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HFW Launches New Gender Equality Strategy, Ambitious Targets

30 November 2020

Global, sector-focused law firm HFW has launched a new gender equality strategy, backed by a series of ambitious targets that include women accounting for at least 40% of all senior lateral hires and internal promotions over the next three years.

The strategy is based on seven core principles for gender equality, which form the foundation of gender action plans that have been adopted by each of HFW’s six global industry groups: Aerospace, Commodities, Construction, Energy and Resources, Insurance, and Shipping.

Jeremy Shebson, Managing Partner, HFW:

“When we started as a new management team in April 2019, one of the first things we did was to undertake a fairly wide-ranging review of various aspects of our business, including diversity and gender equality. During our review, it quickly became clear that we were going to fail to achieve our target of having at least 30% female fixed-share partners by 2020. 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.”

HFW’s Global Head of Construction, Carolyn Chudleigh, was appointed as the Management Board’s first dedicated diversity representative, and was tasked to work with others across the firm to come up with a new gender equality strategy.

Carolyn Chudleigh, Global Head of Construction, HFW:

“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.

“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.”

New Gender Equality Targets

  • A minimum of 40% of new internal Partner and Legal Director promotions to be women between now and 1 April 2023.
  • A minimum of 40% of new external Partner and Legal Director hires to be women between now and 1 April 2023.
  • 50% of Associate Leadership Programme attendees – the firm’s pre-partnership development programme – to be women between now and 1 April 2023.

Core Principles For Gender Equality

  • Each pitch team to include female and male representation.
  • Each matter team to include female and male representation.

(If these two points aren’t achievable with the firm’s current mix of lawyers and team members, it will look to training and development programmes to upskill where necessary.)

  • Women and men within matter teams to be given fair opportunity to participate in tasks.
  • Clearly identify and put in place plans to support top female and male talent in preparation for promotion, and at the same time work towards the firm’s Partner and Legal Director 2023 target.
  • Actively include women candidates for role recruitment – including lateral Partners and Legal Directors.
  • Each major marketing event to consider suitability for women and men to be able to participate and the need for gender-balanced panels.
  • Each industry group to identify an equality champion or champions, to work with group management and Partners to achieve the above KPIs.

Jeremy Shebson:

“It was encouraging that of our nine new Partners and Legal Directors who were promoted in April, more than half are women. But a roughly even gender split should be the rule, not the exception that we need to celebrate. Our new strategy has been carefully considered to be impactful, and also measurable. We will be monitoring our progress very closely, and see this as being critical to the future success of the firm.”

Gender equality is one of five core strands to HFW’s Diversity and Inclusion strategy, alongside race and ethnicity; sexual orientation; mental wellbeing; and social mobility.

Press Contact
Chris Johnson
Head of Communications