SRA admits it has “a long way to go” on diversity

Philip: Part of our role is to lead by example

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) still has “a long way to go” on diversity, its chief executive has said – although its gender and ethnicity pay gaps are shrinking.

Paul Philip said that although the SRA had “an ethnically diverse workforce, that diversity is not reflected in our senior management”.

The SRA voluntarily published its first ethnicity pay gap report in 2021 – unlike gender pay gap reports, they are not a statutory requirement.

The latest report, published this month, showed the mean pay gap shrunk from 21.5% in 2021 to 17.6% the following year and 12.7% in 2023.

The SRA said that this year’s reduction was “predominately due to the change in the proportion of Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff at the more senior levels”.

The SRA’s ethnicity bonus gap, much wider than for pay, reduced from 46.9% to 37.7% in 2023.

In its gender pay gap report, the SRA said 63% of its workforce was female, and they were “well represented across all pay quartiles”.

The SRA’s mean gender pay gap of 9.7% in 2021, grew to 13.4% last year, before reducing to 11.8% in 2023. The median pay gap was 9.3%, compared to a national average of 14.9%.

The regulator said this year’s fall was “predominately due to the change in males and females at the more senior levels”. However, the mean gender bonus gap greatly increased from over 25% to over 39%.

In an introduction to the SRA’s separate workforce progress report for 2022, published a fortnight ago, Mr Philip said the regulator still had a “long way to go” on diversity.

“Although we have an ethnically diverse workforce, that diversity is not reflected in our senior management. We have set ourselves targets for senior level diversity and our board and colleagues have a shared commitment to driving change.

“Part of our role is to lead by example, helping to show the way for the law firms we regulate.”

Mr Philip said that, although the SRA’s gender pay gap was below the UK average, “we want to reduce it further”.

Meanwhile, the introduction of a new HR system meant 20% of staff did not respond to its diversity data collection exercise last year, compared with 5% the previous year, which it was also “committed to improving”.

Staff were unable to migrate data from the old system to the new one, meaning that they “had to ask all staff to volunteer the information”, leading to a “different and lower percentage of staff giving us the data”.

The report said 21% of SRA staff were from Black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds, broadly mirroring the diversity of the West Midlands workforce, where the majority of its staff were based, at 19%.

However, there were proportionately fewer senior staff from these backgrounds, with 10% representation at senior grades.

In response, the SRA said it had launched a mentoring scheme with an external partner which connected “mentees with mentors from around the world”.

A second, reverse mentoring programme enabled Mr Philip and the SRA’s executive directors to be “mentored by more junior members of staff”.

The regulator said 9% of staff declared they had a disability in 2022, the same as in 2021, while 4% disclosed their sexual orientation as gay/lesbian or bisexual, up by a percentage point on the year before.

Almost a third of staff (31%) said they had no religion, followed by 26% who were Christian, 7% who were Sikh, 6.5% Muslim and 2% Hindu.

In terms of social mobility the SRA had a slightly greater proportion of staff from a professional parental background compared to the general population – 40% compared to 37%. A slim majority (51%) did not have parents who attended university.

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