The goal is to do myself out of a job
Women are half the world's population – we're not a minority! Yet we still face challenges when it comes to equality in the workplace. The recent #MeToo campaign and the new requirements for businesses to report on their gender pay gap, for example, have both shone a spotlight on some of the issues women still face.
The legal sector is making inroads towards addressing these challenges. My firm, Dentons, aims to be a disruptor in the legal profession, and diversity and inclusion are at the core of how it operates its business. As such, it's one of the first law firms in the world to create leadership roles dedicated to helping its women succeed, including the position of Women's Advancement Director, a global role that I will take on full time from October. Creating this role sends a clear message to everyone – our staff, our clients, our prospective recruits and the wider legal market – that this is a priority for the firm.
In the UK, women make up the majority of solicitors, but we're not seeing the same 50/50 split of men and women in leadership and management roles within of law firms. Female partnership levels remain well below 50 per cent on average. At some point in their careers women are dropping out of the climb to the top – but why?
This is one of the things I will be scrutinising in my new role. I'm conscious that it’s important not just to look at the numbers but the structures behind them. It's one thing to have robust policies in place to try and combat inequality, but it's quite another to take genuine steps to ensure the growth of a culture within an organisation in which employees (both women and men) feel able to build their careers and challenge inappropriate behaviour or unfair practices which leave some worse off than their peers. This isn't about advancing women at the cost of men – it's about creating an environment where everyone can reach their full potential.
It makes good business sense too. Law firms, just like any other business, invest a huge amount of money and time in their people, so losing them comes at a high cost. Retaining talent is a business imperative, and it's important to our clients. At Dentons, part of our ambition is to be the world's most inclusive law firm – to reflect our clients and the communities in which we live and work. We're only as good as the people who work here and if they choose to go elsewhere because they don't think our firm is for them, we lose out and so do our clients.
The battle for talent is intense; all businesses have to look at ways to adapt to the changing demands of a workforce that wants to feel valued and included and clients who seek out diversity and creative thinking. Organisations that don't take steps to reflect this shift in attitudes are likely to suffer, whether financially or reputation-wise.
The attention being given to equality issues of late is undoubtedly positive for women, but in some ways the fight has only just begun. Is it likely that we might one day look back on 2018 as the year where it finally dawned on employers that treating women fairly and equally could result in a better and more productive society for all? Hard to say; but it's unquestionable that businesses are taking notice and game-changing conversations are happening in business, in the media and on a personal level. That in itself is a profound success ahead of more to come.
As the first Women's Advancement Director at Dentons, I want to add to these successes across the legal profession. But what I'd like most to achieve in my new role is to do myself out of a job completely.
Amanda Jones is a partner and Women's Advancement Director at Dentons