Advocating a New Way of Working
On the one hand, coronavirus has put normal life on hold, with many countries enforcing social distancing to keep us apart from each other. On the other hand, BLM (particularly following the tragic death of George Floyd) has highlighted divisions that have existed covertly and overtly for years, but this time – encouragingly – large sections of society have come together to address systemic racial inequality
The issues may be universal but there are significant implications for the legal sector specifically. If we are to hope that we will see positive change – particularly within the legal profession – we need a clear picture of what hurdles black and minority ethnic (BAME) professionals face in 2020. We need a clear understanding of what equality, diversity and inclusion should mean in this “new normal”. This means exploring and understanding people’s life experiences, allowing each and everyone to be their authentic selves and, above all, ensuring that everyone has a safe space to share their experiences and/or to ask questions to self-educate.
As we move to a “new normal” let us begin to think in a new way. Let us think of “conscious unbias”, rather than “unconscious bias”. Let us not just think about “equality”, where we seek to treat people the same but also think about “equity” where we focus on a fair outcome. Placing people at the same start line will not necessarily address the many obstacles some will face further down the track.
Let us also understand the distinction between races, as one size does not fit all. Whilst many firms may boast improvement in terms of racial representation, they fail to acknowledge issues in respect of social mobility as they simply recruit high academic achievers from BAME groups.
The law underpins (or should do) the very fabric of society, so our profession should be leading the way. We will succeed if we all work together in a “new way”.
Read Trevor’s article in the Law Society Gazette: The Impact of Covid-19 on ethnic minority diversity, inclusion and equality.
Trevor Sterling is a solicitor and partner at Moore Barlow LLP, a firm which won the 2019 UK Diversity Legal BSN Awards.