After a break from regular blogs, I am starting the New Year with a few posts on non-pensions matters, reflecting on some non-pensions events I attended in Autumn 2013, which may be of interest. As usual, I am trying to cram quite a lot into relatively short posts.
This post looks at some points on diversity, and the next will reflect on some recent discussions about the legal profession.
Diversity has been on my mind for a while, since the Law Society of Scotland (the “Society”) launched the results of one of the biggest ever surveys of the legal profession in Scotland in Autumn 2013 looking at the profile of the profession overall.
My interest was caught again when the New Year honours list made headlines this year for containing slightly more women than men (51% women). This is the very first time women have outnumbered men on the list.
A couple of other news stories from December are worth mentioning here, too. In the USA Janet Yellen has been confirmed as head of the US Federal Reserve, and closer to home, Inga Beale has been appointed as Chief Executive of Lloyds of London.
So what does this have to do with business, law, or pensions?
Back to the Society’s survey. The president, Bruce Beveridge, reminded us in his opening remarks at the launch that the Society’s key strategy is to lead and support a successful and respected Scottish legal profession. Underpinning this is the need to be in touch with and reflect the wider society in which we operate and it goes almost without saying that equality and diversity are integral to that.
My overall impression of the survey results is that the legal profession in Scotland are doing better on equality and diversity than the last major surveys (e.g. 2006 and 2009), but there’s still quite a long way to go, e.g. men tend to get paid more and are promoted faster than women and although over half the entrants to the profession are women, only around a quarter of partners are women. Although a key focus of the results and discussion was around gender equality, in relation to other diversity the message was more or less the same, i.e. that the profession is doing better, but there’s still a way to go.
Something that really stuck with me was a comment made at the Society’s launch that promoting greater equality and diversity, whether in the workplace or wider society, is often seen as a “women’s issue” when, in reality, it is a business issue.
There is evidence that those business which have women on their boards do better in their markets. This is a statement that appears quite a lot, and it turns out there has been quite a bit of research done which tends to support this claim (a couple of links are provided in the footnote here).
A possible reason why these businesses perform well is that by having a wider range of skills, experience and views in the board, the business is better able to appreciate and service the needs of its clients or consumers that it serves and better deliver a service or product which is needed and wanted. In our very competitive world, using every possible advantage seems like a good idea.
So diversity isn’t really about women, or minorities, at all; it’s really about making business stronger. And that seems like a good thing to me.
Disclaimer: the views expressed in this blog are my own, and this blog should not be taken as legal advice for any particular situation.
For those seeking more information, the Society’s press release, which contains the headline facts and a link to additional information, can be found here: http://www.lawscot.org.uk/news/press-releases/2013/october/solicitors-bend-towards-flexible-working.
 For additional information about this, please see the World Economic Forum press release here: http://www.weforum.org/news/slow-progress-closing-global-economic-gender-gap-new-major-study-finds; the main report here: http://www.weforum.org/reports/global-gender-gap-report-2012; and a useful summary courtesy of Women On Boards here: http://womenonboards.co.uk/resource-centre/selected-reading/why-women-are-good-for-business.htm