CSR begins at home: Positive action externally is diminished if it doesn’t also take place internally. People who feel supported and part of an organisation that takes care of them are more likely to embrace the external actions and work to support those actions. This requires an inclusive organisation where diversity is valued. In 2022, we continued to make progress in this area. We have a female managing partner in four of the five jurisdictions in which our offices are located. Soft skills are an integral part of our training programme. We worked deliberately to stay close with our people during the Covid-19 lockdowns. We have also learnt that there is no quick fix, and more work remains to be done.
Our approach to becoming a diverse, inclusive, and socially responsible law firm focuses on three levels: integrating inclusion and diversity (I&D) throughout our firm’s strategy and policy; embedding I&D in our management and recruitment procedures; and raising awareness of the importance of these values for a successful organisation. We are deeply convinced that moving beyond buzzwords takes strong leadership, commitment, and perseverance.
Inclusion and Diversity
In our view, I&D is primarily about creating and maintaining an environment where each of our colleagues is encouraged to bring their whole self to work and is valued for being who they are. Successfully hiring a diverse staff will not pay dividends if those workers are not retained. To express this, we use ‘I&D’ in our communication rather than the commonly-used acronym, ‘D&I’.
The data on diversity are nonetheless an important indication of where we stand. We have defined high ambitions with respect to I&D: A balanced gender ratio at all senior levels (i.e. partners and counsels, and directors and managers within our business support teams) and 20% cultural diversity firm-wide in 2025. Despite our efforts, we actually saw a slight decrease in the gender ratio last year: from 38% female in 2020 to 37% in 2021. We can mainly attribute this decrease to the fact that two female partners retired. Much work remains to reach our 2025 ambition. In 2022, we are recruiting an I&D Specialist who will be working closely with two or more partners toward meeting our goals. This specialist will also be responsible for developing a monitoring instrument to measure cultural diversity and ensure that at least 30% of our junior recruits have a multicultural background.
Including I&D in our strategy and policy
We see a firm-wide commitment to increase inclusiveness and to stimulate diversity within the firm. In the Netherlands, Luxembourg, London, and New York, our offices are headed or co-headed by female partners. In Brussels, the managing partner is Dirk Van Gerven, a winner of awards for his allyship. He is the author of ‘All Human Beings Are Equal, Also Women’ (2016) and a frequent speaker on I&D and gender equality. Since 2020 our New York office has had an all-woman leadership team. NautaDutilh was named Best Diversity Firm at the 2021 Dutch M&A Awards. The jury recognised our firm in particular for our efforts to radically equalise rewards and benefits, without exception. (This remuneration system was introduced in 2020.) Our Brussels office retained
the Diversity Label of the Brussels Minister of Employment, a designation that indicates that the company has developed and implemented a diversity plan which covers all relevant criteria, among others to expand our recruitment channels; provide inclusive management training; and organise awareness and exchange moments on different I&D themes. Retaining the Diversity Label requires continuous work, for which we collaborate with Actiris, the regional office for employment in Brussels.
Embedding I&D in our procedures
To further expand our recruitment channels, we became a member of the Bridges Network, an initiative in the Netherlands aimed at strengthening the connection between law students from bi- cultural backgrounds and employers in the legal sector. NautaDutilh Brussels joined the DiversiCom Charter to stimulate an inclusive recruitment policy with respect to individuals with a disability. As part of this, the Brussels Human Resources department instituted a one-month internship for a person on the autism spectrum.
We organised webinars on I&D and featured (inclusive) leadership in our learning and development programmes. Our London office organised gender- inclusive language workshops, both internally for colleagues and externally for peer law firms and clients, among which included a Queer Alphabet training for a Dutch municipality. The office also reached out to the London LGBTQIA+ community in order to share best practices and raise awareness. An increasing number of colleagues in the firm include preferred pronouns in their e-mail signature. We have adjusted the design of our business cards to provide the option to include preferred pronouns. The Managing Partner of Brussels serves on the ICC Task Force on Disability Inclusion in International Arbitration, aimed to make international arbitration more diverse and inclusive (focused in particular on disability).
Learning and development
In 2021, we launched a talent development programme for partners, in addition to our longstanding talent programs focusing on the professional development of our employees from junior to senior, such as the NautaDutilh MBA leadership programme, which prepares young talent on their future leadership role, and TOP, our talent development programme for legal and business support professionals. TOP for partners focuses on developments and changing perspectives within the firm and how these fit with their role as partner. Systems theory informs the programme, and we leverage introspection and respectful dialogue instead of lecturing about leadership models. We believe that understanding the origins and causes of our own behaviour enables us to better relate to others. We expect that this will positively influence the culture within our firm and contribute to our becoming a more inclusive organisation.
Health and well-being
During the pandemic, we offered support focused on the health and well-being of our people in a variety of ways. This included paying for childcare services during school lockdowns, offering online coaching and access to psychologists, and providing IT and home office facilities. To prepare for our working life post-pandemic, we started a pilot programme, ‘Workplace of the Future’, based on feedback from employee surveys among other data. The starting point is ‘two-way flexibility’: More flexibility to work when and where you choose, while also taking into account the importance of social cohesion and the office as a training and learning environment. In practice, this entails the possibility to work remotely for a maximum of two days a week.
Other initiatives focused on the well-being of our people include mindfulness and yoga training, workshops regarding sleep and menopause, trainings for managing teams at a distance, and My Nature (see sidebar, p. 25). Our Brussels Think Healthy Committee developed a step challenge which not only increased physical activity, but also led to social cohesion during lockdown as teams worked together and shared new walking routes and pictures of beautiful scenery. To provide a more favourable work-life balance for young parents, we adapted the fringe benefits for extended partner leave for employees in the Dutch offices: Instead of the standard payment up to 70% of the maximum daily wage, we supplement to 85% of the actual salary of the employee. In addition, as of 1 January 2022 – 7 months ahead of the entering into force of Dutch legislation that requires it – we began paying 70% of the actual salary of the employee during the first 9 weeks of parental leave.