The 2020 Interviews: Siân Skelton of Taylor Wessing on diversity and inclusion

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Siân Skelton is a technology and privacy law partner, and executive board member at Taylor Wessing.

Why is having a diverse workforce important?

Our values are key to who we are and how we do business. We embrace individuality; we understand it and appreciate it. We bring diverse teams together to create an impact in an inclusive and meaningful way.  For us, creating an inclusive working environment and recognising the value diversity brings to the firm is what makes Taylor Wessing a great place to work: our diverse teams bring together different perspectives and when dealing with complex client issues, this allows us to find the best and most efficient solutions for our clients.

What are the firm’s strengths when it comes to diversity and inclusion?

We look to hear everyone's voices and are always open to new ideas and how to improve. To help create long-term and wider change, we have inclusion at the heart of much of our community and pro bono activity, along with the arts – therefore, there is continuity throughout all that we do. We're delighted to have been named one of Stonewall's Top 100 employers for the last 3 years and to be awarded a Britain's healthiest workplace award to recognise our wellbeing achievements last year.  Our gender plan has also been nominated for the upcoming The Lawyer Awards.

What initiatives does Taylor Wessing have in place to ensure it recruits a diverse workforce?

We want to recruit the best people, so we work to ensure that no matter anyone's background, everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed with us. Focussing on our summer vacation scheme, the firm has looked at each stage of the process to ensure opportunities are accessible. This starts with reading every single application we receive, never auto-rejecting even if it does not meet our grade requirements. We use Rare's contextualised recruitment system to consider every students achievement in context, allowing us to identify those with the greatest potential regardless of grades on the page.

Also, we are proud to Partner with Aspiring Solicitors, collaborating on events, providing professional ambassadors and sharing our success stories. We are committed to support those from under-represented groups and last year saw 36% of our 2022 training contract hires being members of Aspiring Solicitors.

Finally, as a disability confident firm, we have an open dialogue around disabilities and encourage anyone applying to reach out to our graduate team to discuss any requirements they need. Our partnership with MyPlus allows us to be confident in supporting candidates independently, whether this be from attracting, assessing or onboarding.

How has Taylor Wessing been working to improve diversity in senior/leadership positions?

Gender is one of our diversity & inclusion priorities and we have focused hard on ensuring our partnership becomes more gender balanced through our gender plan.  Our gender network, Balance in Business, was established to champion gender balance at Taylor Wessing and allow for a greater understanding of the issues affecting gender balance and how to overcome them. The firm shares with its employees the desire to achieve better balanced leadership, optimise talent retention and enhance our clients experience by improving gender balance. We report on progress each year in our gender pay gap report.  Over the last three years we have increased the representation of women in out partnership and in leadership positions.

How does Taylor Wessing avoid diversity becoming a box-ticking exercise?

I sit on the UK Executive Board as the Diversity & Inclusion Partner. This means there is always a voice to bring and discuss diversity at the table, plus an opportunity for the firm to be held accountable if needs be. Additionally, I co-chair the Diversity & inclusion board which meets quarterly to agree and reflect on our priorities and activity across the firm, making sure we can refresh and re-target if needed.  I sit alongside our Head of Responsible Business, fellow partners and executive board members who champion each of our diversity work steams (gender, cultural diversity, LGBT+, disability & wellbeing and social mobility).  We work together to ensure our initiatives are effective and impactful.

What assurances would you give to individuals who want to apply for a vacation scheme or training contract but feel hesitant to do so because of their gender/sexual orientation/ethnicity/background/disability/any other diversity-related reason?

Don't be hesitant. Inclusivity is at the heart of who we are and is considered at every stage of the process. We have several active inclusion networks representing the needs of each strand of diversity and ensure all our people's voices are heard. We are proud of our inclusive environment, and hope if you were to join us on a vacation scheme and ultimately as a trainee here, you will see that diversity, inclusion and ultimately you, really are a priority at Taylor Wessing.

Learn more about Taylor Wessing with our True Picture of the firm.