ULaw's first Diversity Matters event highlighted the importance of diversity in the workplace. Today we're talking to one of the speakers, a partner and the National Gender Diversity Lead at Weightmans LLP Bavita Rai.
I am a Partner at Weightmans, where I lead the Broker Sector. I am responsible for the strategic development of this sector. From a diversity and inclusion (D&I) perspective, I am the National Gender Diversity Lead and sit on the firms D&I committee responsible for shaping the firm's strategy around this important area.
Diversity and inclusion is a topic that is very important to me. As someone who, in my early years as a solicitor, just wanted to blend in, I realised I was not being authentic to myself. By speaking up, I hope to empower others to bring their authentic self to work and talk about the challenges they face or have faced and find a voice to speak up.
During my career, I have seen the profession change beyond recognition. However, one thing that has not changed at a pace that it should have is improvements to diversity in the legal profession. I am particularly passionate about making a positive change within diversity because, in essence, this is about equality of opportunity irrespective of gender, race, sexual orientation. It is vital that the legal profession is accessible to all.
There are always three arguments posed as to why diversity is so important:
- Business case –businesses that are diverse are more successful.
- Legal obligations – there is a legal obligation to ensure fairness and equality.
- Clients - the profession should reflect the clients it serves.
For me, equality is both morally and ethically the right thing.
I cannot actually pinpoint when I went from supporting diversity in general to becoming a speaker and public advocate. One of my favourite sayings is 'Be the change you want to see' by Mahatma Gandhi. I realised it was not enough just to support diversity but that I also had to engage positively, participate, speak up about the reality of the situation if I was to have an impact on bringing about change.
Diversity is the responsibility of everyone. Students can:
- Be supportive of D&I initiatives - celebrate similarities and differences.
- Don't underestimate the importance of a firm culture when it comes to D&I. Be part of ensuring the culture is inclusive to all and offer practical solutions.
- Respect and show positive interest in diverse cultures to break down barriers.
It is fair to say that events like Diversity Matters raise awareness and provide a platform for people to share experiences and educate on the actual challenges faced by individuals. It is of the utmost importance that this generation builds on firms' genuine desire to be diverse and inclusive. We cannot underestimate the significance of the younger generation's role in building on the foundations to date to create a more equal future for all.
Couldn't make our most recent Diversity Matters: LGBTQ+ event? You can watch it now on ULaw YouTube channel.