60-second interview: Miranda Brawn on diversity in the profession
Targets, not quotas, will produce an organic growth of diversity in the profession, explains the forward-thinking investment banker
Miranda Brawn has over 15 years' experience in philanthropy, community,
and diversity work. Her multifaceted career has allowed her to develop informed views on one of the hottest topics affecting the legal profession: diversity.
What is your view on the state of diversity in the legal profession?
There is a lot of 'talk' and networking events on diversity in the legal profession; however, the action taken and current statistics highlight a big diversity gap. The profession will continue to struggle with embracing diversity and inclusion until those with the power to change things are forced to be more self-reflective about the importance of an all-inclusive cadre of lawyers serving community needs. We need to ensure that all potential for bias is eradicated and that the legal profession is doing everything to encourage under-represented groups to apply.
Should there be a quota system to increase diversity in law firms?
Targets should be put in place, not quotas, as this implies that a set number of roles have to be filled by employees who meet certain diversity criteria, almost irrespective of whether or not that individual would have been appointed on merit.
Setting diversity targets enables the success of any diversity initiative. Also, the business case for diversity within law firms will exist if the firm's clients extend their diversity commitment to such law firms. Conversely, if these business clients do not believe that diversity within law firms is important to them, then no real and compelling business case for diversity will evolve within
What are your views on the lack of women being appointed silk this year?
It demonstrates that the Bar has a long way to go before it achieves full diversity and equality. The senior judiciary clearly does not reflect the communities it seeks to serve because of a lack of ethnic minority and female QCs. Less than a third (28 per cent) of ethnic minority barristers who applied for silk were successful, compared to 43 per cent of men and 52 per cent of women. Although women were more likely to succeed than men, the proportion of female QCs remains at just over 20 per cent, according to the Bar Council.
Do you feel your gender or race has been used against you during your career?
I have focused on letting my hard work do the talking in my career. That said, if others underestimate me or lower their expectations because I am a woman of colour, that just means they are all that more disadvantaged or ill-prepared when they inevitably see and experience how much more capable I am than them. If some people correlate low expectations with me because I am a woman, there is no question that I will over-deliver, and that is always highly satisfying.
What role do you think the Miranda Brawn Diversity Leadership Foundation can play in increasing diversity and why did you set it up?
The foundation provides future Black, Asian, and minority ethnic leaders (including females) from disadvantaged backgrounds with opportunities and incentives via scholarships, diversity lectures, work experience, and mentoring. Through a partnership with The Prince's Trust, the aim is to increase race and gender diversity in Britain and beyond. As a diversity leader I wanted to launch an initiative that went beyond public speaking and articles to play my personal part in leading the race diversity initiatives within the UK workforce, which includes the legal sector.
How will the General Counsel Diversity Leadership Forum improve diversity?
The aim is to provide a best practice and networking forum for leaders in the legal field to help generate ideas and increase diversity action. There are lots of networking events, panel discussions, articles, and generally a lot of talk about diversity. However, the action and statistics are not matching at the moment. This forum will hopefully help to increase the action from a legal leadership perspective.
Over the last 100 years, women have seen their roles in the legal world grow. What do you want to see from the next 100 years?
I would like to see an equal and diverse society where diversity is not even a talking point because the goals of today's diversity champions have been achieved.