The best ‘gender diverse’ firms in NZ

Firms are adopting strategies involving mentoring, pay audits, leadership and other courses

The best ‘gender diverse’ firms in NZ

One of the major objectives of law firms in recent years has been gender equality, as employers seek to increase the number of female partners.

This is important because research has found that even though women make up 61% of lawyers working in New Zealand law firms, only 31% of the partners in those firms are female.

The LawFuel law firm survey ranks equity partners only (rather than equity and salaried partners) and shows Dentons Kensington Swan as the ‘gender leader’ with 41% of their partners being female.  

The latest survey has revealed that the 2019 leader, DLA Piper, remains at 38% female partners and sits at no. 2 in the list, with Anderson Lloyd remaining in no. 3 position with 33% female leaders.

The annual survey found that firms are adopting strategies involving mentoring, pay audits, leadership and other courses and programmes.

The top five firms were:

1. Dentons Kensington Swan – 41%

2. DLA Piper – 38%

3. Anderson Lloyd – 33%

4. Russell McVeagh – 32%

5. Meredith Connell – 31%

At Dentons Kensington Swan, the firm also has 50% of their board female and has 60 per and 62 per cent respectively of their Special Counsel and Associates who are female.

“We believe our continued gender diversity initiatives have created a culture that has removed some of the traditional barriers to women reaching senior levels,” said Pippa Grey, business development manager at Dentons.

“The initiatives have been implemented through strong Board, CEO and leadership adoption and deep consultation and engagement with staff at all levels.”

Read more: BAFTA boss ‘disappointed’ over lack of diversity

The initiatives include unconscious bias training, ‘targeted confidence’ training and a partnership deed ensuring board representation for both genders.

Meanwhile, Rachel Bermudez, people projects consultant, DLA Piper, told HRD that the firm established an initiative called Leadership Alliance for Women (LAW) which has three clear areas of focus:

Client connectivity – involves supporting women in the in-house legal client community, connecting with women leaders in business, and supporting and partnering with clients on gender-based activity.

Creating clarity for empowerment - which involves empowering women within DLA Piper to achieve their potential by focusing on gender balance in new hires and internal appointments and providing a clear pathway for women to succeed in senior positions.

Changing perceptions - has the aim of challenging bias and stereotypes and encouraging inclusive behaviour and language.

Read more: Diversity and inclusion: Best practices to follow

Bermudez said it’s important to have annual gender pay gap audits, support flexible working, review areas of practice with a gender equality lens and to implement unconscious bias training.

She said HR professionals should be mindful of diversity and inclusion strategies in key people processes like recruitment, promotions, salary reviews, learning opportunities, etc., as such processes inevitably have an impact on engagement levels, retention and gender-balance.

“It is crucial to work as one team with a leadership team that not only understands what diversity and inclusion means and its business implications, but that is also committed to lead from the top and consistently act as champions of change.”

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