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Clifford Chance

Clifford Chance
Responsible Business Insights<br />

Responsible Business Insights

Future Focus

Embracing Inclusion: The rule of law and boardroom diversity

Business the world over is placing gender diversity higher up the agenda. It is an increasing demand from all stakeholders, from employees to customers – and is just good business; diverse boards are proven to be more innovative and profitable, and yet female board representation remains stubbornly low.

Across the globe, from Singapore to Washington, DC, and from Brussels to Tokyo, D&I is also increasingly a regulatory and legal issue requiring clear, highquality advice. This places law firms in the pivotal position of enablers of change and advisers to clients on how best to navigate the regulatory patchwork, as Floris van de Bult, Partner and Co-head of our Global Employment practice area, explains: “The EU Women on Boards Directive has been in draft for around 10 years, and this is just one piece of legislation that has focused corporate attention on leadership diversity, which is a topic we have been helping clients with for many years. The Directive will give it a further push. The scope of the Directive is all publicly listed entities in the EU, and over time we expect it to have an even wider impact.”

One example of the products we have developed to help clients around the world to address board-level diversity and inclusion regulations is the Clifford Chance Global Board Diversity Tracker. The Tracker provides an introduction for clients and snapshots of the legal, compliance and reporting requirements in each jurisdiction. It also details the consequences of non-compliance, be they financial, reputational or both. Our global employment team maintains and updates the Tracker, which acts as a guide to the core legal requirements for diversity and inclusion ratios in a broad range of jurisdictions.

We are also working with clients on the strategy for implementing, monitoring and ultimately achieving inclusion and diversityrelated targets, by combining our legal skills with the experience and capabilities of our in-house inclusion specialists.

Janice Goh, Partner, Cavenagh Law LLP, Singapore was one of the panellists on the ‘Demystifying the Path to the Boardroom’ event and is a member of Accelerate>>>, Clifford Chance’s gender parity affinity group. (Clifford Chance Asia is a formal law alliance in Singapore between Clifford Chance Pte Ltd and Cavenagh Law LLP.)

“It’s fair to say Singapore is lagging behind some jurisdictions in this area,” says Janice, “but what we’re trying to do is set an example and raise awareness. That said, it’s also an area where many of our clients are setting targets, so we are sharing our experiences with them.

“There was a lot of interest during the event from clients who valued hearing about struggles women have faced, and the biases they have experienced. They also expressed interest in our experience at Clifford Chance, asking about our diversity targets and how ambitious these are.

“In many Asian countries, requirements are currently very much disclosure-based and limited to listed companies,” adds Janice. 

“While they need to document inclusion goals and detail their progress towards them in their annual reports, there are no strict legal requirements to have diversity frameworks in place. These are the kind of insights that the Tracker (mentioned above) covers on a jurisdictionby-jurisdiction basis and to which the team in Singapore contributes.”

Looking ourselves in the mirror on D&I

“When we advise clients about building diversity into their environments and navigating the changing laws, we draw on our own experience,” says Amy Bird, Senior Associate – Employment and former Co-Chair of our affinity network Accelerate>>> in the UK. “We and our clients are on a shared journey towards greater inclusion and matching our clients’ efforts by ‘walking the talk’ is and always has been important to us.”