Little did John Dittmar and Emmanuel Indrenius know that D&I would come to denote ”Diversity & Inclusion” some 120 years after they had set up the firm. And to be fair, it did take over 100 years before we at D&I understood how important diversity in the workplace really is.
These days there are a number of studies that evidence the advantages of not only having white males on your team if you want it to be highperforming. Still, at D&I, it took some 80 years before the first finnish-speaking white male was allowed tojoin the all-male team of swedish-speaking lawyers. Talk about careful steps towards diversity… After that it took less than ten years before the first female lawyer was recruited, and she was finnish-speaking!
Today every second lawyer and every fourth partner at the firm is female. The vast majority of our lawyers are Finnish-speaking, but we do have people with other native languages than Finnish or Swedish in our team and many have law degrees from different countries and legal systems.
Is this the result of decades of systematic effort to reach certain goals when it comes to gender equality, diversity and inclusion? No. But this change has been supported by the values that we have inherited from past generations of D&I lawyers. The firm has always been a meritocracy, and there has always been a strong sense of respect for every team member and their efforts. In our culture driven firm, it is not important who you are, but what you contribute.
We believe that the most valuable things in providing qualified and insightful legal advice happen in the interaction between brilliant and hard-working individuals. Increasingly, providing relevant advice requires a collaborative team of experts. We need to be able to combine expertise from different areas and the strengths of different individuals in our quest for the brightest ideas for our clients.
In our culture where we celebrate different ideas and insights and a continuous discourse between different perspectives, it is clear that we need people who think differently. We need different people, people with different backgrounds and different strengths that can bring different contributions and complement each other for the benefit of our clients. We need cognitive diversity.
We play a team game where every team member’s input matters. A meritocracy requires a level playing field where every individual has the opportunity to give the full individual contribution to our team effort. But opportunity is not enough, we also need to create a safe and inclusive working environment, where every individual has the confidence to go all-in.
Because be it transactions, disputes or innovations, in complex matters our clients need the support of a whole team of experts working together in an integrated way – a “Powerhouse way”. Only then can we be the best partner to our clients for insightful legal advice.
Are we happy with how far we’ve come when it comes to building an inclusive workplace providing equal opportunities to all talented people? No. While we have made progress, we still have a long way to go. We spend a lot of time internally discussing gender equality and inclusion issues and trying to identify hidden structures and practices that prevent us from being the best workplace equally for all our ambitious people.
Diversity & Inclusion is an important and highly topical theme and you can find a whole lot of proof why it improves efficiency. But to me, the most important argument for equal opportunity is what a younger colleague said, when we had a cross-firm group discussion on these themes.
It’s just simply right, my colleague said.