According to the ACC‘s (Association of corporate counsel) General Counsel DE&I Survey, GC are experiencing moderate progress in their organizations but are able to have the greatest impact in DEI within their own teams.
The survey was launched in September 2022 to assess the impact and sentiment of General Counsel (GC) and Chief Legal Officers (CLOs) from around the world in one specific area – DE&I. The Survey asked 232 GC and CLOs to consider the last 24 months, a period of intense effort and focus on the DE&I space, and to share their feedback on the level of progress made. The Survey asked for feedback across three key areas: (i) individual progress by the GC/CLO and their ability to impact within the legal team’s progress; (ii) wider organizational progress, including whether the GC/CLOs believed that their organizations met any DE&I commitments made over the last 24 months; and (iii) the level of progress made by law firms in offering diverse teams.
The survey suggests that there is still much work to do but GC are in a uniquely influential role to help make progress toward their organizations’ DEI objectives.
Here are the key findings:
- GC are having success promoting DEI practices among their own teams: GC were asked to what extent they were able to promote and support progress in DE&I (1) within their organizations and (2) inside their teams and in their approach to hiring. Both were rated with a high degree of progress, but GC indicated having the most success within their own teams, suggesting that the most progress may be associated with areas in which the GC exerts the most control and influence.
- GC are experiencing only moderate support from their organizations to help progress in DEI efforts: Beyond rating the impact of their own individual efforts, GC were asked to rate (1) the extent to which they had organizational support and resources to move DE&I efforts forward and (2) the degree to which the organization met their DE&I objectives. Both cases were rated as moderately successful. Whether organizations met their DE&I objectives was rated with more variability, with 41 percent rating as an 8, 9, or 10 (out of 10) compared to 53 percent who rated their degree of organizational support as an 8, 9, or 10.
- GC in larger organizations experience more success in achieving their DEI objectives: Whether rating the impact of their own individual efforts to progress in DE&I or that of their organization, GC in larger legal departments and in larger organizations (as measured by total staff) experienced more success across the board. This may indicate that, on average, larger organizations have more support and resources to offer DE&I programs.
- There are mixed results in the impact of the Covid pandemic on DEI progress: While it is clear that the Covid-19 pandemic caused significant disruption to many aspects of work life, there is wide variation in GC responses to whether the pandemic slowed or disrupted organizational DE&I efforts, with an average score of 5.1 on a scale ranging from 1 (little disruption) to 10 (significant disruption).
- GC who request their law firms to track advanced DEI KPIs observe significant progress in achieving their DEI objectives: Sixty-two percent of GC said they do not request that their law firms track KPIs or make similar commitments to measure their DE&I progress. Thirty-eight percent of GC said they do request KPIs and just seven percent said they request this at an advanced level. The use of KPIs does not guarantee immediate progress but those GC who have requested that KPIs be tracked at an advanced level do rate significantly higher progress in achieving their DE&I objectives.