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Raising the volume on gender diversity

Patrick Fore 5 Yu0u Zh43 Bk Unsplash

Article posted by John Murphy

​Raising the volume on gender diversity.

Silence is complicit.

When I thought about writing an article regarding gender diversity in the Danish legal market the first thing that struck me was fear. Fear that as a man how could I ever write an article in support of gender diversity when, as a man, I don’t really get it and at some point or another I have contributed to the problem.

But then I realised that like important things in life, silence is complicit. This can seen in the results of a recent survey Anzurra conducted in the Danish legal market, which showed that 62% of males believe there is no issue or are unaware of any issue in regards to gender diversity. That only 15% of females are Partners at Denmark’s top law firms shows how big the gap in understanding really is.

If I can at least add to the volume level then it means more people are aware of the challenges women face and the progress we all need to make.

Gender diversity or gender inequality is an issue that is close to my heart. A close family member experienced it first-hand. As a woman working in a male dominated industry, particularly at management level, she went on maternity leave to have her first child. Upon her return the following year, a man hired into the team just before she went on leave had been promoted into a management position, that prior to being pregnant it had been said that the role would be the next step in her career. Sadly this was not her last experience of discrimination. Despite her potential she has now lowered her once positive ambition and has no aspirations to move into management. It’s a horrible experience that no one should have to go through. To exclude women not only harms them. It harms everyone.

As is so apparent in the Danish legal market, women struggle to bridge the gap between being a Lawyer and making Partner, so why should women be penalised for nature? More often than not women are overlooked by their male counterparts who are always ‘available’ but whichever way you look at it, it’s not right. As I write this I can hear the sighs – ‘well if their good enough they’ll make it anyway’. No. No they won’t. And that right there is the crux of the problem.

56% of Lawyers who completed Anzurra’s survey confirmed that their firm had no diversity and inclusion policy or were unaware of them having one. A lack of understanding, and in particular education when it comes to diversity and inclusion, can lead to huge chasms in creating teams that are inclusive. We in the Danish legal industry need to accept that being gender-pro isn’t about saying we need to hire more women. Nor is it coming up with some fancy diversity and inclusion policy and publishing an empty article in AdvokatWatch. Such actions are superficial and nothing more. What it needs is for organisations to accept that it requires a complete shift in their companies characteristics and culture. They need to reinvent how they behave. If how you want to be perceived and how you behave is not aligned then you how will anyone ever trust you as an employer? Unless businesses look at this on face value, acknowledge what they’re good at, but most importantly have the self-awareness to know what they’re bad at, then gender diversity and diversity in any form will always exist.

Diversity fosters more creativity and innovation in the workplace. Gender diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform their respective industry medians. Diverse companies more so. In relative terms diverse companies bring in more revenue. The facts are facts yet companies who aren’t diverse or inclusive continue to operate the same way they always have. Ultimately they will be the losers. Society is evolving and if you are not moving forwards, then as a Partner and founder of one of Denmark’s leading law firms explained to me, ‘you’re dying’.

I’ve heard it said that inclusion is about being diverse in your hiring strategy. No. As Jonathan Ashong-Lamptey so eloquently puts it the ‘end goal of inclusion is about creating a modern meritocracy where everyone belongs and everyone can perform’.

To conclude, gender diversity and diversity as a whole is an issue in the Danish legal market. What are you doing to create a modern meritocracy?

Anzurra - Denmark's Leading Legal Executive Search Firm - Committed to Improving Companies Through Hiring the Best and Most Diverse Talent in the Market. For more information contact us on +45 32 74 15 97 or at hello@anzurra.com