Thursday 8th March marks International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and marking a call-to-action for accelerating gender parity.
In line with this and our awareness of the importance of diversity, CEDR has signed up to the ‘Inclusive Culture Pledge’ launched by the EW Group, to take an active part in creating more inclusive cultures at work, in particular within the legal profession.
Diversity increases business performance
Studies show that organisations with higher levels of diversity are more successful. Their employees feel more included and are able to reach their full potential and be recognised. Research conducted by McKinsey illustrates that companies “in the bottom quartile both for gender and for ethnicity and race are statistically less likely to achieve above-average financial returns”.
Diverse teams are smarter
Psychological studies prove that people from diverse backgrounds can change the behaviour of a group’s social majority in ways that lead to improved and more accurate group thinking. In one study, scientists assigned 200 people to six-person mock jury panels whose members were either all white or included four white and two black participants. The participants were shown a video of a trial of a black defendant and white victims and they had to decide whether the defendant was guilty. The results showed that the diverse panels raised more facts related to the case than homogenous panels and made fewer factual errors while discussing available evidence. If errors did occur, they were more likely to be corrected during the deliberation process
The legal profession in the UK
Let’s have a look now at how much diversity matters within our legal profession. in the UK 14.1% of commercial mediation’s traditional benchmark profession – solicitors – come from a BAME background, a figure which closely mirrors the general population. However, this figure tells only part of the story, and as we have seen from the September 2017 report from MP, David Lammy, our criminal justice system still has a long way to go to achieve racial equality of outcomes. More generally, the Law Society have launched their own initiatives, including encouraging people from diverse backgrounds to join the legal profession and to pursue judicial roles, to help them adopt fair recruitment and development procedures, and support them in recognising unconscious bias. As the President of the Law Society says, “we recognise the importance of building a legal profession – at all levels – to reflect the population it serves.”
How diverse is the commercial mediation profession?
We must make sure that the same can be said about the mediation profession. The results of our bi-annual Mediation Audit in 2016 show that we are still far away from being equal and diverse when it comes to gender and ethnicity, with 92% of survey respondents categorising themselves as being white and 35% of the respondents being women (increasing from 26% in 2014).
How can we change that?
It is not sufficient to merely train more diverse cohorts of mediators. Despite having focussed on diversity in our training programmes, mediator panels in the UK are still way behind when it comes to equality and diversity.
This is why CEDR will be launching two major initiatives to look at Equality and Diversity this year.
CEDR commits to diversity and inclusion – internally and externally
The first initiative involves looking at the barriers to entry in the life cycle of the development of a mediation career for a more diverse selection of mediator professionals. The notion of client choice is a fundamental tenet within our mediation practice. We will not deliver on that principle unless we can offer our clients a full range of qualified and experienced mediators from whatever social, cultural, sexual oriented, professional or personal background they wish to appoint. Creating a more diverse profession is a key priority.
The second initiative is signing up to the Inclusive Culture Pledge – a special initiative by the diversity consultancy EW Group – that will provide CEDR with a focus for building our own skills, awareness, confidence and maturity around workplace diversity over the course of 2018.
Through these two initiatives, CEDR commits, internally and publically, to the sustainable implementation of diversity and inclusion in our company culture and also to take the lead in promoting similar values within our profession.
Join us in our commitment and let us start converting the conversation around this crucial topic into action.