Personnel Today Awards 2016: Pinsent Masons proves law firms can excel in diversity

Creating Inclusive Cultures

Law firms are not famed for being diverse workplaces, but the 2016 Personnel Today Award for Diversity and Inclusion, sponsored by Creating Inclusive Cultures, goes to Pinsent Masons. Here we profile its winning work and that of the runners-up.


Pinsent Masons

About the organisation
Pinsent Masons is an international law firm specialising in the energy, infrastructure, financial services, real estate, manufacturing and technology sectors. It has 21 offices across Europe, Asia Pacific and the Middle East.

The challenge

Award for Diversity and Inclusion – the judges

Charlotte Sweeney, Creating Inclusive Cultures
Denise Keating, Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion
Diane Brown, Diversity consultant

The legal sector has a reputation for gender imbalance at senior levels. Seven in 10 of Pinsent Masons’ trainee solicitors are female, yet women represent only 23% of its partners. The firm recognised that businesses with a better gender balance across the senior management team are financially more successful and, in order to retain its talented females, it needed them to see the potential for a successful and fulfilling career path.

What the organisation did

  • Established “Project Sky” in 2013 with the aim that all employees can achieve their career aspirations and that policies and practices reward merit across the entire business, regardless of gender.
  • Ran a series of focus groups and surveys, which revealed the importance – for women in particular – of talking regularly to their manager about their aspirations and future career development.
  • Implemented a flexible approach to career progression, ensuring lawyers have honest and clear conversations with line managers and understand different career pathways.
  • Provided lawyers with the option of “pausing” their career at certain levels without feeling they are being left behind, which has enabled more transparency around individuals’ careers.
  • Introduced the “core hours” programme, which gave lawyers the flexibility to come into the office from 10am and leave from 4pm as long as client expectations were met.
  • Encouraged discussion around work-life balance in family support network. Recent events have included bring your child to work days and family Christmas film afternoons.
  • Ran a series of events focusing on diverse families. As part of a 2015 Diversity Week event, ran a webinar on same-sex parenting which all UK staff were invited to attend.
  • Launched ‘[email protected]’. This is an interactive site providing support, advice and guidance to anyone taking family leave. There are video modules with guidance, toolkits and resources for working parents and line managers.

Benefits and achievements

  • Firm now has 23% female partners, up from 19% in 2013, showing steady progress towards the target of 25% by 1 May 2018. Female representation on the board is now 33%, up from 11%.
  • Remuneration and partnership committee, which appoints new partners and decides partner remuneration, now has 50% female representation, up from 15% in 2013.
  • Everyone can now make a flexible working request and the firm offers a variety of formats for different needs, eg working from home, flexibility across days and school holidays and job sharing.
  • Almost a quarter (24%) of the workforce work flexibly.
  • Forty members of the London office are actively engaged in the parents’ network CityMothers and two senior women are now mentoring junior women in other organisations.
  • In 2015, Pinsent Masons was recognised as a “top employer” in the Legal Week Intelligence Staff Survey and achieved a place in the Working Families’ “Top 30 Employers” and The Times’ “Top 50 places for Women to Work.”

Judges’ comments
“Holistic view to get more women into the profession. Significant change made at the senior levels and in positions to influence the change throughout the rest of the firm. Good overview of data and impact.”

Law firm Pinsent Masons collect their trophy from Charlotte Sweeney, founder of Creating Inclusive Cultures

Law firm Pinsent Masons collect their trophy from Charlotte Sweeney, founder of Creating Inclusive Cultures


Bradford Teaching Hospitals

About the organisation
Bradford Teaching Hospitals runs Bradford Royal Infirmary and St Luke’s Hospital. It serves a population of around 528,000 people and employs approximately 5,500 staff. Bradford is ethnically diverse, with a 33% black and minority ethnic (BME) population, 27% of whom are of Asian or Asian-British heritage.

The challenge
In 2012, the head of equality and diversity mapped the success of white and BME candidates who gained roles in the organisation. Across all posts, white candidates had a one in five chance of being appointed, while BME candidates had a one in eight chance. At a senior level, BME shortlisted candidates had a one in 17 chance of appointment, compared with one in four for white candidates.

What the organisation did

  • Devised equality briefings for all senior managers, chairing recruitment panels or running disciplinary, grievance or investigation processes.
  • Looked in detail at potential reasons for the disparity in outcomes for white and BME candidates, including conscious and unconscious bias.
  • Took action in areas where no BME staff had been appointed including: advertising posts externally; participating in interview panels to identify any discriminatory practice; and contacting BME candidates who had been shortlisted but failed to attend interview.
  • Set a target in 2015 for the workforce to be made up of 35% BME staff by 2025.
  • Worked with different divisions on action they could take to ensure BME staff have the same promotion opportunities as white staff and address the higher percentage of staff leaving.
  • Reviewed the make-up of the board of directors and found that of the 12 voting members, seven were white men with a business or financial background. As a result, the job description and person specification were amended to include a knowledge and understanding of the local diverse population of Bradford.

Benefits and achievements

  • Overall BME staffing numbers increased from 24.7% to 26.8%, while senior manager numbers increased from 7.6% to 10.2%.
  • Almost one-third (29%) of the voting membership of the board is now from a BME background.
  • In 2014, the work was recognised and included in guidance for NHS provider boards.

Judges’ comments
“Good strategy and a clear overview of their trajectory so that they can change their focus at any given time.”


About the organisation
Golin is a communications and PR firm owned by the Interpublic Group and established in 1956. It has approximately 700 employees across 34 international offices.

The challenge
Recent figures stated that 91% of the PR industry is white. Data from the same census showed that although 61% of its population is made up of women, at a senior level this percentage drops to 36%. Golin has always believed in the importance of having a diverse workforce that not only reflects the wider society but allows for creativity and leads to great work.

What the organisation did

  • Improved work flexibility by introducing “Golin Lifetime”: staff are eligible to take as much paid holiday as they wish; everyone can work flexibly, whether or not they are a parent.
  • Launched a unique internship designed to reach unconventional candidates.
  • Visited colleges and universities that have a high percentage of BME students and advertised on job boards for vacancies.
  • Golin’s “Unterns” are paid not to come to work for two months and instead pursue an adventure or experience of their choice before returning to work.
  • Encouraged more women to take senior leadership roles within Golin and the wider industry. Ran “Golin Returnship” as a back-to-work training programme for 30 mums who had been out of the industry for three or more years, followed by a three-month paid internship for one candidate.
  • Overhauled family-friendly policies. Enhanced paternity leave: six weeks on full pay, and offered enhanced maternity leave and enhanced shared parental leave.
  • Became a Living Wage employer, ensuring that all employees, including interns, are paid the London Living Wage.
  • Introduced a PR apprenticeship scheme. Those apprentices have joined Golin in permanent roles and this year, the intake will double.
  • Trained line managers on the pitfalls of unconscious bias. Used technology to review the wordings of all job adverts and ensure that they are gender neutral.

Benefits and achievements

  • Golin now has 30 direct applications for each role, up from 20 in 2014-15.
  • Increased number of non-white British employees from 8% in June 2015 to 14%.
  • Number of BME interns accepted has risen from 16% in 2014-15, to 28% in 2015-16.
  • Gender split of company is now 60% women to 40% men.
  • Senior leadership is now 50% women, 50% men; with 17% from non-white British backgrounds (increase from 8%).
  • All maternity returners now come back to work (increase from 87%).
  • Doubled the intern intake, ensured 67% were from non-Russell Group universities and doubled the intake of apprentices.
  • Reputation for being an inclusive employer helped increase percentage of LGBT employees from 1.5% in 2015 to 4% 2016.

Judges’ comments
“Clear pressure for change, innovative actions with fantastic results.”

Institute of Cancer Research

About the organisation
The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) is one of the world’s most influential cancer research organisations, with an outstanding record dating back more than 100 years. As well as being a world-class research centre, the ICR is a higher education institution and a college of the University of London.

The challenge
In universities across the UK, women currently comprise 25% of professors and 50% of PhD students working in science. The ICR was typical of the sector. In 2011, prior to the start of its “Women in science” project, women comprised 50% of PhD students, but only 21% of scientific professors and 25% of clinical professors.

What the organisation did

  • Launched “Women in science”, with the aim of creating an environment in which all talented researchers have the same opportunities, regardless of gender.
  • Identified points at which women are lost from research careers within the institute by undertaking a systematic analysis of four years of data.
  • Analysed gender differences in recruitment (at application, shortlisting and appointment), promotions, leavers, committee membership, working patterns and maternity leave.
  • Benchmarked proportions of women in each career against UK universities and against individual peer institutions.
  • Developed initiatives to address the recruitment and retention of female team leaders, the development of clinical academics and how to build a supportive culture for women.
  • Removed requirements for professorial appointments that penalised those working part time and recognised specialist career paths where traditional metrics of academic success did not reflect individual contributions.
  • Introduced maternity cover for team leaders, which is normally not provided in research funding, to allow laboratory management during maternity leave.
  • Developed “emergency childcare” in a building classified as laboratory space. Volunteers are on standby during school holidays to mind colleagues’ children while they undertake short laboratory tasks.
  • Changed the flexible working culture: formal flexible working requests increased from seven in 2014 to 34 in 2015 thanks to HR-led workshops.

Benefits and achievements

  • More women in senior academic roles and on committees, more comprehensive career development, and greater staff engagement. Women now comprise 40% of scientific professorships, up from 25% in 2011.
  • More than 90% of post-doc leavers (between 2009 and 2015) are in research or research-related roles, and similar proportions of men and women have gone to further post-doc or team leader positions elsewhere.
  • Staff survey scores on diversity, job satisfaction, access to networks and training, and institution sensitivity to work life balance all improved. Ninety per cent of staff think the ICR is a good place to work, up from 75% in 2011.
  • More than eight in ten (83%) of women (72% in 2011) and 88% of men (67% in 2011) agree that the ICR is committed to equality and diversity.

Judges’ comments
“As this has been going for some time there is some very impressive impact data that covers more than pure representation. This creates a good case for change.”

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS)

About the organisation
RBS Group is a banking and financial services company which employs around 90,000 employees in the UK and internationally. It provides a wide range of products and services to personal, commercial and large corporate and institutional customers through its two main subsidiaries, the Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest.

The challenge
RBS recognised that having the right balance of diversity is an important part of the changing culture at the bank and is key in helping it achieve its ambition of being the number one bank for customer service, trust and advocacy by 2020. Key to this is ensuring greater gender balance at all levels of the organisation, by helping to accelerate women’s careers.

What the organisation did

  • Introduced a gender goal: “to increase the number of women in ‘senior roles’ in each function/franchise to >30% by 2020”. Shared the ambition to be fully gender balanced by 2030.
  • Launched a gender plan which identified key processes, tools and practices that would help achieve these goals. A key part of this was a development plan targeted specifically at female employees.
  • Identified specific gaps through a variety of mechanisms – female focus groups, listening events, line manager feedback, employee survey outputs, and market research. Provided development to ensure a level playing field for everyone, while enabling women to progress equally in their careers.
  • Created 16 development options specifically for women, including: sponsorship/mentoring; targeted development programmes; a suite of online tools; access to external professional networking organisations through individual professional memberships; and development offered through employee-led networks.
  • Designed the proposition to cover the full set of requirements for formal, female-specific learning and development that is augmented locally, for example via local workplace secondments, introducing stretch roles, as part of the broader gender plan.
  • Overcame resistance from employees (male and female) who thought that the organisation was “paying lip service to ‘fixing women'”. Made sure that colleagues understood that this was not the case, and that when gender balance is achieved, positive action will stop.

Benefits and achievements

  • Following the 2015 pilot, RBS has trained four times as many women as it has ever trained before (around 2,000 on an annual basis).
  • There are examples of women moving roles; having increased confidence to apply for more challenging roles; pursuing mentors; demonstrating enhanced leadership skills to better delegate and manage their teams; and building stronger networks.
  • Aggregate position (top three layers, around 800 roles) is sitting at 32%, representing a 3% increase since the end of 2014.
  • Pipeline (around 5,000 roles) has improved from 32% to 41% over the last 18 months.
  • Increased engagement levels, employees rated the organisation as 82% favourable (up 3% from previous year).
  • Women’s employee-led network has grown to more than 12,000 members.

Judges’ comments
“Balance of diversity to drive culture change required to achieve its ambition of being the number one bank. Gender plan resulting in 16 development options with excellent measurable results in terms of increased representation.”

Sandwell & West Birmingham NHS Trust

About the organisation
Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals (SWBH) NHS Trust is an integrated care organisation dedicated to improving the lives of local people, maintaining an outstanding reputation for teaching and education, and embedding innovation and research. It employs around 7,500 people.

The challenge
The Trust’s public health strategy for 2014 to 2017 required a commitment to reducing workforce inequality and improving the wellbeing of staff. It was also important to address the fact that a number of accommodation blocks at Sandwell Hospital stood empty.

What the organisation did

  • Developed the “Live & Work Project” with youth homelessness charity St Basils. Aimed to provide apprenticeship opportunities and living accommodation to young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
  • Recognised that if the Trust could find partnership support to bring the empty staff accommodation back into use, then it could offer accommodation to homeless young people completing an apprenticeship.
  • Refurbished an accommodation block at a cost of around £200,000 to £300,000. Further outlay to get the building up and running was met by charitable donations.
  • Developed a funding and support structure to ensure that young people can have the opportunity to live and work without recourse to welfare.
  • Provided a higher level of pastoral support, especially in the first three months, to ensure young people at St Basils are prepared to adapt to the expectations of entering the world of work and the requirements of working in the NHS.
  • Recognised the need to engage with the people that the Trust serves. Through the Learning Works, it has deployed services into the centre of the community. This ensures it attracts its future workforce from the local community by offering support.

Benefits and achievements

  • The Trust is the only NHS employer in the country that provides homeless young people the opportunity to complete an apprenticeship, while living in NHS Trust accommodation.
  • Twenty seven apprentices from St Basils recruited to SWBH in 2014-16 across a range of healthcare disciplines.
  • Eighty-five per cent retention rate and 100% apprenticeship achievement rates in 2014-16.
  • Excellent support from service managers and staff in offering apprenticeship placements within the Trust and a real willingness from staff to want to make a difference to the health and wellbeing of young homeless people.
  • Pre-apprenticeship programme developed to help young people progress onto apprenticeships and support financially with traditional barriers to recruitment.
  • Recruitment barriers such as having past disclosure barring service declarations have been addressed sensitively and on an individual basis, adhering to all trust policies and procedures.

Judges’ comments
“Innovative solution to a number of inequality challenges including social mobility. Direct links back to the business strategy and clear overview of the impact measures.”

Trafford Housing Trust

About the organisation
Trafford Housing Trust (THT) manages and provides over 9,000 homes within the Trafford area of Manchester.

The challenge
In 2008, THT decided to create a sustainable business that would have a positive impact on the community. It became committed to delivering three types of value: social value; environmental value; and financial value.

What the organisation did

  • Formed CleanStart in August 2008 with the aim of creating a sustainable business that would have a positive impact on the community.
  • Worked closely with police, probation and local authority. Employed prolific and priority offenders, those who are considered to be a risk to the public or at risk of reoffending.
  • Employed 20 people, which by the end of August 2015 had risen to 48. The increase created a significant expansion in terms of the social value created through CleanStart.
  • Partnered with HM Prison Styal to provide employment and training for offenders.
  • Addressed several misconceptions regarding the risk associated with employing ex-offenders and offering their skills to the public. Reassured key stakeholders that the benefits by far outweighed the perceived risk.
  • Provided enhanced social value through employment, training and rehabilitation. Gave structure to ex-offenders and the skills and positive outlook they need to secure permanent work and avoid re-offending.
  • Employed ex-offenders on a fixed-term contract via a rolling employment initiative, helping them to become economically active by providing them with training and support.
  • Offered employees access to a range of optional and compulsory services including: counselling; budgeting; work-based qualifications; CV writing; interview techniques; and job searches. Mock interviews took place with the social enterprise co-ordinator and a member of HR to make the experience as real as possible.

Benefits and achievements

  • Employed 55 ex-offenders on a fixed-term work programme. From there, 25 have moved into permanent employment and only six have reoffended.
  • Home Office research study showed CleanStart saved the local taxpayer £10 million by reducing offending rates.
  • Offered an extensive range of domestic and commercial services including construction site clearance, bulky waste removal and disposal, business and domestic removals, environmental and gardening services.
  • CleanStart has expanded its operation geographically and now works throughout the North West.
  • Contribution to a better environment has been enhanced by the CleanStart Furniture Centre, where it reclaims unwanted furniture and accessory items.
  • CleanStart has grown steadily over the past seven years, from around £100k turnover in 2008 to £765k in 2015. All of CleanStart’s profits are reinvested back into the local community.

Judges’ comments

“Excellent identification of the issue, a great solution with real tangible measurable results.”

Transport for London

About the organisation
Every day, around 20 million journeys are made on Transport for London’s (TfL) network – and that number is always increasing. Running the network is a massive undertaking, which involves managing billions of pounds worth of infrastructure and assets, and thousands of employees.

The challenge
TfL wanted to have a workforce that reflected the city it represented. With the knowledge that certain groups of people were under-represented in transport and engineering (particularly women and the BME communities), in 2014 it set itself the task of reviewing and overhauling every part of the graduate recruitment programme, from attraction to assessment and selection.

What the organisation did

  • Devised “Shape the future of London”. Featuring diverse role models, this campaign was rolled out across a number of platforms including social media and specialist events.
  • Embraced new technology, such as audience matching, Google Analytics and mobile apps, to target particular groups.
  • Considered socio-economic backgrounds in the assessment process for the first time, along with gender, disability, ethnicity and age. Introduced situational strength tests to replace the more traditional competency-based application form.
  • Adopted blind screening, thus avoiding any unconscious assessor bias.
  • Took a collaborative approach and involved senior graduate sponsors and graduates at every stage of the process – from briefing sessions, design workshops and seminars, to job analysis, design and piloting.
  • Positive end-of-campaign analysis results that showed no adverse impact for gender, disability, ethnicity, age and social mobility and an increase in applicant quality.
  • Facilitated the change via teams both inside and outside of the business. Internally, the graduate recruitment and organisational development teams were central. Made up of recruitment specialists and occupational psychologists, each role included specific responsibilities relating to diversity objectives.
  • Partnered with recruitment communications agency TMP. Held focus groups with prospective graduates, and spoke to TfL employees to understand what applicants are looking for. TfL then created a new brand with diversity at its core, redesigned marketing materials and used targeted media to speak directly to suitable candidates.

Benefits and achievements

  • Huge surge in applications, with 16,800 applications to date for the 2016 intake.
  • An impressive rise in the number of female applicants. Many of TfL’s programmes, particularly those with an engineering focus, used to be heavily male-dominated schemes but that is no longer the case. In 2013, female applications were at 20%. It’s now 43%.
  • In 2011, just 11% of applicants were of BAME – it is now 23%.
  • Quality of applicants has also improved. More than four in ten (45%) candidates attending assessment centres have been offered roles or have been saved into a talent pool.
  • Of those, 30% are female, 24% BAME, 4% have a disability and 14% from low socio-economic backgrounds.
  • Removing the traditional application form in favour of situational strengths tests has led to cost savings of around £69,000 in 2014/15.

Judges’ comments
“Great examples of impact measures for different characteristics as well as cost savings. It will be interesting to see the continued progress of this work as well as the longer-term impact on retention.”

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