Diversity toolkit

Business leaders give unique perspectives on creating a diverse workforce

Diversity Toolkit Interview

Nicholas Cheffings

Nicholas Cheffings

Chair, Hogan Lovells

Hogan Lovells is a global legal practice that helps corporations, financial institutions and governmental entities across the spectrum of their critical business and legal issues globally and locally. It has over 2,500 lawyers operating out of more than 40 offices in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and the United States.

Interview - Unconscious bias

Nicholas had very strong female role models early in his career and didn’t encounter gender imbalance in the same way as many of the interviewees had.

However, he became aware of the impact of the glass ceiling in an equally important way.

He cites the example of a very competent junior member of staff, who he presumed did not have the ambition to make partner. He was very surprised to find out from a female colleague that this couldn’t be further from the truth, she just hadn’t discussed it with him, unlike many of her male peers. It dawned on him that men and women do have a very different approach, often with very different outcomes. If one individual is knocking on your door, overtly expressing the desire to become partner and asking for help and guidance and the another is doing outstanding work, waiting to be recognised for it but not communicating their aspirations, it is natural to gravitate to the first individual, who may then be chosen over the other.

He realised there needed to be a major shift in the approach of his company and agreed that although change should be led from the top and embedded into the culture, it is fundamentally important to engage with the middle management who have the day-to-day interface with those who will be affected.

Unconscious bias training is critical to this; the hardest part is convincing people they need it – people don’t know what they don’t know. Training opens people’s minds to all the preconceptions and filters they have and while they might not admit it, most people do recognise the value afterwards. It doesn’t have to be a heavy-handed approach and it’s part of a gradual and ongoing process.