We are a six-partner law firm based in South Wales, with around 50 staff across three offices in Cardiff, Newport and Pontypool. Like many other businesses, in the past we have been guilty of creating an equality policy and then tucking it away in a drawer until the next review.
We have sought to change this by creating a living and breathing policy, embedded in the culture of the firm.
Signing up to the women in law pledge has provided us with the framework for working towards eliminating gender bias and demonstrating that our employees are not only aware of our commitment to gender equality but are actively engaged in it.
In many firms, the most senior levels do not reflect the diversity of the legal sector – especially considering the majority of entrants to the profession are women.
The Law Society’s most recent report highlights a gender gap at partner level, with there being more than twice the number of men as women.
This is not, however, reflected at Watkins and Gunn, as we have an equal split of male and female partners, with a potential succession of female only associates.
As part of Watkins and Gunn’s commitment to equal opportunities and providing fairness across the workplace, we have supported many of our female employees in participating in a Career Development Programme.
We have partnered with Chwarae Teg, a charity dedicated to inspiring, leading and delivering gender equality in Wales, to offer participants an Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) Level 2 qualification. This has proved very popular and has helped the women to progress their careers within the firm.
In addition, as part of our action plan we have introduced a clear, transparent career path guidance for staff.
We also reflected on job titles as we felt that 'secretary' and 'PA' were no longer representative of staff member’s duties and the important work they carry out. We replaced them with 'legal assistant', 'senior legal assistant' and 'executive legal assistant' and clarified the nature of their roles by rewriting the job specifications.
We have also developed a more transparent system of senior promotions opportunities and this has already borne fruit - since its implementation, we have appointed a new female partner and two female associates.
We firmly believe these measures have helped to remove barriers to progression through challenging gender stereotypes at our firm.
We have also recognised the importance of promoting and celebrating equality and diversity. We created the sub brand 'Watkins and One' to raise awareness and champion diversity throughout the practice.
We regularly engage with staff to celebrate, highlight and reflect on a wide range of key events on a regular basis, including supporting LGBT history month, marching at Pride Cymru and celebrating International Women’s Day.
As a growing firm, we believe that it is vital to identify and capture our values and culture – including those relating to gender and diversity. We want to ensure that we grow in the right way, from a solid base and that we do not lose the very things that set us apart from other firms, and the strong culture that has led to our success.
To make this happen, we are conducting values exercises involving all of our staff, to identify the values of Watkins & Gunn.
In April 2019, Watkins & Gunn was the only firm in Wales to join in the Law Society’s Diversity and Inclusion Charter pilot and have since applied for the Bronze award Gender Charter.
We have now created a four-year action plan to eliminate gender bias at Watkins & Gunn and are consciously considering our gender balance footprint in everything we do – from choosing speakers for events to creating promotional materials.
Signing up to the women in law pledge has demonstrated our commitment to tackle gender bias and supporting women’s career progression. We are fortunate enough to have strong female role models at the firm, whose success serves as inspiration for others.
We believe that harnessing the power of gender equality will hugely benefit our business by retaining and attracting the best legal talent, fostering a positive work environment and attracting clients who share our values.
We also hope that these changes in our firm will help us to play our part in championing change and transforming the business of law for the better.
The Law Society’s women in law pledge was launched in partnership with the Bar Council and Chartered Institute of Legal Executives with support from then justice secretary David Gauke. To sign up to the pledge or for more information, please visit The Women in Law Pledge.
Clive Thomas is managing partner and Linda Dack is an associate at Watkins and Gunn Solicitors