Firms make strides in gender diversity

by Hannah Norton28 Sep 2015
New Zealand law firms are making strides in the gender diversity space, with three of the country’s top-tier firms recently recognised for their commitment to UN principles.

Bell Gully, Chapman Tripp and Simpson Grierson were recognised at the 2015 White Camellia Awards held in Auckland earlier this month.

The awards, jointly organised by the UN Women National Committee New Zealand, the EEO Trust, BPW New Zealand and the Human Rights Commission, recognise organisations that are promoting gender equity through the international United Nations Women's Empowerment Principles (WEPs).

Previously dominated by the banking industry, this is the first time three law firms have been recognised in such a way.

Bell Gully took out the top prize for Principle 6 - ‘Community Leadership and Engagement’ (promoting equality through community initiatives and advocacy).

Simpson Grierson won the accolade for Principle 3 - ‘Health, Safety and Freedom from Violence’ (ensuring the health, safety and well-being of all women and men workers).

Chapman Tripp won the accolade for Principle 1 - ‘Leadership Promotes Gender Equality’ (establishing high-level corporate leadership for gender equality).

Other Empowerment Principles include: ‘Equal Opportunity, Inclusion and Non-discrimination’ (treating all women and men fairly at work and respecting and supporting human rights and non-discrimination); ‘Education and Training’ (promoting education, training and professional development for women); ‘Enterprise Development, Supply Chain and Marketing’ (implementing enterprise development, supply chain and marketing practices that empower women);; and ‘Transparency, Measuring and Reporting’ (measuring and publicly reporting on progress to achieve gender equality).

The supreme winner was Coca Cola Amatil NZ Limited.

“We signed up to the Women’s Empowerment Principles in 2013 and it has helped us focus our efforts in implementing our gender diversity strategy,” Bell Gully partner and deputy chairman Ian Gault said.

“This is the second White Camellia award Bell Gully has won and we are encouraged to see a growing number of law firms represented at these awards.

“There is no doubt that we have a long way to go, but having awards for three of the seven Principles go to major law firms recognises that it is an area we, and our colleagues across the industry, are keenly focused on.”

Bell Gully won its first award last year for its commitment to equal opportunity, inclusion and non-discrimination.

Simpson Grierson partner Heather Ash, who heads the firm’s diversity group, spoke about winning the health, safety and wellbeing accolade.

"Over the past few years we have really focused on health and wellbeing in our business, and in particular on mental health which is a significant issue for the legal profession,” he said.

Chapman Tripp’s chief executive partner Andrew Poole said the firm was delighted to receive acknowledgement for such an important issue.

“In 2012, we became the first law firm to put all of our partners and senior lawyers through an inclusive leadership training exercise, providing guidance on how to foster and grow an inclusive culture.

“As a result, we now have a number of our seniors committed to support and inform our diversity programme,” he said.

WEPs Committee member and EEO Commissioner Dr Jackie Blue said companies who commit to the seven principles create a platform for true gender equity in their organisation.

“To make progress toward these principles requires planned actions and targeted policies by CEOs and organisations.”