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Who are they?

Eversheds is one of the world’s largest corporate law firms – it has 53 offices in 30 countries across the world. The Cardiff office is the second biggest office in Eversheds, after its headquarters in London and is the working home of 490 people

What have they done?

Senior Partner Kathryn Roberts explains the steps they’ve already taken to 5050by2020 and the benefit they’ve seen from doing so.

“One of our key objectives must be to ensure that our workplace is a meritocracy and that talent and hard work are recognised and valued regardless of background, age race and gender.

Eversheds takes a very proactive approach to gender diversity and inclusivity. The legal profession perhaps isn’t one that you associate with gender diversity so we are having to work hard to promote gender equality internally and within our wider industry.

Our commitment to inclusivity, particularly focused on gender – is written into our strategy – our constitution I suppose – and it is and has to be a core objective for our Board and Senior Management team.

We are talking about changing a culture here so this needs to be led from the top, by senior men and women.

A key immediate objective for us is improving female representation in the partnership. Sponsorship of this drive is held by the most senior people within the business.

Our Partners are now measured not only on how much they bill and what new business they can win but on how they live the firm’s values, including their support of diversity and inclusivity.

There is no simple way of getting this right – it’s incumbent on us all to identify the issues within our businesses and do everything we can to remove them.

In 2011 the firm produced a Board Report, which included detailed research from top companies and financial institutions to identify the key challenges to achieving female representation at senior management level.

This also prompted us to get our own house in order.

Some of the key actions which were implemented in Eversheds were:

  1. The creation of a gender working party to drive this initiative
  2. Publicising internal and external role models to inspire more junior women;
  3. Creating a mentoring programme for women;
  4. Developing a career forum that significantly increases transparency around promotions – to remove any mystique or sense of exclusivity;
  5. To enhance our maternity policy, doing what we can to reduce the impact of maternity leave and improving the transition back to work, which we know can be a barrier to women progressing to more senior roles.”

What benefits have you seen?

“Since the establishment of the gender working party two years ago we have made real progress and have seen the following measurable improvements:

  • Rise in the % of female partners in our business from 21% to 24% ;
  • Percentage of female new partner promotions has risen from 30% to 60% in the last two years;
  • The percentage of women lawyers at all levels of seniority below partner has now stabilised at 50%.

Whilst great strides have been made we still have our work cut out to meet the 50/50 challenge and there is much more that we need to do.

I promised a second good reason for supporting gender balance in the private sector and that is that it makes very good business sense In 2013 Eversheds published its second Board Report, and one of the things that highlighted was the direct correlation between better-performing companies and a higher percentage of female board members.

There is widespread evidence to suggest that senior management teams which accurately reflect their workforce, and indeed their clients, are more successful.

Increasingly in our sector we see a serious commitment to diversity and gender balance as a key criteria in tenders for new business.

To win new work from international corporations we now have to provide explicit evidence that our business has the right culture – we have to ensure that our pitch teams, our client services team and our wider business are truly representative to make sure that we win and retain work from our clients.

So if the argument of justice doesn’t work then we need to appeal to the private sector’s commercial acumen and ensure that it’s understood that equal gender balance is likely to be critical to maintaining and growing your business.”