International law firm Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF)'s head of human resources, Asia, Yvonne Sin shed light on typical questions around women and workplace diversity and inclusion.
What are NRF?s best HR initiatives for women??
We?ve been running a global talent development programme for high-performing female lawyers aspiring to partnership since 2010.?The programme was trailblazing in the legal sector and has since its launch contributed to increasing female representation in the annual partner promotion cohorts. In the EMEA region alone, 40% of the partners made up between 2013 and 2020 were women and 78% of them were alumnae of the programme.
In 2014, the firm set itself a public and voluntary global target of achieving 30% female representation by 2020 across the partnership and global executive committees and boards. As at January 2020, 28% of our partners worldwide are women, 32% of the Global Executive Committee are women and 37% of the Global Supervisory Board are women. The firm recently promoted 53 lawyers worldwide to partner of which 42% were women.
In February, the firm announced its new gender diversity targets: A minimum of 40% women, a minimum of 40% men, and 20% flexibility to be fully inclusive (40:40:20). This ratio forms the basis for a range of gender metrics, including overall partnership, management committees and leadership roles, partner admissions, external partner candidates and senior business services hires.
Our Asia numbers are incredibly positive ? 50% of our office heads are women, and we also have women leading a number of key practices in the region including technology & innovation, Hong Kong capital markets, fintech and Hong Kong financial regulation.
How does NRF ensure that male employees won?t feel excluded from the policies?
We believe that the key to impactful and sustainable change is to make sure everyone is involved. We take a holistic approach to gender equality to ensure that none of our employees feel excluded. That includes our policies and other initiatives, as well as involvement from employees across various business functions and levels.
There are several ways in which we ask for employees? input. For example, employee networks (which include men) are consulted in the policy making process. In addition, we recently reviewed our policies to ensure the language is gender neutral and inclusive of all our employees.
We know that both men and women want to benefit from a flexible approach to work. Our internal campaign for flexible and agile working include both male and female role models to change people?s perceptions and encourage wider take up. To ensure that diverse and representative viewpoints are heard, our internal communications and panels have a gender balanced representation. We also mark international days of significance with, for example, our Tokyo office celebrating International Men?s Day in November 2019.
How do you make sure the senior leadership positions for female are not a token gesture?
We have a disciplined approach to the attraction and recruitment of diverse talent, a robust talent management process which assesses the diversity and bench-strength of the talent pipeline, and targeted development plans for individuals on their way to senior positions.
Our graduate and lateral recruitment processes are aimed at attracting a broad range of talent to the firm. The recruitment team, and our interviewers, are all briefed regularly about our diversity and inclusion strategy and specifically on how unconscious bias can interrupt our ability to attract, recruit and retain diverse talent.
Many of our partners joined the firm as trainees and many of our female leaders on the board and management committee have risen through the ranks. These women act as role models for our rising talent, over half of whom are women. To improve the number of women reaching partnership, we are focusing our efforts on active career development though our global talent development programme for high performing female lawyers aspiring to partnership.
What's the next step for NRF?
We will continue working towards our new 40:40:20 targets. We will ensure that women continue to be supported in their career progression and that our global talent development programme for his performing female lawyers aspiring to partnership continues annually.
A new 'Active Inclusion' e-learning will be launched in the second quarter of 2020, providing all employees with the knowledge and skills they need to foster an inclusive and gender diverse culture.
Finally, we will continue to work collaboratively with our clients by sharing practices and collaborating on the advancement of diverse lawyers, leveraging the diversity of the firm in pitches and how we allocate work and by building our brand as a leader in diversity and inclusion.
We work closely with clients on a variety of diversity and inclusion initiatives including roundtable discussions, employee network group mentoring and support, thought leadership conferences, panel discussions and training.