Leana Coopoosamy-Pearson is a diversity and inclusion practitioner at the global law firm Clifford Chance. In this conversation we discussed how the firm uses data to set specific but nuanced targets and how they never rest on their laurels when the goal is reached.
Speaker 1: Welcome to The Inclusive Growth Show with Toby Mildon, future-proofing your business by creating a diverse workplace.
Toby Mildon: Hello there. Thank you ever so much for tuning into this episode of The Inclusive Growth Show. I’m Toby Mildon, and today, I’m joined by Leana Coopoosamy-Pearson, who I met many years ago when I was working at Deloitte, Leana was working for another diversity and inclusion advisory company, and Deloitte was one of her clients. But since then, she’s moved to become a diversity and inclusion practitioner within Clifford Chance, which is a global law firm. And today, I’m going to be picking Leana’s brains about her work at Clifford Chance, but particularly on setting diversity and inclusion targets and the importance of that, how we set targets globally, how we get data from employees within an organisation in order to set targets, and the internal campaign that goes along with that and much, much more, I imagine will come out of our conversation. So Leana, it’s great to have you on the show today. Could you let us know a bit more about yourself, what you do at Clifford Chance now, and what led you to this point in your career?
Leana Coopoosamy-Pearson: Thank you, Toby and thanks for having me today. Really pleased to join you. So my role at Clifford Chance is inclusion and well-being manager, and my focus is the UK remit. I worked in recruitment for about five years before moving to one of the big four and worked in a resource management role. And then when I was in this role, I got involved in lots of the affinity networks and started to see a lot of the work that was being done around inclusion and diversity, which made me think, “Oh, this is an area that I’m really interested in.” I then moved into a consultancy, which is where I met you as one of my clients, and working with a variety of different clients on being more diverse, more inclusive, and would get involved in lots of different work, which was great, and I liked the variety, but I would never see the end of a project through if they were to come up with a new initiative or see any of the strategy side. So with that in mind, I thought if I wanted to be working in this field, I probably need to be getting in an in-house role to see how I could be involved in some of that direct change. And that’s what led me to Clifford Chance.
Toby Mildon: Brilliant. So I know that Clifford Chance and yourself have done a lot around setting targets and things like that, so why is it important for businesses to set diversity and inclusion targets? And I mean, why did Clifford Chance decide to set targets for itself?
Leana Coopoosamy-Pearson: So there’s a lot of discussion around targets, quotas in the inclusion and diversity area, and I think it’s really important to understand that targets, they work when they’re considered as a strategic intervention, so they are there for a specific reason at a specific time. And often lots of talk around targets, there would be targets that are put in place, but no specific time frame, and that’s always been a bug bear of mine because I think unless you have a time frame which you’re working to, it really feels difficult to hold yourself accountable as to the measurements that you’re taking. So I see them as being part of driving inclusion outcome, so it’s part of the bigger intervention around what we want to do and drive change specifically within Clifford Chance. So it allows you to create the focus that you want on delivering an objective but within a given timeframe. So again, once you reach that target, it shouldn’t be, “Oh, we’ve completely dropped that target.” It should be, “Okay, where do we redefine this? What does the data look like and what can we do next? So I’d say it’s strategic to have targets. It allows you to drive your strategy, but also be accountable for the changes that you’re looking to make.
Toby Mildon: Yeah. It reminds me, back at university, we used to talk about setting SMART objectives, so Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time bound, so having these targets that are specific and they have a timestamp on them as well.
Leana Coopoosamy-Pearson: Yeah, definitely, it’s really important.
Toby Mildon: So did you set targets for different levels of the organisation, ’cause you’ve got loads of people joining the firm as graduates or new legal professionals, and then you’ve got well established partners in the business as well, so did you kinda look at different grades?
Leana Coopoosamy-Pearson: Yeah, I think that’s the why, why it is important as well, and not forgetting that everything needs to be tailored when you have these approaches. So one size doesn’t fit all when we talk about UK, but even globally, so data has been critical in identifying the gap. So the reason we have targets is because we have areas that lack representation, when we think about the diversity characteristics. So these are specific to enabling us to increase our representation in those areas that we know where we have issues. So yeah, they are at different grades, because that’s what the data has shown us. We’ve been really lucky, we have a great analytics team internally that we’ve been doing this for years. We’ve been able to look at the different needs and challenges that we have at different grades. So with regards to promotion levels and specifically gender or ethnicity, we’ve been able to understand where we need to improve on that representation. And that also feeds into, when we think about the pipeline, say for more senior roles. So that’s the reason we decided to look at different grades, because it makes sense based on the data that we have.
Toby Mildon: Yeah, and how do you bring it alive for people at different grades as well, because setting targets for senior level, for example, is very different to setting targets at that more junior level?
Leana Coopoosamy-Pearson: Yeah I think you’ve made really good point there in the sense that when we talk about inclusion, for many of us who are in this field of work, it would be lovely if everybody knew that they need to play a part in inclusion and driving change, but the reality is, unless I understand what it means for me, why do I need to be involved in inclusion and diversity, why is it important to me as an individual? And so the way we’re trying to make it real throughout the firm is to create inclusion action plans for each practice area, for each department. So my work has been with many of the directors and some of the partners at the firm to show them what their data looks like as a snapshot, so from the offset you’re able to see particularly where there may be gaps or lack of representation in some areas, then think figure out what their focus area is gonna be for the next year, and then look at an inclusion action plan that is focused around our global inclusion strategy, which is change the rules, change the culture and change lived experience. So by having that consistent approach across the firm and keep it simple.
Leana Coopoosamy-Pearson: I think that’s one of the main things that sometimes we forget, which is actually, sometimes we do just need to bring it back to basics and think about what are the key things that we want to achieve within the next year, and how do we go about doing so. One of the steps that we made was to create inclusion objectives across the firm, and again, this is tailored to different levels, like you said, you can’t expect a senior leader to have the same objectives as an assistant or coordinator within the firm. So those are some of the ways that we’re trying to make it real at those different levels.
Toby Mildon: And how have you set targets globally then, because obviously you’re a global firm, there are different data collection rules around the world and different data protection legislation as well, so what have you done on a global level?
Leana Coopoosamy-Pearson: Yeah, This is a question that I think we always, it’s a hot topic for our industry around the global piece, because, I think it can actually put people off even starting to attempt what that global piece looks like because it is so tricky, like you said, about the regional side, but the importance of data at both the regional and global level is important because if we take an example around ethniticity. Ethniticity in the UK is very different to Singapore, for example. So the regional peace is more important, so we have the global focus at the top end, and then as it filters down, then we look at what are the regional drivers and changes that we want to make, so again, it always it will come down to data and looking, obviously at representation across different areas, but specifically understanding the problems and the challenges in different regions, like you said, the nuances that we have for each of the diversity characteristics, and how is that gonna help? How we’re gonna try to reach our target? So we would work, I’d say work your way back from what you want to achieve, every region is different too, which makes it complex, so again, everything needs to be tailored, so first of all, see if you can look at what you want to achieve globally, and then how do you then look at that regionally and what does that mean for your region, but obviously all the regional approaches need to add up to the global approach that you have.
Toby Mildon: Yeah, absolutely. So I talk to a lot of my clients who I think one of their biggest frustrations is probably at the top of their list than a lot of companies I talk to are lacking data about the diversity of their workforce, which then prevents them from being able to set meaningful targets and objectives. And I know that you ran a self-identifying campaign or self-ID campaign. What was that campaign? And what have you learned from that process?
Leana Coopoosamy-Pearson: Yeah, so I saw some advice from other DNR practitioners before we ran this campaign to understand the process that they went through, and probably like many other organisations, we move from PeopleSoft to Workday, and with that means we need to do another drive to get the data from individuals, and in the UK, what we focused on is a campaign called six reasons why, and so these were six videos that we produced, answering questions that people had that came up, so kind of myth-busting. So if you said, I don’t know what you do with my data, we’d have a video saying what do we do withbyour data, etcetera. So we had these videos go out, it was unfortunately because of the time, it was just before we went into lock down, and it was harder to keep the momentum going. So what we want to do, again, I think is think about how can we revamp this campaign, but the successes that we’ve had is that it is critical to understanding and achieving buy-in from your people and understanding the reasons that people don’t feel comfortable sharing their data, and I think more work that we need to do is explaining, and where I’ve seen campaigns work really well, is explaining what specifically you’ve done with that data, but also how is that linked to some strategy?
Leana Coopoosamy-Pearson: Because I think it’s easy for us to say from an inclusion team perspective, we need your data ’cause it helps us with your strategy, but as an employee, I want to know, could you give me an example of where that has actually happened and what does that look like so really making it concrete, and I think, again, it also needs to be based around why you’re asking for it and the sort of questions that you’re asking, because if that’s not right, it can set back that entire campaign, that’s what we say getting those questions is key. We say find your lawyer at CC and we can help, but I think it’s really important to understand what people’s motivations are for maybe not sharing that and trying to unpack that, and that’s what we did working crazy with our affinity groups, and understanding that maybe there are actually specific differences within minority groups themselves as to how they answer questions and how they feel about sharing their data. So I think there’s a lot of ground work that you can do, but it’s more about understanding and then using that data in the best way to give people direction of what you’re doing.
Toby Mildon: Yeah, I agree with everything you’ve said, ’cause when I worked at the BBC, we did a self ID campaign. And I think we had a really good response rate it… Our response rate was more than the annual staff engagement survey. And I think it was partly because we had quite a long comms campaign, before we actually request the data, we use the third party to collect data, which I think it gives people a bit of confidence that the data is not going to be seen by somebody in the HR department, and it might be used against them. And then I think the third key point was really, like you’ve done addressing some of those objections that people might have about sharing data. So being clear to people about how data is going to be used, who’s going to see it, what we will do with it, what we won’t do with it, that kind of thing. So, I mean, what are some of the early successes that you’ve seen from setting targets in the firm and running your Self ID campaign so far.
Leana Coopoosamy-Pearson: I think successes would be when you when you get that buy in, really, I think it’s key to involve the affinity networks. But in the world of inclusion, you always have the same people that get inclusion, they you know, they cut, they get involved in all activities, when you know that you’re tapping on the door of success is when you’re getting the people that aren’t typically involved in those activities, and that you’re actually getting through to people who maybe had reservations about sharing their data before. And so I’ve had some really positive conversations at the firm, where people have had very honest conversations with me about data and what they should be sharing and, you know, getting a better understanding. So I think that’s a small success in itself, just changing people’s mindsets around why we do this, and what our longer term goal is, from another success perspective, we’ve hit our LGBT target already in the UK. That’s one year in. And that’s mainly down to the self ID campaign. But like I said before, earlier, that doesn’t mean that okay, we’re done.
Leana Coopoosamy-Pearson: And that’s, that’s good to go. That now now makes us think, “Okay, what should we be more ambitious about that target? What should that look like really assessing where we are.” So those are some early successes. But I think sometimes the successes we don’t really celebrate are the ones where it’s just those simple conversations that you have with people or a mindset has been changed. And I feel that longer term, those are things that we do need to think about, because you are always, I hate to say it that cheesy phrase of bringing people along on that journey. But that is a really important piece for the longer term vision that you have.
Toby Mildon: Yes it’s like those softer milestones. And on the way to achieving the end goal or the big target at the end.
Leana Coopoosamy-Pearson: Yeah.
Toby Mildon: I mean, obviously, you’ve done loads of work around, setting targets, collecting data, that kind of thing. What’s more in store for you at the firm on the D&I agenda?
Leana Coopoosamy-Pearson: Oh, gosh, I don’t think we have enough time. For all of that.
Toby Mildon: It is a never ending piece of work.
Leana Coopoosamy-Pearson: It is, it really is and I think we want to be doing more when we think about intersectionality as well, Toby and I we’ve, we’ve discussed where different diversity strands come when we think about what’s prioritised. And this is really a time where there’s so much that we need to be thinking about for all diversity strands, and that intersectionality piece, but if we’re being, breaking things down, I think fundamentally, it’s about leadership, owning the responsibility across the board. Inclusion, as a team, we’re here to support on delivering the targets, but in reality, the firm and the leadership team will be delivering on the target. So it’s the ownership piece, I think, is really important. And that that filters down to everybody. I still think we have a lot of work to do around kind of the middle population. I think there’s a lot more work we can do specifically with line managers, again, how do we make it real for them? How do they feel like they’re a part of it, and that they can be involved? So thinking about that initial target versus where we want to go and the role that they play? But across the board, yeah, there’s, we’ve been great at looking at the data. But there’s more of a, I guess, about the strategy piece now and how do we hold ourselves accountable?
Leana Coopoosamy-Pearson: And how do we measure lots of brilliant things that we’re doing, for example reverse mentoring and pieces like this, how do we expand those. At the moment, it’s focused around senior leaders, but it’s that something that we can get more people involved in the firm, because that’s such a rich learning that we’ve seen across the board. But it’s yeah, it’s just having probably the time and more people to generate some of those really, really good programmes.
Toby Mildon: Yes absolutely. Sounds like you got a lot of work on your yacht. Right. So this is, of course, the inclusive growth show based on my book, what does the inclusive growth mean to you?
Leana Coopoosamy-Pearson: So when answering this question, I thought about it from a professional services legal industry. And I mean, from a legal industry perspective, when it comes to inclusion, many people say, oh, we’re far behind. And to some respect we are, but in other areas, I think we’re really innovative in some of the things that we’re doing. But when I think inclusive growth, I think moving to a mindset where everything we do has inclusion at the heart. So that’s how we make decisions, how we pick our client teams, how we run appraisal processes, even informally, who do we offer to take to drinks and you know, that for me, would be growth because it will be embedded in people’s minds around inclusion. And I think when you start to get people that actively think about the decisions they make on an everyday basis, that, to me is inclusive growth.
Toby Mildon: Brilliant, excellent. And the final question for you is, if the person listening to our chat today wants to get in touch with you, they might have some questions around setting diversity and inclusion targets. Maybe they themselves work in the legal profession, how could they get in touch with you?
Leana Coopoosamy-Pearson: Yeah, so I think the best way is through LinkedIn, I will have to do a shameful plug as well as I have set up a small business called Nigella…
Toby Mildon: Excellent.
Leana Coopoosamy-Pearson: Called Nigella Boutique, which was addressing the lack of representation within the baby industry and new mum’s area. So actually set up a business that produces mama to be hampers, but specifically supporting Black and ethnically diverse businesses. And it just came about from…
Toby Mildon: Yeah.
Leana Coopoosamy-Pearson: Doing a maternity present for one of our colleagues at Clifford Chance and realising that actually they didn’t see themselves in many of the products or many of the books. And so, yeah, if you’re interested in those or… I’m sure there’s lots of babies, that are gonna be born and that’s another way that you can get in touch with me. But yeah, otherwise, anything inclusion-specific, Clifford Chance related then yeah, my LinkedIn is probably the best.
Toby Mildon: So LinkedIn. And how do we get more information about your new business?
Leana Coopoosamy-Pearson: I can share you the link… I can share a link with you, if we can share that around. But yeah, I probably… I do a few articles on LinkedIn, I should probably write one specifically about this, but yeah, and on Instagram, Nigella Boutique.
Toby Mildon: Brilliant. Okay. Yeah, so connect on LinkedIn and get on Instagram, Nigella Boutique. I think that’s a great idea, ’cause I used to work for a firm where we would give new parents a new baby pack and I think it is important that those parents and their new children see themselves reflected in the contents of those packs.
Leana Coopoosamy-Pearson: And from an inclusion perspective there’s still… Well, there’s still more to do because right now it’s just… It’s focused on new mums, but we know, obviously, there are parents of all genders and so that’s something that I want to look at in the future, but let’s just say my day job has kept me very busy. [laughter]
Toby Mildon: Yeah, well Leana, thank you ever so much for joining me on today’s episode, and thank you for tuning in to hear Leana and I chat about setting diversity and inclusion targets and objectives. Hopefully, you’ve taken away some useful information and advice that you can use in your own business and of course, if you want to follow up with Leana, please do connect with her on LinkedIn or drop me an email as well. And I look forward to seeing you on the next episode, which will be coming up shortly. Thanks very much.
Speaker 1: Thank you for listening to the inclusive growth show. For further information and resources from Toby and his team, head on over to our website at mildon.co.uk.
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