Linda Jones, Partner in the Employment practice at Pinsent Masons, discusses the launch of ‘Project Sky’...

Can you tell us a bit about Project Sky?
Pinsent Masons has launched 'Project Sky', which is a programme aimed at achieving an improved gender balance in the firm's partnership and senior leadership team by removing any barriers to the progression of women to the highest levels within the business.

What are the main aims?
Project Sky will set in train a number of initiatives with the ultimate aim of ensuring that women will comprise 30% of the firm's partnership, with a first milestone of reaching 25% by 1 May 2018. The project will ensure that over time Pinsent Masons improves the balance of male and female representation in its partnership while making certain the firm's policies and working practices encourage and support talent across the entire business irrespective of gender.

How did the project come about?
The launch follows consultation with a significant number of staff at the firm on the issue in conjunction with Female Breadwinners, a leading consultancy specialising in gender issues. It will involve a number of initiatives to promote: more transparent career development; greater accessibility to flexible or agile working; more structured support around parental leave and training to help identify and address subconscious bias. Practice group heads have also been asked to consider whether the gender balance of shortlists for promotion to partner, legal director and senior associate positions reflect the composition of their teams.

What is the current male to female ratio at the firm?
Currently more than 20% of the Pinsent Masons partnership is female while two out of nine people on our Board are women, benchmarking well against comparable firms in the professional services sector. However, around 70% of the lawyers coming into the business are female while the proportion of women in partnership is fairly static. If we are to properly utilise that talent changes are required.

What is you ultimate hope for Project Sky?
The steps we are taking are aimed at improving our gender balance at senior levels but will ultimately mean better working practices for all our staff.