Axiom’s lawyer bench continues to be more diverse than industry standards, and the same can be said for its corporate and executive employees, according to its 2020 Diversity Report.
The annual update introduces Diversity by Design, Axiom’s new framework for addressing systematic inequality. It allows Axiom to review each step of its recruitment and retention processes to find and address hurdles and biases, embedding diversity within Axiom’s operating model. Axiom hopes that Diversity by Design will inspire change within the legal ecosystem to create a truly diverse and inclusive workforce.
“By most measures, Axiom is considered a model of diversity,” said Catherine Kemnitz, Global Head of Legal and member of the Executive Leadership Team, Axiom.
“But being better than an unacceptably low bar doesn’t feel like something to celebrate. Twenty years ago, we recognised that the legal industry paradigm was broken and set out to replace it.
“Twenty years later, it’s time to admit something else is broken. It’s time to acknowledge the inadequacy of corporate diversity – even among those organisations we celebrate as its leaders – and the inability of traditional diversity programs to drive meaningful change. The Diversity by Design program we have started to build represents an important step toward creating that change and sustaining its progress.”
For Diversity by Design to succeed, Axiom must identify diversity in their workforce, which the 2020 Diversity report has allowed it to do.
Axiom is on top of gender diversity as lawyers who identify as women represent more than half (52%) of all Axiom lawyers, as opposed to 35% of lawyers at all US law firms. Employees who identify as women also represent 57% of Axiom’s corporate employees and 37% of senior executives.
Only 14% of all US lawyers identify as a racial minority, whereas 29% of Axiom lawyers are from racial minority backgrounds. However, racial minorities only make up 20% of Axiom’s corporate employees, but 22% of the US workforce.
While Axiom’s success in gender diversity is a triumph, its lack of racial and ethnic diversity within the workforce is a concern, says LaMonte McGraw, Global Head of IT and member of the Executive Leadership Team, Axiom.
“This data, while informative, does not tell the full story of minority retention and advancement.
“It doesn’t tell the story of diversity’s decline up the leadership ladder. To understand and identify the root of those issues, we need to uncover more insightful statistics such as data on seniority, tenure, and pay/equity. We must be specific and resist the temptation to treat diversity as though there’s a one-size-fits-all approach for every underrepresented group.”
Diversity by Design
Diversity by Design is a meaningful step toward conducting more insightful data dives, reviewing each step of Axiom’s processes, finding the hidden hurdles and biases, and addressing them. The goal is to rewire the company – embedding diversity within Axiom’s operating model, business practices, and, ambitiously, the broader legal industry.
As the first step in that approach, Axiom will prioritise the increased retention, recruitment, and advancement of Black professionals. Black lawyers represent 12% of Axiom lawyers (compared to 5% of all US lawyers).
This prioritisation is an acknowledgement that Black professionals have been acutely underrepresented in the law and marginalised in business and an admission that Axiom has not yet done enough to advocate for the Black community.
Over the next year, Axiom’s Diversity by Design model will also meaningfully invest in examining what ”good” looks like – identifying the right peer groups to measure against (within the legal industry and outside of it) and understanding how to assess progress beyond typical diversity yardsticks.
“We believe diversity efforts don’t add up, they compound,” said David McVeigh, CEO, Axiom. “Diversity by Design is an approach that is fundamentally internal to Axiom, but also one that we hope projects externally, amplifying the efforts of our clients and other leading organisations who are breaking down their processes and rewiring their operations.
“It’s a meaningful step toward overdue, enduring change – one we will continue to build, ruthlessly assess, improve upon, measure, and report against.”