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Clifford Chance

Clifford Chance

Responsible Business Insights

Creating sustainable change

Working towards a #SheCovery with the Women's Forum

As a member of the Women's Forum, in October Clifford Chance attended its G20 Italy conference which aimed to promote dialogue between public and private international decision-makers and develop concrete proposals and solutions under the theme of a #Shecovery envisioning women as key-players in facing the new global challenges.

Clifford Chance delegates, Global Managing Partner Matthew Layton and Ines Teixeira in the UK and Sindana Ulaganathan in Germany reflect on their key insights from the event.

The Women’s Forum G20 Italy

Matthew Layton, Global Managing Partner

The pandemic and other recent events around the globe have had a devastating impact on the journey to empowerment and equality for women. As Audrey Tcherkoff from the Women's Forum observed so powerfully in her introduction to the Forum's 2021 Barometer - the pandemic is estimated to have put back gender equality by 36 years. It is now estimated to take 135 years for gender equality to be a global reality. This need not be the case. All businesses have a critical role to play and I was delighted to sign up to the five pledges in the CEO Commitment for myself and on behalf of Clifford Chance.

I was glad to participate in a panel discussion focused on 'Fixing the Leaky Pipeline' to leadership for women. It was a very lively and practical discussion on how every business can and must look to ensure that women have the equal opportunity to thrive and develop through to leadership in every business. My fellow panellists were from Salesforce, Generali and Softek – so from diverse sectors and geographies. There was agreement on the importance of targets, metrics and transparency, as well as discussion on the pro and cons of quotas and of the impact of regulation and legislation.

The continuing gap in executive leadership roles remains a key issue across sectors and countries and we discussed the part that culture and bias plays in addressing this challenge. I am proud to say we have been very focused on this question at Clifford Chance with real progress in groups such as our Executive Operations Group and the London Leadership Group. But there is certainly a lot more to be done at our Executive Leadership Group level, in many regions as well as in the Partnership as a whole. Our Global and Regional gender inclusion targets must help us accelerate our progress.

I also shared our campaign approach, bringing people together behind our shared goals of inclusion and equality. This is about culture and values. Our Code of Conduct – including the principle of embracing challenge – provides an important connecting platform to support all the great initiatives across our firm.  

The Women's Forum G20 event illustrated the power of partnership and collaboration – we all have much to learn for sharing experiences and learnings. It was a privilege to be part of the event and I look forward to continuing our own campaigns for change, inside and outside the firm.

Watch my panel from the Forum below.

Ines Teixeira, Trainee Solicitor

It was such a great opportunity to be able to attend the Women's Forum G20 Call to Action event in Milan and I learnt so much!

  • The first day started off with a powerful message from Chiara Corazza: "We are here not to say, not to think, but to do." From then on, the overwhelming feeling in that room was that we were all ready for real change to be made.
  • I particularly enjoyed the session: 'Accelerating Feminist Diplomacy'. In this session, the panellists discussed the various benefits of having women on the board or in the decision-making rooms and the importance of not forgetting our qualities as women when we get to those rooms or positions. Instead of trying to mirror the men in the room, we should use our different qualities as women because of their effectiveness in diplomacy and cooperation (two key features of successful decision making) in companies and governmental organisations.
  • A key takeaway was around ensuring that when we talk about 'women's issues', we do not forget that within this category there are other inclusivity issues at play. Whilst there is a lot to be done for women in general, there is so much more to be done for different types of women including disabled women, Black women, LGBTQ+ women and so on. Personally, I want to do better by educating myself about the intersectionality of these issues so that is a call to action for myself - after all, it should be a #SheCovery for all women!'

Sindana Ulaganathan, Trainee Lawyer

The event put great emphasis not only on the need to act, but on the need to act now. It proved to be a great learning experience that left me and others hopeful for a future where gender equality was the norm and conferences were organised to celebrate success stories.

  • The event started off by painting a picture of the hard reality (e.g. the recent COVID crisis has pushed back the target for women empowerment by 36 years!) and was soon filled with thought-provoking ideas. What interested me most was that gender equality was discussed in tandem with other burning topics such as climate change, artificial intelligence and COVID. Everyone recognised the need for equal representation of women at the executive level since this helped shape the culture of the rest of the organisation.
  • The present and former members of the parliaments of France and Italy shed light on laws that been passed in these countries to put in place quotas for women and how these laws have been successful in helping women come to the forefront. Ms Alessia Mosca, the Secretary General of Italy-ASEAN Association and former member of the Parliament of Italy, admitted that "quotas are not the end in itself and are only the means to an end".  
  • Paola Mascaro, Valore D Chair/President, during the panel titled 'Highlighting G20 Civil Society: the Champions in harnessing innovative solutions', very rightly said, "A little force is the recipe for acceleration" when describing innovative solutions needed to bringing about change. For example, (a) performance linked pay must be assessed on gender parity targets; and (b) imposing parental leave on all employees including men so that there is equal contribution to childcare.
The Clifford Chance delegates at the Women's Forum G20 meeting