Change Makers is a global Thomson Reuters initiative that brings together industry leaders committed to improving gender equality and diversity in the legal profession. Catherine Roberts, Strategic Global Client Director at Thomson Reuters Legal in Asia and Emerging Markets, has spoken with a range of compelling thought leaders about the advancement of women in the legal profession.
In this episode, Catherine welcomes the first male champion of change to take part in the program, Andrew Stewart, a Partner at Baker McKenzie.
Andrew is a vocal supporter of gender equality. He demonstrates this commitment through actively participating in Baker McKenzie’s “Male Agents of Change” program, which he helped launch in 2016.
Change Makers Podcast 4: Male Agents of Change highlights how global law firms, seen in Baker McKenzie’s Male Agents of Change program, are taking steps to ensure progress is made for women in the legal profession.
In 2019, Baker McKenzie became the first global law firm to set 40:40:20* gender targets, applying to Partners, senior business professionals, firm committee leadership and candidate pools for recruitment. Andrew is in full support of the move, which aims to get there by July 2025. It is his view that targets are really important, “because not having them hasn’t worked yet”.
As the podcast host, Catherine has been curious to hear how Andrew positions the gender equality agenda among his peers. She asks Andrew why it is so important for men to prioritise progress in the profession.
“I think number one, is that – until we don’t need to have these podcasts, until we don’t need to talk about gender equality – really, this is an issue that men have to commit to working on,” responds Andrew.
Another topic the interview explores is the uncertainty felt among some in the profession when it comes to mentoring women in the #metoo era. Catherine asks Andrew for his take on this, to which he responds by saying that he struggles to understand those who say the boundaries are blurred.
“It’s an odd world in which we live, that women who have been discriminated against are going to then be further discriminated against because senior members of the profession don’t feel comfortable in doing what they absolutely must, which is mentor women.
“But at a fundamental level, I just don’t believe that people can be confused by it. I think that particularly in the legal profession, for someone to claim that they don’t really understand where the boundary is…I think it is pretty clear that [poor] behaviour is obviously unwanted. If someone says no, or they complain, if you can’t trust yourself, through mentoring someone and having coffees with them, to coach them…There’s something really fundamentally wrong with the way you’re approaching it.”
Concerns about unconscious bias are often raised in Change Makers Podcasts. Adding to the wider discussion on the issue, Andrew says that he does not hesitate to call out unconscious bias when he sees it, citing “genderised” language such as the “assertive man versus the aggressive woman” as a classic example.