Junior women’s focus groups and action plan
Although many women enter the legal sector, statistics show that representation drops at partnership level. Addressing this pool of unrealised talent is a key focus for Hogan Lovells, and the firm’s Global Diversity Plan has targets of 25% of women in partnership by 2017 and 30% by 2025. Following internal audits and analysis, data revealed that female junior associates are disproportionately lost at early stages, leading to a lack of gender diversity in the talent pipeline and low numbers of women coming through to partnership. To address this, a sub-group of the Women’s Network was created to look at initiatives specifically focusing on junior women.
The sub-groups initially ran voluntary and confidential focus groups for over 60 junior female lawyers, which were run by an external facilitator. The focus groups looked at underlying cultural issues that lead to poor female retention rates and informed the objectives of the sub-group to ensure they were targeted towards junior women’s needs. Following the focus groups, the facilitator put together a report with the following recommendations:
- Senior leaders to lead on women’s progression and make it a core business priority
- Standardised promotion and work allocation processes, ensuring transparency and giving all employees confidence in career development systems
- Communicating the business case for becoming an agile organisation, making flexible working the norm and training managers to manage agile teams
- Demonstrating visible leadership on tackling bullying and harassment, and communicating a zero tolerance policy
- Investing in training for managers and ensuring they have support from senior leadership to shift attitudes and behaviours
These recommendations were reported to a senior working group who put together an action plan for the firm focused on addressing each of the issues outlined in the report. The plan included the following actions:
- Launching an agile working policy which enables all employees to request agile working, and requiring group managers and business services heads to ask team members if they want to request agile working
- Refreshing and re-launching the mentoring programme, including providing guidance documents for mentor and mentees and an awareness-raising session for junior lawyers
- Launching a shadow diversity and inclusion committee which contributes to diversity thinking and represents the views of employees at all levels, regions and practices
- Reviewing the work allocation pilot and launching it in other practice areas
- Providing partner training on having regular feedback conversations
These recommendations were fed back to the junior sub-group who created their own plan, with actions including:
- Focusing on workplace bullying and harassment, including hosting a talk by the Everyday Sexism Project’s Laura Bates and producing a blog from the managing partner
- Providing information on processes, initiatives and policies junior lawyers wanted to know more about via an intranet site
- Launching ‘soundbite’-style mentoring relationship with role models in different areas who can provide one-off advice on specific topics
- Adding men to the sub-group’s steering committee and asking the Women’s Network to do the same
Both the senior working group and junior sub-group regularly meet to discuss progress and next steps. Hogan Lovells’ UK managing partner also regularly meets with the junior sub-group to discuss the plan and continued cultural changes the firm can address. The actions and progress against them are fed back to junior lawyers via the network’s newsletter, and the network continually seeks feedback from them.
The steering committee has also run a number of events including a session where junior lawyers can bring their client counterparts, which gives them the freedom to network among themselves, and a talk on women in leadership by the journalist Harriet Minter.
Engagement with the network has increased due to the newsletter and events run by the steering committee. Feedback from internal and client attendees at events has been excellent and there has been an overwhelming response to a recent request for new steering committee members. As a result of the focus groups and action plan, the junior sub-group is also now a network in its own right.
2018 plans include refreshing the firm’s bullying and harassment policy, with training for line managers and an awareness-raising campaign, and updating the network’s terms of references and objectives to ensure it represents the population’s diverse interests.