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Diversity – Herbert Smith Freehills commits to 30% female partners by 2019

Set against a backdrop of initiatives including the 30% Club’s drive to improve senior female representation on UK boards, Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) has announced today (13 March) that by 2019 women will make up 30% of its partnership.

The top 10 UK firm, which currently has a female partnership ratio of around 20%, has said it will bring in the changes in two stages: by May 2017 at least 25% of the partnership will be women, followed by 30% in May 2019.

A statement from the 2,323-lawyer firm said that its objective is to achieve gender balance by widening the ‘talent pool’ from which partners at the firm are promoted. ‘The targets are an important step in helping to create a level playing field for both men and women who aspire to become partners,’ the statement said.

The targets will be backed by targeted career development, sponsorship, mentoring and coaching programmes, as well as unconscious bias and inclusive leadership development training for partners and senior leaders.

The firm, which in December appointed Sonya Leydecker as joint chief executive (CEO), will also incorporate active diversity and inclusion committees across the firm, facilitating women’s networks and membership of the 30% Club in London and Hong Kong.

Outgoing joint CEO David Willis said: ‘These targets have tangible benefits for the whole business – as well as promoting the best talent, they will help us meet the needs of our clients and bring diverse perspectives to our business and the business of clients.

‘In order to create a fully diverse and inclusive culture, we need to challenge ourselves to make measurable progress; just as we measure progress in any part of our business.’

Other firms to have set similar targets include Pinsent Masons, which aims to hit a 25% female partnership by 2018, with an aim to reach 30% after that. Baker & McKenzie last year announced its plan to double its female partnership to 30%, while Hogan Lovells and Eversheds are also targeting 30%.

In 2011, the Davies Report called for strong action from UK companies to redress gender imbalance on UK boards, suggesting that they should aim for a target of 25% female representation by 2015.