Did you catch the piece in the Globe and Mail this week about the 45 Top Diversity-Focused Canadian employers?
The Toronto law firm Blake Cassels Graydon is on the list. I almost choked on my Cheerios. Seriously, folks. Is there any place less diverse than Bay Street law firms? The fact that any Bay Street law firm makes such a list has to raise serious doubts about the methodology and usefulness of this kind of survey, and undermines the real successes of other companies who actually have a diverse workplace. Of course, Blakes is now using its inclusion on the list in its promotional material. Why does Blakes make this list? Well, we are told this:
Recently launched a diversity and equity intranet site to educate employees about the firm’s diversity achievements and related events.
Oh, well then, that explains everything. Kind of like saying, Wal-Mart is a great employer because it posts a code of conduct on its website that explains its commitment to strong labour practices.
There is an accompanying piece on Blakes in the same Globe section. In it, we learn that “only around 25 percent of partners” at Blakes are women. There’s no mention of what percentage are non-white, or gay or lesbian, but does anyone want to hazard a guess? The main evidence that Blakes is a Top Diversity-Focused employer, other than having a fancy website saying they are, is that they allow women to work three or four days a week after they have babies. I have several friends who did this at their Bay Street firms. What everyone I have spoken to tells me is that this arrangement often means you work 50 hours a week instead of 80, and receive 60 or 80 percent of your regular income. Maybe its different at Blakes (but I have my doubts).
I’m not harping on Blakes. The other big firms aren’t any better as far as I have seen, and some are no doubt worse. But if you are going to put a law firm on a diversity list, how ’bout one that actually has some diversity?
It would be impossible, I think, to find a medium to large firm in Canada that is strongly represented in terms of visible minorities at this stage. Even at law schools, the student body remains largely white, although there have been some improvements in that area. It will be decades or generations before there is real diversity in big law firms. However, there are decent sized law firms in Toronto that have gender diversity. For example, look at Cavalluzzo Hayes, a leading labour and employment law firm. By my quick count of bios on their website, there are MORE female than male partners (13 female to 10 males). Which raises the question: How did the survey makers end up looking at Blakes and not a firm like Cavalluzzo?
What do you think? Should Bay Street law firms like Blakes be put onto Best Diversity lists when their diversity numbers are so dismal?