Legal profession requires “most urgent change” of all to tackle racial and gendered inequality, says Shami Chakrabarti at diversity conference

updated on 30 October 2017

Despite talking a good game on diversity issues, the legal profession needs to “be brave and walk our talk” by making diverse workplaces an individual responsibility, according to the findings of the Miranda Brawn Annual Diversity Leadership Conference hosted by The University of Law earlier in October.

The annual event was created by barrister Dr Miranda Brawn to raise awareness about the divisions within society and the extent of the race and gender diversity gap, with a particular focus on the legal profession. The conference targets 14-21 year olds from black and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds to help close the diversity gap with action and empower the next generation of BAME lawyers and leaders.

Despite significant progress, barriers still exist for young BAME people pursuing top positions. Speakers highlighted the need for individuals to be responsible for bringing about equality for people of all ethnic backgrounds, sexualities, disabilities and social backgrounds in the workplace by changing leadership, progression and recruitment practices to become more accepting and open.

Alongside Brawn, speakers included Dame Jocelyn Barrow DBE, Chi-chi Nwanoku OBE, founder of The Chineke! Foundation, Europe’s first BAME orchestra and professor at the Royal Academy of Music; Patrick Vernon OBE, political activist and publisher; and Jacqui Gavin, leading trans rights activist and transgender civil servant for the Department of International Trade.

The Labour peer and human rights lawyer Baroness Shami Chakrabarti also supported the event. She commented: “At a moment in history when eight men own more than 3.6 billion other people on the planet, it is hard to imagine a period of greater inequality in our society. This imbalance is not just economic but racial and gendered. The gulf is perhaps most starkly reflected in a lack of diversity in leadership across so many professions and walks of life. And the legal profession, in this country, is an area, which arguably requires the most urgent change. Though I welcomed the recent appointment of Lady Justice Black to the Supreme Court, two women out of 11, and no BAME in our senior judiciary is not good enough. To tackle inequality we must do more and do better. I am delighted to support the work of Dr Miranda Brawn which includes The Miranda Brawn Diversity Leadership Foundation to recognise, reward and celebrate future leaders from a BAME background helping to increase diversity in the workforce. Thank you to the University of Law for supporting this much needed diversity leadership event.”