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SRA's annual equality report shows improvement in staff diversity profile

The SRA's annual equality report, to be presented to its Board today (Wednesday, 12 June) shows that it improved its staff diversity profile in 2012.

15% of the workforce is now from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) groups, compared to 13% the year before. There has also been an increase in the percentage of male staff - from 29% to 33%.*

The report, which provides a yearly summary of progress in relation to equality and diversity, highlights encouraging results from two high-profile external benchmarks: Race for Opportunity (RfO), in which the SRA achieved a silver banding; and an improved performance in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index.**

Research carried out in autumn 2012 showed evidence that the SRA's work to ensure that equality is an integral part of outcome-focused regulation is paying dividends. A total of 59% of BME respondents were favourable to OFR, compared to an overall 50% of those questioned. In addition, 52% (38% overall) felt that the SRA focuses its resources on issues that present the greatest risks to the public; and 49% (34% overall) believed there was a constructive working relationship between their firm and the SRA.

The report also highlights the authority's work with consumers. This included holding a series of focus groups held across England and Wales to meet and discuss with members of the public their views on legal services.

While the SRA's diversity monitoring report for 2012, published alongside the annual report, shows a downward trend in the level of disproportionality for BME solicitors in key regulatory areas covered in the report, evidence still continues to show disproportionate representation of BME solicitors in regulatory decisions, for a range of reasons. The SRA has been working to investigate and understand this and an independent comparative case review is currently underway. This is being led by respected diversity expert Professor Gus John. His recommendations are expected in the Autumn and will inform the SRA's equality and diversity workplan for 2014.

SRA Chief Executive Antony Townsend said: "In the face of enormous change, both internally and externally, I believe these results show that we have made encouraging progress, both as an employer and a regulator.

"Being based in Birmingham means that we can now draw on a wider pool of talent and can therefore build on increasing our diversity profile. In addition, the Law Society Group, of which we are part, has appointed a new Equality and Diversity Adviser who will help us focus more clearly on how we can deliver further improvements for staff during 2013 and beyond.

"We will continue to build upon what we have achieved to date, and work on those areas where further improvement is needed. We will continue to address any potential disproportionality and explore new ways to engage positively with the profession. The work currently being undertaken by Gus John will provide us with further, valuable insight in this respect."

The report can be accessed here with annexes here (The reports will be on the SRA website in the next 24 hours).

The updated equality framework and action plan will be presented to the SRA Board at a future meeting.  


Note to editors

*Workforce profile

At the end of December 2012, the SRA had 508 permanent employees compared to 586 the previous year. The diversity breakdown is as follows with 2011 in brackets:-

  • 67% (71%) female and 33% (29%) male;
  • 2% of staff state they are disabled
  • 2% (1%) state they are gay, lesbian or bisexual
  • 15% (13%) are from BME groups of whom 12% (10%) are Asian, 1% are Black, 1% (0%) are Chinese and 1% (2%) are from a mixed background.

**RFo and Stonewall assessments

RfO awarded the SRA a silver banding and although we did not make Stonewall's top 100 employers, we improved our performance from last year. The feedback we received highlighted a number of areas where we are well ahead of other organisations in our sector, for example, the work we are doing to champion diversity at the SRA, our strategic planning through the Equality Framework, our engagement with consumers and the profession and our commitment to publishing our diversity monitoring data.  

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