Latest news – Workplace shake-up crucial to diversity; Directors lack confidence on tech changes; Leaders fear regulatory reforms

[Australasian Law Management Journal,Compliance & Risk Management,General Management,People Management(HR),Strategy & Leadership] June 30, 2019

Flexible work culture the key to diversity in law

Nine out of 10 people believe a flexible working culture is critical to improving diversity in the legal profession, according to new research.

In the Law Society of England and Wales report, entitled Advocating for Change: Transforming the Future of the Legal Profession Through Greater Gender Equality, respondents suggested that shake-ups to traditional workplace structures and environments were the key to better diversity. The global survey drew a total of 7781 respondents and was designed to identify barriers in the career progression of women in the legal profession. The report found that 91 per cent of respondents felt that a flexible working culture was critical to improving diversity in the legal profession, with 88 per cent of men and 93 per cent of women in favour. Key findings covered the following areas:

Traditional gender roles and stereotypes – there are shared social and cultural expectations about how a woman should behave on account of their gender. For example, women feel that they are having to work harder to reach the same level of recognition, promotion, and remuneration as their male counterparts.

Gender pay gap – Unlike their male colleagues, female lawyers are often challenged by their clients and employers about the level of fees they charge and requests for reduction on account of their gender. Women in all jurisdictions reported that it appears more acceptable for men to request greater financial recognition for their work, but women are perceived as aggressive when they do.

Flexible working – flexible working is not an available option for many female lawyers, despite the technological progress that facilitate working remotely and the numerous benefits to businesses and employees.

In terms of solutions, the report backed initiatives such as training, public awareness campaigns, engaging male champions for change, and policy and legislative reform.


Survey highlights tech fears for directors

A new study from professional services giant EY indicates that board members are fearful of their ability to cope with emerging technologies.

Forty-eight per cent of directors who were polled did not have confidence that their board had the necessary resources to “move the company forward’ in an era of digital disruption, according to the research from the EY Centre for Board Members. The findings highlight the need for ongoing education and mentoring to ensure directors are up to date on industry developments. The survey also suggests that directors think management is better placed than the board to tackle technological change, with 46 per cent of respondents saying they feel ‘very attuned’ to the potential disruption of their company and industry, compared with 69 percent who believe the same about management.

“This data underscores the need for today’s boards to take a step back and verify they have the portfolio of skills and competencies necessary to serve as a strategic resource and guide for management,” the report’s authors write. “The purview of directors is rapidly expanding as technological innovation drives new opportunities and risks, and boards should regularly challenge their composition to confirm that director qualifications align with the company’s evolving strategy and risk profile.”

The report recommends that boards target continuing refreshment to usher in new perspectives. The survey includes responses from 365 public company directors.


Regulatory changes a headache for leaders

A major survey of governance leaders has identified ‘Regulatory reform/Legislative change’ as their top risk both during the next 12 months, and for the next three to five years.

In its 2019 Risk Management Survey, the Governance Institute of Australia sought the views of about 500 Australian risk managers and governance leaders. Megan Motto, the institute’s CEO, says the banking royal commission, APRA and ASIC’s ongoing investigations and the new ASX Corporate Governance Council’s Corporate Governance Principles and Recommendations have also forced organisations outside of the financial sector to look at their governance frameworks, including how they manage their culture, ethics and risk profile.

“The survey shows there is still a lot of confusion and nervousness in the market, especially about reporting requirements, roles and engaging the newly strengthened regulators,” she says. “That correlates with what we have also been hearing anecdotally from our members and partners as well.”

The other top risks for leaders were ‘Damage to Brand or Reputation’, ‘Increased Competition’, ‘Talent Attraction/Retention’ and ‘Cyber-crime.’ While respondents felt that risk management was highly valued by their organisations (70 per cent agreed or strongly agreed), the need for ‘better tools and resources’ (29 per cent) to manage risk and ‘clarity of purpose and strategy’ (23 per cent) from senior leadership were key areas of concern.