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Doing it differently

GC explores what corporate counsel can do to further
diversity – in their in-house legal department, the wider
organisation, or throughout the business world. We pick the
brains of general counsel across the globe about programmes
they’ve pioneered or adopted to create a diverse workplace.
In the first in a series of case studies, this issue we look
at gender diversity.


Leading by example

The tech industry is notoriously male-dominated, but industry giants like Ericsson are out to change all that. Chief legal officer and head of group legal affairs Nina Macpherson discussed how the legal function can join in the debate.

‘As I’m part of the executive leadership, the legal team is definitely responsible for being a part of bringing diversity into fruition. As legal experts we can help the company to do this in the correct manner, so we don’t run into legal problems while we’re trying to implement diversity.

At Ericsson we have a focus on gender because we are in a very male-dominated industry, and here the legal department really can be a living example of gender diversity – we are about 50/50 on all levels, from management down. We can lead by example, help the company to live up to legal obligations and maybe also take away some obstacles.

We have a Diversity and Inclusion Council led by the business and the participating legal counsel try to figure out the obstacles against a truly diverse and inclusive company. We look into these matters and see what we can do, how we can make it easier for people to feel included and welcome in our company. What we are after is really high-performing, creative teams, and you won’t be able to create that if you look at very narrow fields of talent.

The chairman of the Diversity and Inclusion Council reports to the executive leadership team at least twice a year. They are focusing on gender diversity because our CEO has set a very difficult target. It doesn’t sound so difficult – 30% women across the organisation by 2020 – but we have decided to have it at all levels. The recruitment base is not really conducive to this target. It’s a constant inflow of men through our managed service deals, so we try to counteract that by finding and nurturing female competence in other ways. The Council promotes the target and they have a dashboard for monitoring it.

We train a lot of leaders on unconscious bias. It’s so easy to recruit someone that looks like yourself. You think: “That’s a nice person, he/she looks just like my younger mirror!”

Then the global leadership team members have diversity in their targets, and they need to discuss gender-related issues in their development talks with their own leaders. We have a talent process where there is an obligation on leaders to identify not only men. You really do have to look for women, and people usually do find talent when they try to look.

Even though we are about 50/50 in the legal department, I think we have been better at spotting female talent for leadership positions by actively thinking about it. Women are a little bit less good at showing interest and ability in leadership than men. I think it’s out of tradition or culture that females are less obvious. If a woman says she is looking to become a leader, she will be seen as pushy. If a man says exactly the same, he is ambitious. Just by talking about it, being pushed to identify other people than you would normally do, helps.

We have a female lawyer on the Diversity and Inclusion Council. She’s a really good senior lawyer and deserves her place, otherwise I would get frustrated, because it’s always expected that women should take initiative and discuss gender diversity like it’s a female issue, when it’s a general challenge for society and/or the company.

At Ericsson we have an extremely supportive CEO and chairman, so we have two very strong men that are driving this. The chairman of the Diversity and Inclusion Council is also a man from the business side, so the tone at the top is very clear.’


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