The top professional services firms for gender equality in the UK

05 July 2023 Consultancy.uk 13 min. read
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The Times has named its list of the UK’s most inclusive employers. Among the top 50 firms were 18 from the professional services sector.

The Times Top 50 Employers for Gender Equality is a well-established listing of employers taking action and making gender equality part of their business strategy at all levels. Business in the Community (BITC) has been running The Times Top 50 for 13 years. The name of the list, previously The Times Top 50 Employers for Women, has been updated this year to better reflect that addressing gender equality in the workplace requires achieving equality for all, and requires engagement from everyone. BITC gender equality work focuses on equality for all genders and those who do not identify as a gender.

Charlotte Woodworth, Gender Equality Director at Business in the Community, said of the 2023 list, “While these organisations are doing a brilliant job at reducing gender inequalities in the workplace, it is evident that across all organisations there is far more work to be done. There are still too many employees who face barriers in the workplace, from a lack of sponsorship to caring responsibilities. The cost-of-living crisis, following the pandemic, has made these challenges even more noticeable.”

The top professional services firms for gender equality in the UK

Consulting

Accenture

For multiple consecutive years, Accenture has been recognised as a leading global professional services company when it comes to diversity and inclusion. The IT and technology specialist’s goal is to achieve a gender-balanced workforce by 2025, and in the meantime, it has hit the following interim goals: almost 60% of new hires are women; it has promoted its largest percentage of women to managing director level; and it has grown the percentage of female managing directors at the firm.

Atos

Recognised by Business in the Community for its work on gender diversity for a fifth consecutive year, Atos UK and Ireland continues to improve gender diversity in a variety of ways. These include embedding flexible working policies and understanding employee’s challenges including regular reviews of employment policies to ensure they are parent and carer friendly; ensuring a diverse selection panel, inclusive recruiting process, promotional materials, and gender-friendly job descriptions; and supporting and promoting psychological safety awareness in a variety of ways.

Bain & Company

Appearing in the Times’ list for a third consecutive year, Bain & Company is a strategy consulting industry leader in the UK, offering equal paid parental leave and was one of the first UK companies to offer this to all employees who become new parents, regardless of role and gender, providing staff members with up to 52 weeks of leave, with the first 29 weeks fully paid.

Deloitte

A member of the Big Four – the four largest professional services firms in the world – Deloitte has more than 20,000 UK-based people providing audit, risk advisory, tax and legal, consulting and financial advisory services to public and private clients across multiple industries. Achieving gender balance remains a key priority for the firm, and it has already increased the representation of women at partner level from 14% in 2014, to more than 23% today.

Grant Thornton

Mid-market audit and advisory firm Grant Thornton maintained its place on the Times’ list after another year of consistent work to improve diversity at the firm. According to the company, it now has a more balanced representation of women at partner level, as it aims to remove barriers and improving the lived experience for staff who are women. This includes: a culture of agile working and flexibility; sponsorship and development; ensuring female health is supported, powerful networks, internal engagement and education; and campaigning for the support of male allies to discuss and promote change.

Fujitsu

Technology and consulting giant Fujitsu revamped its diversity and inclusion policies in 2022. This included the launch of a Global DE&I Vision & Inclusion Wheel, to create an equitable and more inclusive culture where everyone belongs and can be completely themselves. The firm stated that equity, as expressed in the new vision, “is intended to recognise and respond to the fact that all people are in different circumstances and will require a variety of resources and opportunities depending on their circumstances, as opposed to equality, which provides the same things equally to everyone.”

KPMG

The Big Four provider of professional services, including audit, tax and advisory services has long made promoting women through its international central to its business strategy. The firm has achieved gender parity on our board, while KPMG’s colleagues lead by example – whether it’s visibility with flexible working arrangements or challenging recruiters for 50-50 shortlists, the firm is focused on demonstrating that we are serious about recruitment, retention and progression of all women.

Mercer
HR and benefits specialist Mercer introduced diversity objectives into its business strategy in 2015, working to achieve a 50/50 gender split across the organisation and 30% of senior employees to be female by 2020. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the diversity and inclusion targets have been achieved following several initiatives. Mercer is also committed to making a positive difference to clients’ workforce diversity.

PwC

The Big Four professional services partnership organisation has a five-point plan for diversity and inclusion actions, aiming to make progress in committing to and driving real change for gender equality. This includes ensuring PwC partners are specifically responsible and accountable for gender diversity goals and for taking action to deliver on published gender targets.

Engineering

Atkins

A design, engineering and project management consultancies, employing more than 18,300 people across the UK and Europe, North America, the Middle East and Africa, and Asia Pacific, Atkins aims to provide positive role models for women at every level across its organisation. Atkins has women represented across the business, and this is reflected in the inclusive and welcoming working culture which the firm says its teams speaks so highly of.

Jacobs

Design and engineering specialist Jacobs has installed accountability measures around its diversity commitments at all levels of the company, from its board to operational staff. These goals include aiming to significantly improve its global gender balance by fiscal year 2025 – to achieve 40% female talent, 40% male talent and 20% being a flexible measure, for any gender, and those who choose not to identify or disclose.

Law

Addleshaw Goddard

The law firm has two Inclusion Partners, Justine Delroy and Graham Cross, who are committed to driving its gender equality ambitions forward in line with its inclusion strategy. Thanks to Addleshaw Goddard’s investment in this area, over the last seven years, its number of women in partner roles has risen from 20% to 28%. It has now been in The Times Top 50 Employers for Women list for the 15th time since its launch in 2006.

Burges Salmon

Gender equality is of paramount importance to Burges Salmon’s firm-wide strategy. In 2020, this saw the firm establish its Gender Action Plan which was developed following consultation with our people and is being driven by the firm’s senior leadership team. This underpins the firm’s commitment to ensuring its female colleagues can see demonstrable evidence of a clear route to senior roles within the business, equality in terms of pay and recognition, and a strong support network within the firm to help facilitate this.

CMS

Diversity and inclusion is championed at the senior level across CMS. The law firm’s Senior Partner Penelope Warne is a known advocate for D&I, and champions it internally and externally to ensure that CMS drives change not only for its people and communities, but also for the legal sector and the wider business community.

Eversheds Sutherland

Diversity and inclusion is a core part of Eversheds Sutherland’s strategy, as it looks to ensure its purpose and values are brought to life. The firm is committed to ensuring its culture encourages professional growth and values differences. Eversheds Sutherland’s networks and affinity groups include gender, sexual orientation and gender identity, disability and wellbeing, faith, and race and ethnic demographics.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

In 2021, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer launched new five-year global commitments to diversity and inclusion and targets for gender, race and ethnicity, and LGBTQ+ representation, reflecting a refreshed focus across the firm on action and progress in this area. The global targets for 2021-2026 include new partners being at least 40% women and 40% men – with 20% men, women or non-binary – as well as having the same percentages in global leadership functions.

DWF

Over the last year, DWF has implemented key initiatives including the rollout of its menopause support policy to complement support groups that were already in place, and upgraded family friendly policies that include enhanced parental leave, among other benefits.

Linklaters

A global law firm, Linklaters’ gender diversity priorities include creating a balanced and sustainable pipeline of female talent at every career level; ensuring women have access to development and sponsorship opportunities through the firm’s talent programmes, including the Women’s Leadership Programme for senior associates; and a leading offering on parental leave and support benefits. The firm asserts that its recognition by the Times’ list highlights its commitment to creating an environment that effectively promotes equality for women and where everyone is supported in balancing their responsibilities inside and outside of the workplace.

Reactions from the winners

James Hadley, Bain & Company’s Managing Partner in the UK, said, “We’re excited to see our committed approach to diversity and gender equality highlighted in this way once again. Leading in this area is a priority for Bain worldwide and we’re determined to continued pursuit of this as a firm – and as we also look to help redefine the consulting industry on this, too. We continue to invest in this agenda for the benefit of our people across every area of the firm’s work. Our approach to recruiting, equal parental leave policy, the flexible working options we provide to our teams, and – crucially – our supportive workplace culture are all important elements of this.”

Barney Hamilton, Chief Talent Officer for Bain & Company in the UK, added, “Our market leading policy on equal parental leave is a key component of our approach to addressing gender equality and we believe that providing this is a highly effective mechanism towards that cause. We are also intensely focused on our broader efforts to promote gender equality as a core goal for our talent agenda in the UK, as well as continuing to strive for the best and fastest progress possible on diversity more generally.”

Jackie Henry, Managing Partner People and Purpose at Deloitte, commented, “Our place in The Times Top 50 Employers for Gender Equality list demonstrates our focus on creating an inclusive workplace. I am particularly proud of the range of enhancements to our existing family policies, making sure that we are taking care of our people at all the important life stages. We are already seeing the impact of our Future Leaders Programme, which supports women and ethnic minority colleagues in their progression and development journey at the firm and ensure there are more people ready for senior roles. To ensure greater accountability, we are also including diversity metrics in senior leaders’ scorecards this year.”

Sarah Churchman, Chief Inclusion, Culture and Wellbeing Officer at PwC UK, stated, “It’s an honour to be recognised for our work to improve gender equality for 13 years in a row. Recent events – such as geo-political uncertainty and the cost of living crisis – have continued to put a spotlight on the inequalities that exist. Our response has been a sustained commitment to make inclusion and diversity a matter for everyone, not just a few, as highlighted in our Women in Work research. Combining leadership, clarity of aspirations and everyday intentional actions can make truly meaningful progress.”

Sylvia Pozezanac, Mercer UK CEO, noted, “Mercer is committed to creating and sponsoring a culture that supports colleagues of any race, gender, age, or any other characteristic to enable them to succeed and feel comfortable in bringing their whole self to work. We’re proud of the steps we have taken to improve our gender balance at all levels and to remove barriers through a variety of initiatives and policies. We recognise there is still much more we can do as a firm as we continue our commitment to building a working environment that is wholly inclusive and diverse.”

Aedamar Comiskey, Senior Partner, Chair and Executive Gender Champion at Linklaters, said, “We’re delighted to be celebrating a decade in The Times Top 50 Employers for Gender Equality list. Delivering for our clients is all about solving their complex problems. To excel for them we need diversity of thought and perspective to drive innovation and good decision making. We have set ourselves ambitious diversity goals and we’re proud of the progress we’re making."

Jacobs People & Places Solutions Senior Vice President Europe Kate Kenny said, “This award demonstrates Jacobs’ commitment and success in taking demonstrable action to create gender equality in the workplace. We are so proud of what we have achieved so far but commit to continuing on our journey, creating an organization where everyone can thrive irrespective of gender, or any other characteristic.”

Seema Bains, Head of DWF's Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Group, remarked, "It's an honour to be recognised once again in this year's list of top employers for gender equality. Gender specific representation targets continue to be a part of our Global ESG Strategy at DWF, and we remain committed to establishing greater parity across our entire business. We are proud of the steps we have taken in this area, and look forward to what we can still achieve for the benefit of our colleagues."

Chris Seaton, Senior Partner at Burges Salmon and Chair of the firm’s Gender Taskforce, added, “This excellent recognition for the third year in a row continues to reflect the fantastic work being delivered by our Gender Taskforce and also our people-led network for gender balance, BBalanced. While we recognise that this is a work in progress and a long journey, it’s great to be one of the organisations that have been recognised for shifting the dial in relation to gender equality.”