Positive Action Label 2021

Allen & Overy: less bias for more women partners

The law firm, represented here by Patrick Mischo, Magali Maillot and Claire Danda, has increased its parental leave income to encourage its employees, both men and women, to take it. (Photo: Allen & Overy)

The law firm, represented here by Patrick Mischo, Magali Maillot and Claire Danda, has increased its parental leave income to encourage its employees, both men and women, to take it. (Photo: Allen & Overy)

Allen & Overy is one of 10 companies to be awarded the Positive Actions label by the Ministry of Equality between women and men in 2021. Compensation for parental leave, awareness of biases and the search for female partners: an update on actions taken and to be taken.

Because caring for children is not just a woman's role, many companies with the Positive Action label want to promote parental leave for men. One of them is Allen & Overy, which has launched a concrete action: compensation. Currently, a person taking leave receives a replacement income, capped at around €3,760 gross per month. However, “lawyers often have high salaries, so income was an obstacle to taking this leave, especially for men, who are often the primary household income,” explains Magali Maillot, director of human resources. The company is therefore offering compensation of 85% of salaries up to €6,000, then 75% up to €7,500. Beyond the financial aspect, the firm is also counting on the incentive effect so that employees, both men and women, will dare to ask for it.

"We come from an environment where, historically, the only value that counted was work. We want to make people understand that parental leave does not jeopardise a career," adds Patrick Mischo, senior partner.

The mini-me bias

In addition to this, the firm has gone through the various stages of the Positive Action label, starting with the salary audit. Here, the gap is 'below 2%' and 'women earn more than men', at employee level. Lawyers were not counted as their remuneration is calculated 'according to years of experience'. 228 people work in the firm in total.

A lot of training has also been put in place to remove unconscious bias. For example, "the mini-me bias", as explained by Mischo. "Often, the partner identifies with another man in his group who is about fifteen years younger and, naturally, he will give him the most interesting cases. Of course, there is no equality of opportunity. Other men and women can't work there.” A "day-to-day" job for the management team.

Only when we no longer need these programmes will we have succeeded.

Patrick MischopartnerAllen & Overy

Other actions aim to promote work-life balance such as "massage sessions, yoga, sleep and nutrition conferences,” says Claire Danda, partner in human resources.

The label will have cost the firm €65,000, of which €15,000 is subsidised by the Ministry of Equality between Women and Men. Its turnover is not disclosed.

Looking for partners

"It's not an achievement, it's an encouragement," says Maillot. While the management team is made up of four women and two men, work remains to be done on the number of women partners, which stands at zero, compared to 13 men. “The partnership is the culmination of a career as a lawyer," explains Patrick Mischo. "We are developing a pipeline of potential female candidates that we hope to bring into the partnership. Our goal is to increase the number of women partners very substantially over the next ten years," he says. This implies "a cultural change, daily habits, to build future talents, both men and women". For him, "it is only when we no longer need these programmes that we will have succeeded".

The company will also continue the actions it has already taken and launch new ones. "We have realised that women find it harder to put themselves forward in meetings. This also relates to men, introverted people in general. We are therefore going to provide training in public speaking," adds Maillot.

Allen & Overy already had a diversity committee before the label. In addition to gender equality, it will focus on "other forms of diversity such as sexual orientation, social origin and disability".

This story was first published in French on Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.