Women in IP committee member Emily Teesdale has kindly summarised the outcomes from their most recent set of coffee dates. Discussions across the country yielded a wealth of great ideas for improving diversity and inclusion in an organisation, along with the attendees’ practical experiences of what works and what doesn’t. We guarantee you’ll find something useful here that you can take back to your own colleagues…
Lunchtime on Tuesday 9 March 2021 was our most recent virtual Women in IP coffee chat. It was held to coincide with International Women’s Day the day before and was a follow-up to the Women in IP “Quick Wins” event on 22 February 2021. Talking of which, if you have not done so already, please fill in the survey from the event.
We had 8 different video calls, with around 80 participants.
The three questions this time were:
- What “quick wins” (in any strand of diversity) have you seen implemented in your organisation or elsewhere?
- What else would you like to see implemented, that could easily be done?
- How could you challenge your organisation, or other people, to do more? For example, how could you raise the issue of improving the shared parental leave policy? How could you challenge someone who has made a flippant comment?
1) What “quick wins” (in any strand of diversity) have you seen implemented in your organisation or elsewhere?
People on the calls, and their organisations, were at different parts of the journey so the examples below cover a wide spectrum from what you might like to start with to some ideas for further down the line. A few may not necessarily be classified as “quick wins”, depending on the size of your organisation.
- setting up a D&I group and signing up to the IP Inclusive charter
- having a senior leader join the IP inclusive Diversity Think Tank
- ensuring the D&I group includes senior management and has a leader to act as a focus/lead
- providing information to everyone on what the group is doing
- having a D&I policy
- celebrating different awareness days/weeks/months throughout the year
- e-learning courses (eg in mental health, bullying)
- using the IP Inclusive resources (eg on unconscious bias and banter) as part of the new starter induction process
- having an allies network/affinity groups (and providing IP Inclusive ally badges/lanyards/postcards)
- providing networking opportunities within the organisation
- working towards a culture of gently “calling out” assumptions etc – perhaps starting with the managers/partners challenging each other
- for bigger organisations, especially, obtaining and/or publishing statistics on gender and other protected characteristics and benchmarking
- having mental health resources on the intranet
- removing “Dear Sirs” etc from standard letters
- having a D&I question in exit interviews
- ensuring marketing materials/website/client meetings feature a diverse range of attorneys
- encouraging use of pronouns on email signatures
- having flexitime, working from home, reasonable adjustments, part-time policies accessible and removing any bias against those taking these policies up. Even better, encourage staff to take up these policies!
- management training (eg on inclusive leadership, recruitment, appraisals)
- de-gender staff handbook (ie “edit-replace” he/she with they etc)
- reviewing maternity and shared parental leave policies (and, again, ensuring they are accessible)
- training mental health first aiders and having a mental health champion
- taking part in the “Steps To Inclusion” review is a very helpful way of getting guidance on how well you are doing and what to do next: Steps to Inclusion – IP Inclusive
- anonymous staff surveys (eg using Survey Monkey) to gain views on D&I and other issues
- anonymous suggestion boxes
- ensuring all involved in recruitment have had unconscious bias training
- widen and change the pool of interviewers/candidate selectors
- name- and gender-blinding CVs/application forms, and ideally university blinding too
- re-thinking recruitment process, especially for new trainees, including checking wording of advertisement is appealing to different types of people
- mentoring programme (this does not have to be a big formal thing, and could be very simple to set up with mentees choosing from a list of volunteer mentors, each of whom have given a bit of profile information about themselves)
- providing mentor training, too, ideally
- there could be specific mentor programmes/support for those returning from absences, eg sickness, maternity/parental leave
2) What else would you like to see implemented, that could easily be done?
Some ideas that were mentioned, in addition to those above, were:
- “guaranteed interview” scheme to increase numbers of certain groups
- whenever there is a policy change, undertaking an “impact assessment” to check it has not disadvantaged certain groups and/or has unintended consequences
- lunchtime chats could be used to raise awareness of D&I
- discussing mental health is a good way of getting everyone involved, as it affects all of us
- training from external providers on unconscious bias etc
- leadership allowing for different communication styles
- allowing staff to get in touch with someone who has experienced using the firm’s policies (for example, reasonable adjustments)
- holding mini coffee chats across the firm using a random number generator so different people are invited each time
- more informal discussion on D&I topics, such as monthly initiatives (webinars, recommended reading, discussion groups) to raise awareness
- one group mentioned the idea of allyship training
- continuing the use of video meetings after lockdown to enable greater participation
- diversity targets were mentioned, although it is noted that not everyone agrees with this approach
3) How could you challenge your organisation, or other people, to do more? For example, how could you raise the issue of improving the shared parental leave policy? How could you challenge someone who has made a flippant comment?
- one trainee pointed out that they make a point of showing and telling their HR department and partners that they think D&I is important. This could be done using emails/speaking to people, but could also be done by connecting with your colleagues on LinkedIn and sharing relevant posts/events
- on the flippant comment issue, doing it with humour and in a gentle non-aggressive manner is very important. One mentioned the book How to Be Successful Without Hurting Men’s Feelings by Sarah Cooper | Waterstones as being very helpful with this
- if you are raising an issue with something someone has said/done, sometimes getting someone you trust to read your reply or talk it through with you first is helpful to keep you calmer and better able to articulate what you want to say
- of course, raising these types of things is especially difficult with clients or those more senior than you. This makes it especially important that leaders/managers call each other out when they hear/see things
- it is also easier to raise a concern when it is “not your issue”. So, we all need to make sure we are allies to different groups, as well as our own groups
- one way to do it might be to ask the question “is this behaviour beneficial to the business?”
- one group noted that new people to the profession haven’t had experiences of getting flippant comments which is a good sign that things have already changed to some extent
- if the managers are not on board, selling D&I from a “business case” point of view. For example, more and more tender processes require companies to demonstrate commitment to D&I
- bringing colleagues along to D&I events (especially, bringing men along to Women in IP events etc)
- raising issues with the D&I group
- presenting to the partners/management as a group, rather than as an individual
- being careful not to bombard colleagues/others with information/materials
- encouraging take-up of shared parental leave
- one group raised the very important question of how we get those not engaged with the issues to attend D&I events
- on attorney recruitment, can organisations use virtual career fairs etc to reach a wider pool of students?
- could organisations look at apprenticeships for school/college leavers, for example in support staff roles?
Thank you, as ever, to all our hosts for setting up the calls and chairing the conversations. And thank you to everyone who joined us and shared their thoughts with us.
We are always especially happy for men to join us and share their thoughts too. These chats are, of course, always open to all genders.
Our next one (another collaboration, this time with IP Ability) is planned for Thursday 6 May at lunchtime. It will be advertised on LinkedIn and on the IP Inclusive Events page. Please do get in touch with [email protected] and [email protected] if you would like to be involved in hosting one of the calls.
Page published on 19th March 2021
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Dear Emily and all involved in the Quick Wins virtual coffee sessions: first, sorry for signing up and then not being able to 'make it' on the day. Secondly, thank you for publishing the above notes - really helpful to those of us who missed out - and some good ideas there for future cogitation and hopefully action. More generally, it occurs to me that IP Inclusive generates a lot of these lists/ideas 'smörgåsbords'; it would be good if we could somehow collate them into one place so that they are there/easier located for future reference. I have a horror of continually 'reinventing the wheel' and also of 'losing' the excellent hints, tips and innovations that we could all benefit from. I'm not sure how we do this, although happy to be involved in giving it some thought/coming up with suggestions. Perhaps a first step might be for all communities to upload their raw material onto a DropBox space or similar, and then for someone to group/keyword them sensibly for ease of future reference? Thank you again. Julie