Our commitment to diversity

Ask five different firms and you’ll get five alternative explanations of diversity and inclusion. It starts with recruiting the best people irrespective of ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation or disability. But being inclusive goes deeper.

  • Multi-Cultural Network

    Kultar Khangura is a Partner in the Birmingham Commercial Property team, he also chairs the firm’s Multi-Cultural Network Group. In this profile he talks about the group’s approach to diversity.

    What are the key aims of the Multi-Cultural Network Group?

    One of our key aims is to raise career aspirations amongst 15-18 year olds. We visit partner schools in inner-city areas near our offices, talk to the children about their future plans and offer practical help with CVs and college applications. We want to promote the idea that a career in professional services – whether in law, finance, IT or HR – is open to everyone.

    How do you see things going forward?

    There’s a lot of personal inequality that we can address. For example, if you measure a candidate who attended a selective school and whose parents have professional backgrounds against one whose background hasn’t afforded them such opportunities, then the latter won’t necessarily have the self-assurance to shine at interview. I’ve had candidates tell me that they’ve found the process daunting because they’re the first in their family to go to university – never mind becoming a lawyer. That just makes me want to get the message out that you shouldn’t be scared – the people here are very much like you.

    Don’t forget, there’s a business benefit to this as well. We’re an international firm with clients from all parts of the world, who expect us to be as forward-thinking as they are. We win a lot of work through panel appointments, during which the question of our diversity policy is invariably raised. Clients want their advisers to share their ideas and philosophy.

    Why does the group matter to potential applicants?

    Thinking back almost ten years to when I first joined Pinsent Masons, I was immediately surprised by the number of black and Asian faces around the office, compared to the firms I had worked at previously. Since I’ve become involved in diversity issues, I’ve been really impressed by the level of time and commitment invested by senior management. The result is that I believe we do well in attracting BME applicants, many of whom are offered and accept Training Contracts.

    How do you view the outlook personally?

    It’s encouraging how many more young black and Asian lawyers are coming through now compared to twenty years ago – we’re clearly going in the right direction. I remember one particular year in Birmingham, when five of the six trainees in my department were from BME backgrounds. Maybe that was an exception, but it does underline the point.

    At the top end of the profession, the situation won’t change overnight, but it will change. All we can do is our small bit. If I can tell a class of 30 kids how I worked hard to shape my career, and persuade maybe two or three that they could do it too, then that’s progress. We partner a school in the east end of London which is very close to Canary Wharf, but the kids didn’t necessarily aspire to work there. We need to keep pushing the message that a career in law, and the professions more generally, is open to anyone with drive and ambition.

  • Disability & Wellbeing Group

    Elaine MacGregor is a Senior Associate in the Glasgow Corporate team and also a member of the Disability & Wellbeing Group. An active member of the group, Elaine talks about the firm’s achievements in this area of diversity.

    What are the key aims of the Disability & Wellbeing Group?

    We have a number of diversity networks of which the Disability & Wellbeing Group is one. It was set up a few years ago because it was something that was felt to be missing from our diversity strategy and we thought it would be useful. Our over-riding aim is to ensure that any employee with a disability has sufficient support within the firm. We are particularly keen that employees do not face any barriers in carrying out their job, or when considering whether to go for a new role.

    From a practical point of view, we share our individual experiences to see what we can do to make things easier for other employees with disabilities. With this in mind, we are working with HR to help develop a comprehensive workplace adjustments policy. We feel that it is important that anyone needing extra assistance (even if just for temporary reasons such as through injury, ill-health, pregnancy etc.) can easily access the help, support or information that they require. It’s really helpful for people with disabilities to have someone to approach to say ‘I’ve got this particular issue, has anyone dealt with it before?  Have you got any advice on how I might approach the situation?’

    How do you see things going forward?

    The interesting thing about having a disability & wellbeing  group is trying to work out exactly why you need one and that’s why this firm is particularly good at tackling a number of disability-related issues – we know what’s needed. The obvious things that a disability group might focus on, like access and making bespoke arrangements for people are already well catered for.

    As a group, we are very keen to reach out to those with less obvious or ‘hidden’ health or capability issues. Taking mental health for example. According to some statistics, 1 in 5 people will experience some form of depression throughout their lives. With this in mind, we are currently looking into how we can highlight the support on offer for any employees affected by depression (either personally or through colleagues and family members).

    Since we want to become an employer of choice for talented disabled people, one way the group can help is by becoming involved with the firm’s professional and personal development programme. I would be keen for the group to see if there is anything more which the firm can do to address any additional training or coaching needs.

    Why does the group matter to potential applicants?

    From my own experience, the firm has been fantastic in helping me continue working after an accident. I hope that it is re-assuring for applicants to know that there are people within the firm who may have had similar experiences and can share details of the support they have received.

    How do you view the outlook personally?

    There are great role models throughout the firm who have not let their disability or health problems hold them back. From speaking to other employees, I know there are more colleagues out there who perhaps feel they do meet the criteria to become a member of the group. It would be good to reach out to a wider audience around the firm and get more people involved with the group. The louder our ‘collective voice’ is, the more others can benefit from our experiences.

  • Family Network Group

    Kizzy Augustin is a Senior Associate in the London Litigation & Compliance team, she is also chair of the firm’s Family Network Group. Kizzy explains how the group is helping staff members balance the competing pressures of work and family life.

    What are the key aims of the Family Network Group?

    The group’s main aim is to ensure that any of the firm’s policies that are relevant to working parents or carers – such as maternity or HR – adequately reflect their needs. That means being equally representative of people at all levels across the firm – including junior lawyers, support staff and senior partners as well as being mindful and inclusive of modern family structures.

    Aside from looking at policy, we also want to have fun. So, we host educational and social events, and arrange activities specifically with working parents and carers in mind. We regularly host Bring Your Child To Work days and family film events, as well as interesting webinars and seminars.

    How do you see things going forward?

    The idea of encouraging work-life balance is a priority for a large number of businesses now – we’re promoting a culture where you needn’t feel pressured to be in the office at all hours.

    The main point is that talented people with family commitments can work in more agile ways – whether that is through home working or offering flexible working hours, Pinsent Masons will retain that talent and enable greater productivity. The firm is positive about flexible working generally – in the regions, we’re just about there. The idea of flexible working needed to be promoted more as a viable and acceptable option, particularly in London, which I think has been successful.

    Why does the group matter to potential applicants?

    Unsurprisingly, the Family Support Network Group’s activities weren’t my first consideration when I joined Pinsent Masons five years ago. But I was about to get married and I was concerned about how my decision to have children would be perceived by the firm and whether it would affect my career prospects. When the time came, the group was a source of great support, where I could freely discuss issues such as flexible working before approaching my line manager directly.

    I think the group is important because for many people, having support from your employer is instrumental in making choices about family commitments. Over the past year, I’ve sensed a real change – issues we raised a couple of years ago are now translating into concrete policy shifts, and also into changes in attitude among employees. This has been very exciting for the group.

    The Family Support Network (along with the Female Futures Group) were able to provide significant input to the proposed changes to the maternity leave/return to work policy and the introduction of shared parental leave and flexible / agile working has helped to support this approach to achieve a suitable work / life balance. For example, flexible working has become a common consideration upon return to work, rather than an uphill struggle with line managers – there has been a marked shift in the general perception of how effective flexible working can be. We have continued to champion ideas around parenting and carer issues, which has resulted in the development of appropriate corporate policies that enable people to spend time with their families while maintaining a strong work ethic.

    How do you view the outlook personally?

    I’d like to see more encouragement for flexible working, and also more female representation at a senior level. It would also be great to see more men involved with the Family Network Group! This year, we’re going to host at least one webinar on the specific issues surrounding working fathers – because they do exist. We just have to get past a persistent, rather old-fashioned, view of balancing family and work issues as being primarily a female issue.

    The group is basically an arena for everyone to discuss common issues and get together – it helps create an environment that is conducive to its employees being happy in their role. For me, that makes Pinsent Masons a bit different from its competitors – the firm has a dynamic approach to employee issues and that flexibility can only encourage a better working environment.

  • Female Futures

    Andrea McIlroy-Rose is the International Chair of Female Futures, the female networking group of the firm, and the local chair for the Belfast office. Andrea has held both of these roles for the last four years and is also head of the Belfast property team and a Project Sky champion. She has two children and divides her time between the Belfast and London offices.

    What are the key aims of the Female Futures Group?

    The overriding goal of the group is to make Pinsent Masons the best place for women to work at all levels. We are trying to help create a law firm which, as well as being a market leader, is a place where women really want to work because they feel that they can develop successful careers and have an enjoyable working life, irrespective of the team they are in or the level they are at. We encourage involvement from all members of the firm, and are delighted to have men join the group or attend some of the events that we run, as the idea is to create an inclusive culture where every employee is encouraged, supported and treated fairly, and without bias.

    We focus on topics such as recruitment, retention, career progression and job satisfaction for women. A lot of progress has already been made through mentoring, maternity and parental support groups as well as training on unconscious bias and diversity issues, which is now widely available. As the group continues to grow we are always looking for new ideas and different views on how to achieve our goals and fresh thinking from new recruits is extremely important.

    How do you see things going forward?

    The firm employs a higher percentage of women than men so we need to move away from thinking about their issues as one of diversity or a minority concern. The legal profession is known for having a high number of female trainees which is a great starting point and yet, in spite of the investment in recruitment and training, most law firms struggle to retain these women throughout their careers. Historically this has happened because women often feel that they won’t be able to combine work and family life, or to achieve promotion. One of our main objectives is to change this thinking and ensure that there is a continued and structured support network and flexible working patterns available which allow women to go on maternity leave or take career breaks without fear that their career will be damaged as a result.

    The very clear feedback from our clients is that having more women at board level and a willingness to look at non-uniform solutions is seen as a real advantage in business as it helps to promote growth, productivity and morale and provides a better balance in any decision making process. Pinsent Masons is ahead of the curve on this through initiatives such as Project Sky, which was established in Spring 2013 to create a better gender balance with particular reference to the partnership and senior leadership team, and which will in turn help make the firm a better workplace for all. Whilst this was always bound to be a long process, the firm has set targets and milestone dates for an increase in the % of female partners and board members and, although we are well on track to achieve these, there is still more to be done.

    An important element of this progress is the collaboration between Sky and Female Futures to ensure that activities and objectives are coordinated and complimentary. A number of our members are Sky Champions who report back to the Sky Delivery Board with concerns, suggestions and general feedback from the group so that Sky does not just focus upon senior roles but becomes part of the recruitment and promotion strategy within the firm as a whole.

    Why does the group matter to potential applicants?

    The group is the largest among the diversity network and has hundreds of female members at all levels and across all of the offices, including the international offices. It is therefore a wonderful support network and a great forum to meet and interact with other women from different backgrounds. We are very lucky to be able to host interesting events which include training and presentations from inspirational female business leaders about their success and the challenges they have faced in their working life as well as informal networking events across out UK office network.

    It’s not about special treatment – it’s about support, mentoring and business development, and it is also a great chance to mix with women within the firm and across a wider business spectrum. Any woman joining the firm should get involved as this is the best way to help get our message across and ensure that we are representative of the cross section of women within the firm.

    How do you view the outlook personally?

    Whilst there is still a long way to go, I believe that there has never been a better time for women to have a career in law in terms of opportunity. The real advantage of having a committed and recognised diversity network is that subjects such as flexible working, career breaks, maternity and paternity leave which were previously never openly discussed are now, not only discussed but are actively addressed, with new initiatives being introduced and a constant review of how we can do things better. If we are to change the culture and reach the targets that we have set, it is essential to have a strong network of women from all areas of the firm who are enthusiastic, willing to get involved and share their views as members of Female Futures. I would encourage everyone to get involved if they can.

  • LGBT Network

    Liam Wardley is a senior member of the firm’s Business Development team and a member of the LGBT Network. Liam talks about the aims of the group and its significance to the wider work of the firm.

    What are the key aims of the LGBT Network?

    The network is in place to support the welfare and interests of LGBT people throughout the firm and promote diversity and greater understanding of the LGBT perspective on issues such as marriage and parenting. We work with clients to help them develop their own policies, diversity networks and employee champions. We also support initiative’s such as Stonewall’s education programmes as part of the firm’s Starfish community investment programme.

    The network is made is made up of lawyers at all levels, members from many of our support teams, and includes senior people who are very willing to mentor new trainees. It offers you a really good network of contacts, right across the firm. If ever you have a question, there’s always someone you can go to for advice.

    How do you see things going forward?

    For me, in my role in business development, working more with clients and suppliers on developing their diversity networks is a great way to add value to the relationship, work in true partnership and demonstrate our commitment to diversity. Sometimes it’s a long-term process, because organisations may not always be able to recognise what change is needed right away.

    A good example is the infrastructure industry, which is one of our Global Sectors. Our reputation in this sector, together with our amazing diversity credentials, gives us the opportunity to raise diversity issues with our clients, and we’re seeing positive results. We have recently worked with our clients in this sector to launch the first LGBT Infrastructure & Construction network ‘Off Site’, which is aimed at creating a network of LGBT people who work in the infrastructure industry. We have had a fantastically encouraging response and the network is growing every week!

    Why does the group matter to potential applicants?

    When I was looking for a new role, Pinsent Masons emerged with a reputation for being an organisation with a great working environment, full of very friendly people and a culture in which you can really thrive and be yourself.

    A little research revealed that the firm was the first to be listed by Stonewall, but it was only when I joined and became involved in the firm’s LGBT network that I started to understand just why Pinsent Masons were the first, and how different to other companies – and specifically other law firms – the firm actually is. It’s not surprising that Pinsent Masons is ranked top law employer in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index 2016.

    How do you view the outlook personally?

    I think Pinsent Masons is a great place to work. It has an environment which you are really happy to be part of.  Diversity and LGBT is at the heart of what the firm stands for. Some of our most senior partners are openly gay and lesbian, and living in civil partnerships or marriages. We work closely with Stonewall, and both our LGBT Network and Straight Allies were active in the equal marriage and No Bystanders campaigns.

    The key thing for me is that there is a really inclusive culture that accepts you for who you are. I found it really encouraging that I could openly be myself at work and not encounter any barriers. You don’t have to hide your sexuality – it’s simply not an issue.

  • Multi-Faith Group

    Nancy Kapoor is a Paralegal in the Dubai CAD team; she also chairs the firm’s Multi-Faith Group.

    What are the key aims of the Multi-Faith Group?

    Ultimately, the group exists to promote and raises awareness of Multi-Faith issues. We do this by hosting internal and external events that celebrate the diverse range of faiths represented across the firm. The network creates a space that enables staff to share experiences and provide mutual support to colleagues. The firm does not just support one faith so the network provides the vehicle for including employees of all religious identities (and those without) with an open two-way communication channel between the firm and its employees. We want to ensure that all our colleagues are provided with support and a voice to communicate.

    How do you see things going forward?

    Having recently taken over as co-Chair of the group alongside Idil Bozoglu of Istanbul office, I am eager to see the group grow. Following a refresh in leadership I am keen for the group to build on this momentum to raise their profile across our offices through a series of high-profile events across our offices.

    We are keen to get as many colleagues involved as possible to ensure we can represent our diverse workforce and their different views and perspectives. We would like to have a representative in each of our global offices in order to provide a first point of contact for any individual within the offices, and, of course, Idil and myself are only a phone call or email away from providing any support our colleagues may seek across our global office network.

    Why does the group matter to potential applicants?

    Pinsent Masons is an inclusive firm that is supportive of you as a person.  If faith is integral to your identity; it is reassuring to know that it isn’t going to be overlooked. We have found that members of different faiths talk about how their faith influences them in the workplace – it’s quite an eye-opener to see how the same issue appears from different perspectives and we would like to provide a platform to share these perspectives for potential applicants.

    How do you view the outlook personally?

    I am always keen to share and learn from the different ideas and perspectives every individual brings to the table. Getting an exposure to other beliefs, learning what they are about and why they celebrate what they do is important.  Not just to gain an understanding but to appreciate different individuals and factors that influence them. Every faith teaches tolerance and understanding and, if you want to be active within the group bringing your beliefs to the workplace, we want to provide a platform for you to do that.