Increasing Diversity in the Workplace – the Moral or the Business Imperative

Dawn Brathwaite spoke at our Annual Celebration in October 2022: we are most grateful to Dawn and Mills & Reeve for hosting this event.  Dawn has moved from being Healthcare Partner to her current role as the firm’s Diversity & Inclusion Strategic Lead. In addition, Dawn is a member of the General Synod of the Church of England, a Non-Executive Director of Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust and a former trustee of Navigators UK. Dawn is the recipient of the Birmingham Black Lawyer’s Diversity Champion Award 2019 and Legal Innovation Awards – Lifetime Contributor to Innovation (Private Practice).

Dawn affirmed that there is no space that is that is immune from lessons around diversity and inclusion – whether our workspace or our worship space.  We bring our whole selves in to a room – our gender, our ethnicity or our abilities – so we bring a subconscious question, “How inclusive is this space I am walking in to?”. We are getting to the point where we can bring our whole selves to work – and Dawn cares passionately about this collective journey. 

The command given to us in John 15:12 is to love one another even as God has loved us.  In Ephesians 2:10 we are told, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” A masterpiece is a work of outstanding artistry, skill or workmanship.  Why should diversity be important to every business in Birmingham? Because, regardless of whatever protected characteristic we hold, we are individually and collectively masterpieces.  If we are permitted to bring that to an organisation, that organisation will benefit from our different gifts. 

Dawn shared the Mills & Reeve story of recent years, since 2019.  The burning imperatives were to increase the number of female partners and to increase the number of staff from a black and brown heritage, with support from a recently-appointed female managing partner.  The business case for diversity was strong, with a pushback from clients on diversity and public sector tenders asking for diversity statistics and diverse teams.  The changes on diversity, inclusion and wellbeing have included recruiting a Head of Diversity and setting up a range of networks, from the Reach (race, ethnicity and cultural heritage) Network to Spectrum (focusing on LGTBQ+) and the Ability Network, supporting people with disabilities, and more recently a Parent & Carers Network and a Balance Network (focusing on gender).  And there have a range of other developments, including:

  • “White privilege” home grown video produced by the Reach Network;
  • Recruitment strategy changes e.g. using “Rare Recruitment” and piloting the removal of  university names before vacation scheme / trainee solicitor interviews;
  • Unconscious bias training for senior managers ahead of trainee recruitement or promotion rounds, raising awareness of affinity, gender, perception or name bias; and
  • Reverse mentoring e.g. the Managing Partner being mentored by a junior Asian lawyer; and
  • Work Allocation Manager for fair and transparent allocation of work within a team.

Dawn’s session was highly valued by the ChaplaincyPlus network.  Feedback confirmed: “Very accessible, grounded and relevant- I can see how some of the practice can be applied in my own organisation.”; and “I really enjoyed Dawn’s approach to this subject and the reinforcement of scriptural context. I especially picked up on ‘affinity’ – the danger of just being drawn to people because they are like us, and we have lots in common. How much more enriching life can be when we seek out ‘diversity’ and learn from others that are perhaps in some ways different to ourselves. Thank you Dawn, an excellent presentation!”

Dawn shared these words from a publication by Whitworth University:  “Christians bear witness to the mystery of Christ in words and actions. We seek reconciliation across all the boundaries that divide us, because Christ reconciles sinners to God and has broken down the dividing wall that separates people and communities from one another. We seek peace, because Christ is our peace and calls his people to be a community of peace.  We seek justice because Christ is our justice and calls his people to do justice.  We seek freedom because Christ has set us free and calls everyone to live in this freedom.  We seek inclusion because Christ’s atoning sacrifice is for the sins of the whole world and because God’s plan is to gather up all things to him.  We praise God for the vast diversity of creation and for fulfilling the promise to bless all the nations by including them in Christ. Revelation 7:9 says ‘I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the lamb.’”

Click on the YouTube image below to watch Dawn Brathwaite’s presentation.