Women's Leadership Programme
In 2010, after an internal analysis that found Linklaters’ gender split was 50/50 at graduate level but less than 20% of partners were female, Linklaters launched its Gender Action Plan. The Women’s Leadership Programme (WLP) was launched as part of the Gender Action Plan in 2012 as a European pilot with 23 participants. It has since been rolled out globally and is now in its fourth cohort.
The programme is aimed at high-performing female managing associates (MAs) who have demonstrated commitment to personal development. To ensure the programme’s success, it was tailored to the organisation in conjunction with a leading UK business school and senior leaders were actively involved from the beginning.
Eligible individuals are emailed by the Senior Partner when the application process launches and encouraged to apply through submitting an application form and a supporting statement from a partner. Selection decisions are made at regional level.
The seven-month programme focuses on giving participants wider networking opportunities and necessary skills to help them become partners. The programme includes two formal learning events, monthly training and skills advice from the business school and senior partners and individual coaching. Participants are guided to overcome challenges they experience in their careers and develop strategies for success.
Linklaters also established the role of male and female Sponsor Partners in a development partnership with participants. Sponsors hold monthly conversations with participants to support and challenge progress and facilitate participants’ access to the Sponsor Partner’s network. Through the programme, Sponsor Partners share knowledge, skills, information and perspective to foster participants’ personal and professional growth and learn about female MAs’ experiences in the firm.
Participants report that the programme has provided clarity about what they want for their careers and helped them develop greater self-confidence to articulate their ambition. Many are now actively thinking about development and operating more strategically.
Sponsor Partners have benefited through supporting participants’ development and contributing to the wider firm, and are sharing their experience with other partners to become involved with future cohorts. The framework has also enabled the implementation of more structured career development across the firm with participants and sponsors organically discussing their experiences with colleagues.
Seven WLP alumni have been promoted to Partner (15% of promotions in the last two years, with 36% of partner promotions being women, exceeding Linklaters’ 30% target), and eleven have been promoted to Counsel (24% of promotions in the last two years with 37% of counsel promotions being women). In comparison, only 12% of partner promotions were women in 2013.
The programme is unique due to its tripartite model, which encourages individual, organisational and sponsorship objectives to be met and lasting behaviour and cultural change to be embedded.
Looking to the future, a review will take place to evaluate the impact of the programme. One of the key questions the review will ask is whether the programme is targeting the right level of women (i.e. would it be more beneficial to aim it at more junior levels?)