Making Work, Work

We already know the modern work paradigm is shifting; sitting at a desk in an office from 9 to 5 is no longer the default, and the rise of flexible working is gaining more attention. A recent YouGov survey has revealed that only 6% of working Britons now put in those hours. Instead, 73% work either part-time or with some form of flexible working arrangement (Deloitte and Timewise study).

Flexible working is no longer just a special condition for some people in work. Essentially it’s a way of working that suits the needs of employees of all kinds. This could mean starting and leaving the office earlier or working from home a few days a week. But as Anna Whitehouse of Mother Pukka Flex Appeal campaign explained: “Flexible working doesn’t mean working less or slacking off, it means finding hours that suit your life and how you best work. And it’s not just an issue for parents, either – it’s one of the few issues that both the unionists of the TUC and the employers at the CBI agree on: flexible working is better for staff, and it’s better for profits.”

The benefits are indeed tangible and wide ranging. Vodafone conducted a global survey about flexible working back in 2016, revealing that companies who had implemented agile strategies:

  • Increased company profits (according to 61% of respondents);
  • Improved productivity (83%);
  • Positively impacted company reputation (58%); and
  • Improved staff morale (76%).

Flexi-work also has a knock-on effect on recruitment. As Clare Butler, recruitment expert and Global Managing Director of Lawrence Simmons Recruitment, revealed to Catherine Gleave in our recent piece on “The Future’s Flexi”, employers need to be open-minded about their approach to flexible working going forward because it can make all the difference when it comes to talent acquisition, with many contracts won and lost over this very issue. There is a push towards respecting the work-life balance across the legal profession and if companies push back, they risk losing out on some serious talent. This is especially true regarding working parents and millennials for whom workplace culture, of which this plays a part, is often more important than traditional status indicators, like salary.

Rights to Flexible Working

Companies may not actively offer it as part of recruitment, but after six months in a job, every employee in the UK has the right to request flexible working. While companies aren’t obliged to acquiesce to a request, they are obliged to consider it “in a reasonable manner”. Are you thinking of pitching the case for flexi working to your boss or trying negotiate (or even lay the groundwork for the future) on accepting a new position? Read the LexisNexis piece on the Flex Appeal and #BeBoldforChange here. It’s got the answers to two of the most common – and increasingly outdated – objections: “If we did it for you, we’d have to do it for everyone!” and “You’ll be less productive.”

Even though some companies might dig in their heels, relying on the predictable old arguments for not implementing agile working policies, flexible working is on the rise – both in the country, and in the legal profession, marking a significant turning point for the industry in 2019. As more companies are working agile policies into their contracts, the legal market as a whole is thriving, with even more talented individuals either entering or returning to the workforce. As Catherine Gleave notes: “Not only do women feel more empowered to return to the workplace on their own terms, the rising popularity of flexible working means that a varied work structure is the standard rather than a special requirement, thus preventing any bias against candidates who require a more flexible work schedule.”

Working Smarter

In addition to injecting even more talent into the marketplace, flexible working is just one of the ways the modern legal workforce can work smarter, rather than harder. And it’s being facilitated largely by the advance of technology. Taken at its most basic, laptops and smartphones mean that lawyers can be online and contactable 24/7, no matter where they are in the world. But add to that the plethora of cutting-edge legal tools, such as case management software, and it’s clear that legal professionals can remain connected to both their clients and colleagues without being physically present in the office. They can execute tasks, securely access shared files, issue and review contracts, send out invoices, and much more.

There’s no more putting it off: the legal market is evolving and the traditional working model is going to diminish. As the market changes, different, more agile working models are on the rise, from portfolio careers to flexible working. These models can benefit both employee and employer, as companies are beginning to realise and act upon, and as seen in the continued success of organisations such as Obelisk Support, which recently joined the FT Future 100 UK list as a diversity leader – the only legal company to do so.

But for those considering taking a flexible approach to work, there are undoubtedly challenges, from the risk of succumbing to procrastination to figuring out how to engender trust at work and stay on top of client care. But at its core there are certain things to do in the run up to taking the leap:

  • Be realistic about what you can do on a flexible schedule and take the time to figure out how and where.
  • Find a forward-looking company with a positive work culture.
  • Research the right tools and technology to facilitate working efficiently out of the office.
  • Discuss it with your team, both full-time in-house and other flexible workers, to make sure there’s buy-in and understanding.
  • Stay flexible and carry out reviews of your arrangement. Be prepared to adjust and change as you go.

For more practical, easy-to-implement solutions and suggestions, read the LexisNexis article on the Future of Law – “Flexible Working for Lawyers: How Far Can You Flex?

Making Work, Work

We are delighted to have Louisa Van Eeden of Lexis Nexis UK join us as a guest blogger on The Attic. Her first post takes a look at how millennials are shaping the future of the legal industry.

Millennials. They’re the generation that everybody loves to blame for, well, pretty much anything. They are branded as “snowflakes”, and written off as a problem that either needs to be overcome, or ignored until they ‘grow up’ and become more like the older generations. But who are they really, and what impact are they having on the legal industry?

Much like Generation X back in the 1990s, the term millennial is often used in the media to refer to anything related to a youth culture that other generations generally don’t understand that well. Unlike Generation X, the Millennial Generation was typically born between the early 1980s and the late 1990s, and grew up in a dramatically different landscape to their forebears. The world has changed: the internet dominates our lives, job security and home ownership are not a certainty; the future of the planet is at risk through climate change; and it’s becoming rapidly apparent that continuing with a business as usual attitude, just because that’s the way it’s always been, is untenable.

Consequently, millennials simply aren’t as compelled by traditional practices as previous generations, both in life and work. They are who they are. Where previous high achievers would chase salary, millennials now typically look for a company that aligns with their values. For the millennial, culture reigns supreme. In fact, a study recently conducted by Fidelity showed that millennials are willing to give up (up to) £7,600 in salary every year for a job that gave them a better environment and culture.

The Millennial Takeover

Considering that millennials now form the backbone of staff and client bases, making up to 35% of our current workforce, with that set to increase to 50% of the workforce by 2020, this is not a demographic to underestimate. Millennials are not just a vague notion of youth culture, they are real people progressing into management positions, and are shaping the technological and cultural landscape of every industry, including the law.

The “The Millennial Takeover”, identifies three key areas where the legal industry is seeing the impact of millennials:

#1 Talent Acquisition

This is a key battleground for law firms and one which millennials are well-positioned to approach and understand, especially because, as the Financial Times continues to report, firms are struggling to source and retain talent in today’s rapidly changing marketplace. Attracting the best and brightest young talent is more important than ever before, and harder than ever before, with this generation taking a markedly different approach to their careers. Millennials are key to helping law firms communicate their vision of the future, enabling firms to modernise with an eye to the demands of new talent and driving a competitive edge.

#2 The Ability to Drive the Profession Forward

Law firms are already changing with the millennial worker in mind. As the Law Journal Newsletter reports: “A number of firms have moved, remodelled or completely overhauled their physical workplaces with millennials in mind, favouring common areas, for example, over large corner offices.” But it’s not just physical changes, but more fundamental ones as well. As one of the co-founders of the Legal A-Team asserts, the partnership model – one of the traditional prestige markers in law firms – is no longer the aim: “Millennials want what they want and they want it now. The patience factor is not one of their fortes — they’re not going to stand around for 12 years.” In order to retain and attract millennial talent (and not lose them to agile, tech-forward start-ups), law firms will need to significantly adapt their culture and perhaps even their company structure.

#3 A Creative Approach to Business Practices

Law firms and lawyers need to think more creatively about their working practices in light of the rise of consumerism in today’s legal market. Client power is increasingly dominant, with billing and efficiency becoming ever more important. New and agile practices, from social media to technology, are areas where millennials excel. They also prefer to work collaboratively rather than as a silo, which may well serve firms well moving forwards. Being open to change and engaging in a dialogue with junior members of the team may be beneficial here, in order to ensure that the firm remains stimulated and doesn’t fall behind.

Millennials and Legal Tech

While all three areas are important to understand, technology is the one that underpins them all. The agile working practices and lateral knowledge-sharing solutions favoured by millennial legal professionals and legal start-ups are all enabled by technology. Indeed, there are already reports that legal tools are being used with increasing regularity. A recent LexisNexis In-house Insights report, ‘Legal Technology – Looking Past the Hype’ found that 85% of in-house legal teams surveyed have introduced multiple technology types and almost three quarters (73%) of respondents who have already introduced legal technology tools are making plans to expand their implementation. It is very likely that the next generation of lawyers will practise law in very different ways.

As Head of the Global Cyber Security Practice at Herbert Smith Freehills Andrew Moir suggests, lawyers have an obligation to stay up to date with legal developments and new technologies: ‘There have always been areas where an understanding of both the law and technology is helpful, such as patents, IT contractual disputes or cyber security. But now we’re increasingly being instructed on the legal aspects of cutting edge technology such as blockchain, electronic signatures, artificial intelligence, and data analytics, to name a few. Before we can advise on these sorts of developments, we really need as lawyers to understand the technology behind them.’

The Flexible Generation

Technology is undoubtedly changing the legal profession, and it’s likely that the next generation of lawyers will practise law in very different ways. Indeed, there is already a growing section of the workplace – populated by those who have different life demands and values – who no longer fit the traditional working model. This has led to an increase in portfolio careers as well as flexible working models designed to benefit both employee and employer. This can be seen in the continued success of organisations such as Obelisk Support, which recently joined the FT Future 100 UK list as a diversity leader – the only legal company to do so.

This trend is likely to continue to increase and evolve as more millennials dominate the workforce, bringing with them their approach to work-life balance, their use of technology as a natural enabler, the importance they place on purposeful business (one which looks beyond the profit line), their desire for flexibility, and their alternative definitions of success.

We are entering an exciting era for the legal industry, one in which we wait in watchful anticipation to see who will accept and accelerate this new approach to working culture, and what impact it will have across the legal profession and wider society.

For more insights on how young lawyers are best positioning themselves to weather the upcoming changes, check out our post on “The Legal Profession for Millennials”. 

Making Work, WorkObelisk In Action

As part of our Wednesday Live series at Obelisk Support, we hosted Graham Ellis, Assistant Commissioner at the London Fire Brigade, and Verona Clarke, Station Manager, Special Operations Group at the London Fire Brigade. Both shared precious insights on how their teams anticipate and react to crisis situations.

The population of London is estimated at 8.8 million spread out over 607 square miles, with 300 languages spoken and in 2016, welcomed 31.5 million visitors. To keep all these people safe, the London Fire Brigade (LFB) is the busiest fire department in the UK and one of the busiest in the world, operating with a yearly budget of £382 million. No law firm, however big, can claim to watch the back of that many clients with so many shifting parameters. But as we deal with our own daily ‘firefights’, here are 6 leadership lessons all lawyers will be able to relate to…

#1 Prepare For the Impossible

The London Fire Brigade’s norm is to prepare for the unexpected.

In a toxic paradox, firefighters have to learn to adapt in difficult situations in real time and with ever-decreasing staff and resources. By far their best weapon to avert risk is prevention. As part of its fire prevention campaign, the LFB carries out 80,000 home fire safety visits every year. Since 9/11, the LFB has created an Urban Search & Rescue team that covers victims of urban catastrophes. There is a plan for the event of a meteorite falling on Earth. As you can see, the LFB makes its set of responses very flexible but preparation without communication would be pointless.

The Legal Angle

As GDPR recently showed, you can never be ready for every scenario but you can certainly have response mechanisms that kick in when emergency strikes. In fact, lawyers have long played a key role in helping clients to understand and mitigate risk which means that they’ve had to adapt over time to keep up with the evolution of risks. A recent study showed that over 80% of lawyers said that risks are formally reviewed at least every six months. Is 6 months enough? Is your law firm even doing that?

From cyber security to industry compliance or legal exposure, a good risk management policy starts with an audit. If you don’t know where you’re starting from, you can’t set up preventive measures and that’s step 1 of managing any type of risk (also less expensive and stressful than dealing with a bad situation). Read these 5 Steps to Legal Risk Management and start planning for your legal meteorite. Then you can move on with your communication strategy – because risk management is a business-wide concern.

#2 Cooperate with Other Teams

The LFB wouldn’t be able to do its job without other agencies such as the police, government agencies or even the public. How do you alert the LFB to an act of terror if you’re witnessing one or seeing something that’s off? The LFB’s primary response to disasters is prevention via public awareness campaigns and relies on the cooperation of other parties to be efficient.

In the case of an emergency, who you gonna call?

999. Write it down, just in case. It’s the UK number for emergencies. Please call it before filming to stream live on Facebook or Twitter.

The Legal Angle

It used to be that legal teams operated as stand-alone satellites in big companies, checking in at senior level and dealing with documents that were mysterious and scary to all other departments. Today, legal departments are often part of their company’s business strategy and understand what they need to do to get deals done.

#3 Embrace Diversity in Your Teams

At the end of the 1980s, the LFB employed 9,000 people, including 20 women and 80 BAME. As of 2018, the numbers have significantly shifted. The LFB employs 4,611 people, including 333 women and 606 BAME. That’s one fifth of the workforce today versus less than 1%. The LFB is working on a recruitment campaign to improve their diversity numbers and to offer not only flexible work options, but to retain minority and female staff by rethinking the promotion process. Recognising that they are a public-facing agency, the LFB strives to improve their diversity numbers both in offices and in operational teams.

By having greater diversity in their teams, the LFB gets a collective of opinions that helps them get stronger and communicate better in a modern world.  They need to engage with communities whose first language might not be English. Verona Clarke of the LFB does a lot of presentations at schools to show that the LFB represents the community, that women can be firefighters too. In her words, “the LFB needs the best of the best but it also needs diversity, the multilingual people who look and feel like everyone else.” That is true diversity.

Listen to Verona Clarke explain what it means to be seen and be in her job.

The Legal Angle

In many ways, the London Fire Brigade is way ahead of the legal profession on this aspect. The Attic and Obelisk Support stands in favour of diversity and regularly denounce how the legal industry has a major diversity issue. As the Solicitors Regulation Authority reports, women make up 48% of all lawyers in law firms and 47% of the UK workforce but in 2017, women made up 59% of non-partner solicitors compared to just 33% of partners or in the largest firms (50 plus partners), only 29% of partners are female. That’s only one aspect of the progress that needs to happen in the legal profession, with gender pay gaps in law firms at an all-time high, lack of diversity in executive boards and unequal rights for LGBTQ lawyers.

How do you make things better?

First, believe in diversity and inclusion. Firms that offer an inclusive environment for a diverse mix for employees stand to innovate, grow and outperform the competition. Businesses with a healthy balance of men and women are 15% more likely to outperform their competitors, while those with employees from a good mix of ethnic backgrounds are 35% more likely, claims research by McKinsey & Co. You can start by taking 5 steps to empower women in law and by listening to the voice of those missing in your organisation. Since diversity is good for business, why wait?

#4 Take Care of Your Physical Health

A lot of firefighters’ time is done training, responding to emergencies and learning standard operating procedures to stay safe. However, they operate in particularly dangerous places and it’s impossible for them to avoid compromising their physical health. Indeed, firefighters are 200% more likely than the average population to contract types of cancer and they work in a lot of environments that they cannot control with hazardous materials.

That said, the physical training of firefighters is one of the most demanding in the world and if you want to get an idea of the strength and fitness tests, WorkingMums has an interesting piece on whether a career in the London Fire Brigade is for you.

The Legal Angle

That brings us to lawyers, whose only physical test is being able to operate a computer. Safe to say, the two biggest threats to the physical health of lawyers are chairs and take-out meals. For one, sitting for lengthy periods is terrible for your body. Aches and pains are the least of your problems — sitting too much can lead to an early death. You face a higher risk of muscular-skeletal disorders, obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and more, even if you work out regularly.

On the nutrition front, things aren’t all pink either. A 2016 study sponsored by the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs and Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation surveying nearly 13,000 currently practicing attorneys found that 21-36% of lawyers qualify as problem drinkers. As reported on The Attic in Why Lawyers Should Take a Proper Healthy Lunch Break, the legal industry is one of the worst culprits for late in the day take-out food orders at the office, with a huge 81% of orders placed at dinner time and an average order time of 8:44pm. Neither poor nutrition nor the lack of exercise contribute to a healthy lifestyle.

Currently, fit lawyers like The Lean Lawyer, Backwards Guy or David Jones are the exception but they are an inspiration too and the legal profession needs more of them so we all get off our chairs and get our heart pumping. As Nike says, just do it!

#5 Take Care of Your Mental Health

The other part of firefighters’ health is mental health and the post-workshop Q&A discussed the notion of resilience. For many firefighters, resilience is making do with a bad situation. Elina Grigoriou of Grigoriou Interiors, who was in the audience, expressed resilience as “bringing your head above water, not standing above water.” She wondered what Graham Ellis did to keep his own teams resilient.

After seeing the response of colleagues to trauma over many years, Graham Ellis recalled the Soho pub bombing. Some of the people who were the most badly affected then were not the younger recruits but the ones who had seen it all before and had years of emergency preparedness. In modern days, fewer people are exposed to more and more traumatic events, the last drop goes into the bucket and the bucket starts to overflow.

Mental resilience for firefighters is training for disasters, follow-up public inquests, debriefing and follow-up actions. In the 1980s, Ann Willmott built an Advisory and Counseling Team for the LFB that was groundbreaking and involved working with psychologists. Dany Cotton, LFB Commissioner, was at the Grenfell Tower Fire and saw first-hand the horrors and acts of selflessness that firefighters experienced. She went live on ITV to say that “it’s all right not to be all right,” which was the truth, plain and simple. These firefighters will never be the same, with many seeking professional help for their mental health.

The Legal Angle

As explained on The Attic by Elizabeth Rimmer, Chief Executive of LawCare in Lawyers – Your Mental Health and Wellbeing Matter!, lawyers have higher rates of anxiety, depression and stress compared to other professions. It is the culture of the well-known poor work/life balance, the long hours and presenteeism, the competitive environment, the fear of failure and the driven and perfectionist personalities that can be drawn to law. All of this contributes to an environment that can make some people more vulnerable to mental health concerns.

Mental health is a very important and unspoken part of the life of legal professionals that’s still taboo in many firms. If you’re not feeling right, you need to get professional help right now. Don’t delay and don’t underestimate how it could impact your life. Don’t wait until a drop makes the bucket overflow.

#6 Invest in Tech and Infrastructure

When Graham started working at the London Fire Brigade in 1983, firefighters wore rubber Wellington boots, yellow plastic trousers, heavy woolen tuniques and gardening gloves.

Protective equipment in 2018 is a far cry from 1980s standards and includes a full array of digital communications to assist with live interventions.

The Legal Angle

Likewise in the 1980s, lawyers worked with paper and pen, didn’t have computers, let alone mobile phones, and faxed 100-page long documents to clients for signature. Their biggest security risk was probably a fire destroying client files and firm archives and secretaries did all their admin tasks.

Today’s lawyers have become independent professionals who can work remotely with digital communication tools, people who rely on technology like everyone else and who have warmed to the idea of legaltech solutions such as smart contracts or artificial intelligence. It’s not Silicon Valley-level tech engagement just yet, but lawyers have definitely caught up with the 21st century and are working hard to get up to speed with their techie counterparts.

About Graham Ellis

As Assistant Commissioner, Graham also heads up London Fire Brigade’s Special Operations Group and London Resilience Team, responsible for the preparations, training, response and recovery to a range of natural and terrorist related threats, and for overseeing fire service operations across the Greater London area.

About Verona Clarke

Verona Clarke is an Operational Station Manager, Special Operations Group at the London Fire Brigade, she is responsible for the brigades response to large scale events such as New Years Eve Celebrations, London Marathon and many other events. Verona is a frequent speaker at schools and a diversity champion at the London Fire Brigade.

Women in Law

We spend a lot of time celebrating the progress being made in diversity and gender equality in the legal industry. However, every so often we come across a statistic or study that makes us stop and realise just how much more work needs to be done to invest in female talent and to get rid of gender bias.

One that stood out to us recently was the realisation that still only 6.4% of Fortune 500 companies are run by female CEOs. Add to that the continuing pattern across industries that the higher up the ranks a woman gets, the pay gap widens, as seen in a study by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI). Even women who have branched out on their own find they come up against more barriers to progress than their male counterparts. Female founders and business leaders are struggling to achieve investment – a truly shocking 91% of publicly announced growth company cash investment deals were companies without a single female founder.

Within law, the picture is just as disheartening. Though there are many measures being taken to improve opportunities for women, they don’t seem to be having the effect one would hope. A McKinsey study of North American law firms, Women in the Workplace 2017, found only 19% of equity partners are women, and women are 29% less likely to reach the first level of partnership than are men

All Talk, No Action on Gender Bias?

It appears for all the progress in conversations around the importance of enabling more women to succeed and thrive in her chosen career path, there is a huge gap between acknowledging problems and taking the steps to address them. Gender bias is still very much present in big business decisions.

Why are companies, law firms and investors still reluctant to put their money where their mouth is? Here are just some of the lingering problems preventing investment in female talent, and the measures that need be taken to resolve them.

Problem #1 Unconscious Gender Bias

Investors, employers and company boards are all too often surrounded by people that look and think the way they do – the all too familiar ‘Old Boys Club’. This is not necessarily down to overt, conscious sexism or aversion to diversity – more that people don’t see the problem with being surrounded by people who look like and have similar backgrounds to themselves. It is important to confront the gender bias that we hold and teach ways to overcome them.

Measures to take: Facebook recently revealed that they have created an anti bias training course for employees, to help them interrupt and correct bias where they see it in the workplace. The company has also shared information, videos and presentations on its website for public access, so this a good place to start for anyone thinking of implementing their own anti-bias training for themselves or their employees.

Problem #2 Caregivers and Flexible Working

Employers are still far more concerned about women taking time out to have children or to care for family members than they are about men. Though parental and caring responsibilities are becoming more equally shared, women remain primary caregivers in our society, and therefore either have to juggle endlessly or step back from their career path. Women with family commitments, or those simply seen as being of childbearing age/circumstance may still be overlooked for promotion or ‘demanding’ roles due to the reluctance to allocate for flexible working.

Measures to take: It’s time for more organisations to take flexible working seriously as a wider part of company culture, rather than a case by case solution to a problem. Employers and employees both play a role in making this happen. The Law Society of Ireland provides a clear and comprehensive guide to conversations and statistics around flexible working practices. The more commonplace flexible working becomes in our industry, the less barriers primary caregivers will face in career progression.

Problem #3 Lack of Incentivisation

Something that is often missing from the conversations around inequality is incentives for organisations to invest efforts to tackle the gender bias problem for the benefit of all. There is real pressing need for companies to invest in female talent to drive extraordinary returns and the economy forward.

Measures to take: Look at the proof of the business case for gender equality. This McKinsey study is a few years old but shows just how essential female talent is for competitiveness, with companies in the bottom quartile for both gender and ethnicity diversity statistically less likely to achieve above average monetary returns compared to other similar companies. Obelisk Support is also living proof that tearing up the traditions and focusing on both men and women who want to work differently can lead to big things – global expansion, policy influence, award recognition, and being an important part of the drive for change in the legal industry. We have seen first hand the rewards that can be reaped from investing in female talent.

Problem #4 Lingering Belief in Inequality

Underlying all these issues is that a small but significant portion of society still believes that women are not equal to men in terms of ability and potential to lead and play the same roles in society. That is a far bigger problem to address, but facing up to this uncomfortable reality can help shape conversations we need to have to deconstruct societal imbalance and change thinking.

Measures to take: There is no single remedy to this overarching issue, just the continuation of discussion and of efforts to change what we can in our own pool in order to create a ripple effect. Despite slower progress than we might have expected in some areas, it is important not to lose hope and realise that small changes come together to change the culture at large. We are heading in the right direction to eradicate these ideas once and for all.

Women in Law

There were many witty signs at the global Women’s March on 21 January 2016 – many taking aim at recent political developments, in particular the US election of President Donald Trump – but one stood out for me through its sheer simplicity: “Yes to Equality!” It was refreshingly clear, and who could argue with it when the globe’s population is pretty much split down the middle along gender lines? Surely we all welcome equality and an open society in which we can all thrive – women and men together?

I find much of the language of equality sits at the very opposite end from the clarity of that #womensmarch placard. In the last decade in particular, it has become too nuanced and inefficient at amplifying the very essence of our call for change – in the case of gender equality, a desire to embed it in our workplace and reduce the sexism levels in our society. I have now followed the debate for much of the last 7 years and, through the prism of being a mother to a daughter, I think we need to unify and simplify the message around ‘equality’ if we are to see lasting change.

In the workplace in particular, the language of equality has been replaced with that of ‘diversity and inclusion’. Has this shift helped? Equality requires action to ensure individuals or groups of individuals are not treated differently or less favourably, on the basis of their specific protected characteristic – including areas of race, gender, disability, religion or belief, sexual orientation and age – and that avoids discrimination. Diversity and Inclusion, by contrast, introduced an element of choice around how a particular employer views individual differences so as to maximise their potential. This shift from action to choice is perhaps why, as a returning mum told me recently, we really need to shift the debate around gender equality and women in the workplace. There is a sense of being trapped in a straightjacket, which has managed to entangle us to the point of inaction.

We have witnessed the creation of a whole ‘diversity and inclusion’ professional class that has replaced much of the ‘equality’ speak that led to legislative changes in the past. We’ve now had equality legislation for decades, but still choose to pay women and men unequally. We choose to give women that have children a career ‘shelf life’ on the assumption that their ambition shouldn’t count once they choose to put their family first. We have an absence of women in leadership which we accept far too easily. Indeed, we still have a First Lady as opposed to a First Woman President in the US. Is this abundance of diversity initiatives working in effecting change or, to coin a phrase, is it #diversitywash? I think it is important that we ask why we are complicating the language of equality? We can no longer keep women riding on the inequality carrousel. Believing is doing, not words!