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30 November 2020

HFW revamps gender equality strategy after missing previous target

New strategy takes broader approach to improve gender representation across deal teams

By Ben Edwards

Portrait of Carolyn Chudleigh

Carolyn Chudleigh

HFW has refreshed its gender equality strategy as it seeks to boost the number of women in senior roles and to boost diversity on deal teams after the firm fell short of its previous target put in place five years ago.

The firm has set out a number of revised gender goals, including ensuring that at least 40% of all senior lateral hires and promotions over the next three years are female. It also pledges that half of all attendees on its pre-partnership development programme will be women between now and April 2023. 

The new strategy follows a review of the firm’s diversity and gender equality performance, which found that the firm was failing to meet its target of having at least 30% female fixed-share partners by this year, said Jeremy Shebson, HFW’s managing partner.

He said: “While we have made real and measurable progress as a firm since that target was set in 2015 – we've gone from 17% female fixed-share partners to 27% over that period – things were not moving quickly enough and we agreed as a board that a fresh approach was required in order to drive the meaningful change that we're all seeking.”

In addition to the revised quotas, the new strategy aims to ensure that each pitch and matter team will include both female and male representation, and that work is shared fairly among them. The firm will also actively put forward women candidates for role recruitment, including for lateral partners and legal directors, and strive to ensure there are gender-balanced panels at events. Each industry group will name an equality champion to work with partners and management to ensure those targets are met.

Carolyn Chudleigh, HFW’s global head of construction and the management board’s first dedicated diversity representative, said: “We thought very carefully about whether to introduce new targets, having not achieved our last target. But we decided that it was important to have defined and measurable goals in order to provide focus and structure to our actions, and to enable us to assess our progress.”

She added: “Where our previous target just looked at our percentage of female fixed-share partners, we will now be working towards a series of broader targets that focus on the actions that directly impact gender equality at the firm. Our new targets cover internal promotions and external hires, not only to the partnership as a whole – both fixed-share and equity – but also to our legal director role.”

Reviewing work allocation and team composition with the ‘specific goal of redressing the effects of unconscious bias’ is one of the recommendation of a recent report by Thomson Reuters that measured the effectiveness of common diversity initiatives.

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