Case study

Think, Act, Report: DWF LLP

Addressing barriers to female progression

At DWF, the principle of meritocracy is central to our business and culture. We are determined to create a workplace that capitalises on gender equality to achieve leading edge status both as an employer of choice and as a legal service provider.

We want to identify any barriers, perceived or real, that impact the progression of women at DWF and to engage in meaningful dialogue to help women navigate a career in line with aspirations and ability. 64% of our workforce is female, yet there is only 23% female representation at partnership. This figure has not changed over the last 2 years.

Gender equality priorities:

  • Increase % of female representation at Partner level
  • Increase the visibility of DWF Women
  • Increase the proportion of women mentoring and being mentored
  • Embed Equal Pay Audits
  • Communicate findings (internally and externally)
  • Equality Impact Assess all our employment policies & development opportunities
  • Showcase Flexible Working throughout the business
  • Introduce diversity training, including unconscious bias as part of learning & development portfolio and talent management/succession planning.

Action Taken

  • Chief Executive appointed an Equity Partner, Seema Bains as the firm’s Diversity Champion
  • Our strategy for embedding diversity into the business was presented to our Executive Committee
  • A Partner led Diversity Steering Group was launched and a Gender Action Plan created
  • Communicated gender strand activity across the business
  • A network of diversity champions was developed across the business
  • Increased the visibility of gender equality through our support of TAR, membership of Opportunity Now and The Law Society
  • We provided the opportunity to feed ideas and knowledge into firm wide initiatives
  • We continued to grow and promote our female network – DWF Women
  • Continued to host and participate in Women in Business Events
  • Following the success of our “What matters to professional women” roadshow in 2013, which engaged over 250 women in the business, a series of 12 follow up mixed gender focus groups is planned to involve men to help and own solutions to overcome the barriers to female progression
  • Launched a new Diversity Policy & Dignity at Work Policy & DWF Parent Pack to support women returning to work from maternity leave, as well as men sharing childcare responsibilities.
  • Set and published a target of 30% female representation at Partner level by 2018
  • Started a roll out of Unconscious Bias training sessions

  • Launched a new Expectations Framework to provide clarity on what good performance looks like and describes the measures that will be used to capture and recognise good performance. This will ensure a more robust and objective assessment of talent in our business

  • Launched The Academy, our new on line, “one-stop shop” for learning & development to enable and empower people to self-manage their career development, so less reliance on line mangers selecting people for development opportunities

  • Participated in Working Families and Opportunity Now Benchmarking Surveys to maintain momentum on gender equality

  • Roll out of 12 mixed gender focus groups by end of 2014 and implement actions

  • Continue to increase female mentoring opportunities

  • Launch DWF’s Corporate Savvy – development programme to enable women to network and navigate their career

  • Deliver internal “Inspiring Women” events to raise the aspirations of our female talent pipeline

  • Continue to build leadership advocacy for gender equality across all DWF locations

Results include:

  • Our women’s network has grown in membership to nearly 500 members

  • Our Diversity Steering Group has been promoted across the business

  • 6 Partners now head up our Gender strand activity/Action Plan

  • 75 Diversity Champions in place across the firm

  • Launched a new Workstyles Policy to replace our existing flexible working policy – more inclusive, incorporates agile & homeworking

  • Commenced first Equal Pay Audit

  • Senior DWF Partner appointed to The Women’s Division of The Law Society

  • Increased the visibility of diversity data across the firm.

A visible part of our approach to gender equality is the work we do as part of our CSR activity in schools and universities, to mentor and raise the aspirations and academic performance of young girls, providing them with positive and accessible role models from within our business. Our award winning education programme, 5 Star Futures focuses on building confidence and resilience.

Published 4 November 2014