Latham under fire for holding cooking event for female network

Latham & Watkins’ Women Enriching Business (WEB) programme has caused a stir after arranging a canapé-making evening for its members.

One source who received the invite for the event, which takes place on 31 May, said: “I almost fell off my chair laughing when I received an invitation to the ’Women Enriching Business Group’ and it’s master class on ’creative canapé making’.

“It’s wrong on so many levels.”

According to Latham’s website, WEB is a two-pronged initiative, “designed to promote women in business, by creating broader networks and productive business relationships, and by attracting and investing in the long-term success of women”. Its goals include addressing the interests that clients have in working with a more diverse team and increasing the visibility of a variety of role models.

One partner who oversees gender initiatives at another law firm said: “You do come across events for women that are based around going to places like LK Bennett and Molton Brown from time to time, but my natural instinct is that it’s selling women short.

“Also, you’re not making the most of an opportunity to say something that’s a bit more progressive. But, on the other hand, there’s part of me that thinks that it’s better than nothing.”

Ruth Grant, partner and co-chair of Hogan Lovells’ Worldwide diversity committee, said of WEB’s latest event: “At first you might think, “oh, gosh”, but actually I suspect that a lot of people would really enjoy it. A little while ago we ran a chocolate-making evening and it was very popular.

“You have to look beyond the pure diversity perspective and ask: what will people like?  Will it be fun? Personally, I might try to find a gender-neutral activity, but I don’t think it’s a big deal.”

The news comes shortly after Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer made national news in March for celebrating International Women’s Day with a ’Bake Off’. Both male and female staff were asked to make cakes and bring them into work as part of a baking competition for charity.

Yesterday, The Times published its Top 50 Employers for Women, produced in partnership with Opportunity Now, with four law firms making the list: Addleshaw Goddard, Berwin Leighton Paisner, Eversheds and Hogan Lovells.

Latham & Watkins did not respond in time for comment.