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Iain Burke on embedding equality and diversity in the workplace

Mr Burke is Convener of the Law Society of Scotland Equality and Diversity Committee. He recently commented on the importance and the benefits of E & D in the workplace.

Mr Burke stated that it is essential that equality and diversity becomes embedded in the day-to-day practice of the workplace, and this also applied to the law as a profession. It is vital that talented individuals are represented in the profession, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or social background. The law profession needs a full and diverse community which represents the community it serves. More than that, it is important that solicitors be proud of the profession and help it to thrive.

While much work has been done in the Law Society to promote equality and diversity, there is still much work to be done, says Mr Burke. Figures show that over one quarter of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the UK prefer not to disclose these details in the workplace.

Mr Burke pointed out that in various studies carried out by the Law Society’s ‘Equality Means Business’ event, it was shown that all businesses do in fact benefit from equality and diversity. Management teams which were comprised of an even mix of male and female performed better than companies where the workforce was made up of either all male or all female teams. Balance is good for business.

While there are an equal amount of men and women entering the legal profession, the majority who are in senior positions are still predominantly male. This is a concern, because the split in the legal profession is almost even, with the slight majority being women (51%).

Mr Burke said that the Law Society’s ‘Let’s Talk Progression’ campaign brought to light some questions that the professional needed to discuss, and find solutions to. Some of the questions which were highlighted were: Who was progressing, and who was not. If they were not progressing, what was the reason? Was this a lack of ambition, ability, or opportunity?

Another question was brought up concerning why men were not choosing law as a career path. A study shows that at present two thirds of newly qualified solicitors are women. What else could be done to ensure a diverse law profession?

Mr Burke said that the discussion on progression stemmed from the fact that there is a substantial gender pay gap in the Law Society.

The aims and functions of his committee, said Mr Burke, were to offer guidance and support to the Law Society. The committee was there to set, form and then guide the policy and actions of the Society, to identify key risks, and priorities in relation to equality and diversity, and to provide a forum for debate with regards to best practices.


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