal community – particularly in law firms – is still very low.
The main challenge is and continues to be creating equal opportunities for men and women during the full span of their careers. This is a delicate balancing act between the demands of the clients, of society, and of the women (and increasingly also men) themselves – especially when considering balancing work and other commitments, such as family.
How to Embrace Diversity in the Workplace
To achieve equality, we must turn good intentions into concrete actions. Together, we can create sustainable ways of working that will promote equality, not only in our industry but in any area of business:
- Increase awareness of the undesired effects that unconscious bias has through information. See that the topic is constantly a top priority and allocate both time and money to tackle it.
- Hold inclusive leadership workshops for employees at every level in your organization.
- Train your recruitment professionals to avoid biases in the hiring process, ensuring equal opportunities for the candidates, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation or any other factors.
- Review your performance and reward management processes regularly to avoid the potential impact of unconscious bias in career- and compensation-related decision-making.
- Work with others outside of your own community or firm. Join boards, participate in awards committees and other organizations that promote equality. This will give you an excellent opportunity to review and benchmark your work and learn from other participants.
Diversity and equality are much more than written rules or statements – they are measurable actions. Our intentions must be visualized and put forward. Equality must be shown in practice, not only in the legal community but in society at large.
This is a responsibility we all must share.
This blog was contributed by NBForum 2019 partner Roschier. Written by Gisela Knuts, Roschier Partner and Head of Helsinki Office.