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Clifford Chance

Clifford Chance

Responsible Business Insights

Working towards a sustainable future

Using data to deliver

Global Partner for Talent Chinwe Odimba-Chapman and Senior Associate Florence Wong discuss the importance of data collection in furthering inclusion.

Why is data important for inclusion?

Florence Wong: Data is really important because it helps us understand where we currently are on our inclusion journeys, and what the gap is between there and where we want to be. It enables us to set concrete plans for what we want to achieve and lets us know how we are progressing. As the phrase goes: “If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

Chinwe Odimba-Chapman: We’ve certainly seen the value of this in our firm. Data helps us look at every stage of a successful career with us to identify where people may be disadvantaged and, importantly, ask why? If there are discernible trends in attrition, why is that? Why are we not seeing enough ethnic minorities progress through to partnership and directorship? We need this data to create the targeted action plans needed to tackle these critical issues, make progress against our inclusion targets, and drive change where it matters. While this is an ongoing journey, our experiences and understanding of this data means we can play a valuable role in helping our clients make progress towards their own inclusion goals too.

How are we helping clients drive their inclusion efforts through the use of data?

Florence: Our role is to help clients ensure the way they gather data is legally compliant and they have the right plan of action with regards to data collection, use and storage. That includes advising them on the way they formulate their questionnaires and the way they tell their employees why it is being gathered.

Chinwe: A lot of our clients don’t know what they can collect or what to do with the data once they have it, so we’ve been working with them to help structure their approach. We’ve also advised clients on how to use data to help support their positive action initiatives, because you need to show you have a business case to make changes and data helps with that. We’re increasingly seeing regulators discussing mandatory requirements, so we expect to be helping regulated firms comply with diversity data collection and usage regulations in future.

How are you navigating the differences in data privacy laws and restrictions around the world?

Chinwe: We’ve worked to fine-tune our approach and have accepted there is no ‘one size fits all’– we need to collect data where we can and accept that it will be tricky in certain jurisdictions for some time But we’re being much more bold in our approach and not just accepting ‘no’ for an answer. There are cultural issues at play as well and we understand in some places asking employees for certain types of data is just not acceptable legally or culturally, so we’re looking at how we can help shape the industry and the cultural norms in those jurisdictions.

Florence: You can still launch initiatives without the data and we need to respect the fact data privacy is extremely important and there are reasons why those laws exist in certain countries. So it’s a question of working through the different rights people have to make sure everyone is comfortable with what we’re trying to achieve.

How do you think the work you’re doing is strengthening client relationships?

Chinwe: Diversity and inclusion is now a board level issue for any credible organisation, so this work gives us access to the decision-makers in some of our most important clients. And increasingly as part of all pitches, we’re being asked to set out our approach to diversity and inclusion and for us, that involves providing data. The fact we collect it and use it to inform our initiatives shows we’re not just paying lip service to inclusion. I always feel really proud when we get feedback from pitches saying the client believed we were passionate about diversity and inclusion and we are genuinely trying to move the needle in this area.

How do you think this work will drive change in the wider industry?

Chinwe: We were the first big firm to set global inclusion targets, which was a product of our data-driven approach, and other firms definitely followed suit. It’s no longer credible for a large law firm to say they have an inclusive culture if they don’t understand their own data. Diversity and inclusion is also vitally important to recruitment and retention, so I think the wider industry is paying attention to what we’re doing.

Florence: I think the more we all talk about and use data, the more I think we will all understand our individual role in these efforts – in and outside of the firm. I was initially uncomfortable about giving my data because I was concerned that it may be used as a statistic that was beneficial for the firm, but I didn’t see the benefits for me. So I think part of the journey ahead is about showing how sharing data is beneficial to everyone; it’s not just a commodity that companies can use to win a pitch.

Why is inclusion important to you personally?

Florence: I’ve never felt I was treated differently at Clifford Chance because I’m a woman from an ethnic minority. I’ve always felt supported by the firm, so inclusion already works for me. But that should be everyone’s experience. I want all colleagues to feel included when they come to work.

Chinwe: I’m a Black female Partner in a City law firm and I am the minority, so I see it as my responsibility to help drive change. I am also a member of our Executive Leadership Group (ELG). As a group, the ELG is clear that diversity and inclusion makes business sense. We’ve recently announced an ambitious growth strategy and if we are going to achieve our strategy , we need a diverse and inclusive business. I see it as both my moral responsibility and a business imperative.