Prioritising diversity

During the past couple of years Pinsent Masons has embarked upon a number of initiatives to ensure that minority groups are recognised and represented in our business.

One way to recognise minority groups has been to work with equality lobbying group Stonewall as a member of its Diversity Champions programme. The programme is a good practice forum in which employers and Stonewall work together to promote diversity in the workplace, ensuring that – among others – lesbian, gay and bisexual employees are recognised and represented and that their skills and talents are valued.

We know that there are many other interest groups in the firm whose needs and talents we also need to represent. As part of our diversity programme we have established a diversity employee network, made up of individuals who represent their own minority group or individuals who are interested in representing the interests of others.

The diversity employee network’s remit is:

  • to champion lesbian, gay, bisexual and other minority issues for members of the firm;
  • to contribute to the firm’s diversity activities;
  • to assist with and advise on relevant policy development;
  • to assist with ensuring that those policies are applied in practice;
  • to make suggestions on improving the work environment for employees from diverse backgrounds;
  • to assist with the recruitment and development of such employees;
  • to represent the firm at Stonewall’s employment events; and
  • to network with other groups to build the profile of the organisation.

    During the summer an email was sent to the firm seeking volunteers for the group, and more than 30 people volunteered, representing a broad cross-section of offices, practice groups and roles. There was no selection process for a place on the group, so everyone who volunteered was invited to join.

    The first meeting took place in the summer. At the meeting the group was briefed on the various diversity initiatives already underway at the firm and spent some time discussing and agreeing how the group would operate. It was decided that the group would be publicised to the firm and in each office anyone with a diversity issue could speak in confidence to the group member in their office. The group agreed that, once it had identified the issues that concern people, it would split into sub-groups to deal with each of those issues.

    Another area of the group’s work is to advise on diversity policies and processes. For example, the firm has upgraded its equal opportunities policy and retirement policy in order to comply with the new age discrimination legislation and to follow best practice. In reviewing these policies, the firm’s HR function liaised with the group, as well as with employment lawyers, in order to finalise the policies.

    The group has also been advising on the approach the firm should take to its staff survey. Each year the firm issues a survey to all staff, inviting comment on a number of areas that are critical to the success of the business. This year, following Stonewall’s best practice advice, the firm is asking for diversity data from survey respondents so that it can identify any issues of concern for different groups. The diversity employee network group helped design and approve the wording and categories used in the diversity data section and will analyse the results.

    There is considerable interest within the firm and its clients about diversity matters, so the group has also been involved in internal and external communication of the firm’s approach. The firm produced an article entitled ‘Perspectives’, which outlines the diversity work, and this was given to staff and clients who enquired about its approach. Clients have reacted with interest, as the issue is usually important to their own organisations.