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Our Inclusion for All strategy: two years on

updated on 30 January 2024

This article has been produced by Gowling WLG (UK) LLP, sponsors of LawCareers.Net’s Diversity hub.

Reading time: seven minutes

Gowling WLG (UK) LLP’s ambition is to have an inclusive firm and partnership, where diverse teams are the norm and we attract, retain and develop diverse talent.

We're proud of what we've done so far to accelerate change and ensure collective accountability for progress, and are happy to see so many of our employees making a positive contribution and feeling empowered to be inclusive.

Our new diversity, equality and inclusion (DE&I) strategy was developed in 2021, led by our DE&I team, called Inclusion for All (IFA). In this piece, we’re going to take a look at the impact that IFA has had since it was introduced, including the initiatives rolled out and some of the highlights of the past two years.

What’s IFA?

The strategy is centred on making sure that all our people feel included, that they belong and can be their true selves at work; but also underpinning that everyone has a part to play in making our firm truly diverse and inclusive. The biggest change in the introduction of IFA was the requirement for each team to produce an annual DE&I action plan, detailing what they’re going to do to help contribute to overall success.

These plans see teams reflect on any areas of concern or development. To help them see what needs improving or where they’re excelling, the DE&I team has created a maturity model that maps teams across five levels:

  • foundation;
  • emerging;
  • embracing;
  • integrating and
  • excelling.

A number of key data points were fed into the model, scoring them across the following five IFA strategy ambitions:

  • Diverse teams are the norm. 
  • Attract, retain and develop diverse talent. 
  • Collective and individual accountability for DE&I.
  • Empower our people to be inclusive. 
  • Aligning with client expectations. 

As a result, all teams created annual plans, containing a total of 119 actions across our 25 teams, with actions ranging from:

  • individuals having specific DE&I objectives;
  • incorporating DE&I into team meeting agendas;
  • engagement with employee networks;
  • education and awareness raising;
  • creating team DE&I champions;
  • changes to recruitment processes; and
  • much more. 

LawCareers.Net spoke to Jasmine Coyne, a solicitor in the employment team at Gowling, to find out about her route to qualification, her day-to-day work and why Gowling stands out in this Meet the Lawyer profile.

What's been done so far?

Alongside the team action plans, the DE&I team has been working across the firm to rollout a number of new initiatives and evolve existing programmes. 

A lot of this activity has been focused on two key projects: Thriving in Partnership and our Black Lives Matter Action Plan. Both of these were the result of extensive consultation with our employees to address key issues around underrepresentation in terms of gender and ethnicity. 


In 2020 we saw the introduction of Agile+, our flexible working policy that provides guidance on splitting time between working in the office when it's best for our clients and our team, alongside working from home to be more productive and balance our other responsibilities and interests. Agile+ is available to everyone in the firm, regardless of role, provided arrangements to meet our client and business needs are made. 

Employee networks

The firm's employee networks have long played an important role in providing safe spaces for people to learn, get support, network and drive change. Over the past couple of years, there have been some fantastic events and initiatives, including the Let's Talk About Race series, and storytelling from our people on key issues such as mental health, LGBT+ inclusion and non-visible disabilities. 

Lots of volunteers come together to help the networks thrive, and this includes board sponsors for each network. The networks are one of the most important platforms we have for discussion of issues and challenges people are facing, whether that's juggling the work/life balance and progression opportunities with family and caring responsibilities, or perhaps managing illnesses or disabilities while at work. Using real-life experiences and solutions has helped shape many policies that now support our people in the workplace. These include our: 

  • assistance dog policy and guidance; 
  • domestic violence policy and guidance; 
  • menopause policy and guidance; and 
  • pause and play policy and guidance. 

Inclusion allies

Inclusion allies were also introduced, creating a platform for individuals who support and advocate for different groups of people, and who speak up on topics they don't have a vested interested in, which can have a powerful impact: for example, a man pushing for equal pay. Allies are expected to challenge unacceptable behaviour or language, participate in events and educate themselves on the challenges their colleagues face.

“I’ve recently seen the term LGBTQ+ ally, but what is it and how can I be an authentic ally?” – read LawCareers.Net’s advice in The Oracle.

Mansfield Certificate

One ambition the DE&I team is working towards is improving the number of underrepresented candidates and employees we have in the firm. Our recent Mansfield Certification is a good indicator of the work that’s being done firmwide to tackle this – it means that the quality talent being considered for leadership roles includes at least 30% from underrepresented groups, such as female lawyers, ethnic minority lawyers, LGBTQ+ lawyers and lawyers with disabilities.

Black Talent in Law Bursary partnership

Other initiatives introduced to make sure opportunities are equally available to everyone include the Black Talent in Law Bursary partnership between our Charitable Trust and the University of Birmingham. This was designed to support better access to the legal profession for Black students, who are underrepresented in corporate law firms like ours. The scheme sees students from the university's Birmingham Law School offered a financial contribution towards their studies, work experience at the firm and ongoing mentoring support from our lawyers.  

10,000 Black Interns, Black Lawyers Ball and Black Social Entrepreneurs Futures

We also participated in the 10,000 Black Interns programme, offering work placements to two interns, and have been an active supporter of the Birmingham Black Lawyers Ball since 2021. Under the Black Social Entrepreneurs Futures programme, we supported Black entrepreneurs from the West Midlands with mentoring support as they looked to grow and develop their businesses, helping to harness the wealth of diverse talent in the region. 

Reasonable adjustments and feminine hygiene products

Clear guidance has also been introduced on how you can request reasonable adjustments due to a disability, along with support for managers. We also continue to provide feminine hygiene products in our office toilets via social enterprise Hey Girls, which channels profits towards eradicating period poverty in the UK. 

Reporting and mentoring

This is all supported by continuous reporting and monitoring. By reviewing the data on metrics, such as how many hours have been spent on DE&I activity, how many people have signed up to be inclusion allies, how many people turn up to events, the make-up of our teams and the feedback given in internal surveys, we can really paint a picture of just how inclusive and diverse a workplace we’re building and where the gaps are.

What's next for IFA?

We’re now approaching year three of the IFA strategy, and the ambition remains to build on all the good progress made so far.

Everything the firm does on DE&I sits under IFA, and this is split into firm-level activity, team and group action planning and intersectionality via our networks and other enablers. At a firm level, the DE&I team will be prioritising the delivery of a comprehensive race equality action plan to focus on representation and retention of ethnic minority talent, it’ll be enhancing the role inclusion allies can play with the expansion of our inclusion allies programme, and will be collaborating with the DE&I leads in our international offices to creative a cohesive plan reflecting the global approach to DE&I. Teams will also be asked to review and refresh their individual DE&I action plans, and agree what their objectives will be for the year ahead.

This article has been produced by Gowling WLG (UK) LLP, sponsors of LawCareers.Net’s Diversity hub.