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4 March 2024 | Firm News | Article by Alun Jones

International Women’s Day

With International Women’s Day approaching, we’ve been reflecting on some of the important actions we’ve taken to create a culture and environment our colleagues are proud to be part of. As there’s always more we can do to improve and evaluate our commitment to diversity and inclusion, we’re celebrating the initiatives and people across the firm setting a positive example for a fair and inclusive workplace.

Here’s what we’ve been up to in 2023/24:

  • Formed employee-led EDI networks to create conversations and opportunities around the importance of inclusion to people of all genders, ethnicities and backgrounds.
  • Made a record 23 internal promotions and secured our largest ever intake of trainees signalling our commitment to investing in our people. Women represented 65% of promotions and 71% of trainees in 2023. In 2024, Women make up 52% of our partners – exceeding figures published by Solicitors Regulation Authority showing 37% partners at UK law firms are female.
  • Overhauled our approach to sports sponsorship to improve participation and help level the playing field for women and girls. This included a new and exciting community partnership with Wales Netball, sponsorship of all grassroots teams playing in the South Wales Football Association Cups and supporting Long Course Weekend Wales’ legacy programme for children in West Wales, to name only a few.
  • Enhanced our policies to better support menopause and paternity and set up a parent support network for our employees.
  • Strengthened links with education organisations in England and Wales to help create a diverse talent pool for the lawyers and support staff of the future. We welcomed Paralegal Holly Hammond to the firm, as part of the Career Confident programme with Cardiff University and supported the Girls’ Day School Trust Careers in Law scheme with some career advice from Partner Ciaran McCabe.
  • Hosted an “Empowering Women in Leadership” event in collaboration with NatWest to kick off a series of professional development workshops for HJ employees.
  • Partnered with The MASIC Foundation and continued to support communities that matter to our clients such as the Female Veteran’s Alliance. We have provided additional support to our existing partners the Saints Foundation (the charity of Southampton Football Club) and 2 Wish Cymru for their own IWD celebrations.

Happy International Women's Day #InspireInclusion #IWD2024

When it comes to how we can lead a fair and inclusive environment, HR Director Di Brooks has spent the best part of three decades championing the firm’s people, policies and culture.

Di commented:

“As part of our ongoing commitment to creating a fair environment for all our colleagues, we have developed an action plan to strengthen our work around equity, diversity and inclusion. There is nothing better than seeing the impact of these actions come to life, whether that’s felt by individuals or collectively among our employee networks. One of the standout initiatives for me this past 12 months has been the enthusiasm for our parent support network which brings together women and men across the organisation.”

Speaking of the commitments made by the firm, Partner Kathryn Singh who sits on our talent management board, added:

“It feels like a pivotal moment at the firm as we pledge that positive action based on employee feedback will be woven into everything we do, including our approach to gender balance. But pledges are easy to make and can be easily forgotten, so we’ve made sure we have taken small but important steps forward to make a positive difference, such as committing to regular employee surveys and supporting our employee-led networks.”

Speaking of how we can further support women and girls in the community, Director of Business Development and Marketing, Joe Purcell commented:

“We are proud of our community roots at Hugh James but recognised more effort was needed to level up our support for women and girls’ sport. In Wales, where our firm is headquartered and many of our employees call home, our new partnerships with Wales Netball, South Wales Football Association and Long Course Weekend aim to help to break down barriers, inspire a next generation and promote sport for all.”

Partner Gemma Osgood spoke of the importance of female role models and sharing her experiences with our sporting partners in Southampton.

“Our partnership with Saints Foundation helps us deliver to a positive impact in our community. I recently had the honour of joining the Foundation to speak at the Premier League Changemaker’s International Women’s Day event. The event engaged young women and girls to believe in their dreams, and I was only too glad to share my own career experience with them to mark the occasion. Seeing and believing in female role models has been an important part of my career journey. I hope I can help inspire others to reach their potential.”

Katherine Allen joined Hugh James as a Partner and now volunteers to lead the Gender Balance Group (GBG).  Kath’s experience as a junior lawyer has made her determined to ensure that no one feels like their career could or should be limited because of their gender.

Speaking of her role on the GBG employee-network, she said:

“There have already been some great initiatives to get the ball rolling on the gender balance side of our EDI strategy – the Hugh James and NatWest “Empowering Women in Leadership” was a really positive start.  Over the next three months the Gender Balance Group will commence a roadshow to engage with all of our people to see what is important to them from the perspective of gender equality, and we will then be working on a programme of projects and talks from industry leaders in respect of the issues that people most want to see progress on.”

Manchester-based Partner Amber Mitchell also credited the Gender Balance event hosted in partnership with NatWest in September 2023 for delivering much-needed support to female leaders in relation to tackling imposter syndrome.

She said:

“It was really interesting and informative and, whilst it might sound cliched, it was empowering. Imposter Syndrome can affect anyone and at all levels but there is plenty of research indicating that it is more prevalent in women and there was a useful discussion on how to combat this, which included encouraging us to be kinder to ourselves, and one of my big takeaways from the day was to push myself to say yes to things that I feel are out of my comfort zone.  I still have to consciously remind and encourage myself to say yes when such things arise but, each time I do, it gets easier.”

Partner, EDI lead and member of our Talent Management Board, Gwen Morgan-Evans concluded:

“They say “you have to see it to be it”, and this was the case with my career. Starting out as a trainee at Hugh James in 1999, there were as many female partners as male and seeing that every day made me believe it was something I could one day achieve.

“In my experience, HJ has always been an inclusive and supportive place to work but as we grow as a business, it’s important we have the right frameworks and policies. As a Talent Management Board we recognise there is still work to do, but we have made significant progress so far and we’re well-positioned to further build on this.“

We recently joined our community partner Wales Netball at one of their netball sessions in a Cardiff High School along with Wales Netball CEO, Vicki Sutton, and a few of the Welsh Feathers netball team:

Author bio

Alun Jones is Managing Partner of Hugh James, taking the helm in January 2011. He is also chair of the firm’s board of management.

In his role as Managing Partner, Alun is responsible for formulating and implementing the firm’s business strategy and day-to-day operations.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.

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