Jonathan Gilmour: From diversity to inclusion


Our diversity and inclusion commitments have transformed Travers Smith’s culture, but a renewed focus on inclusion and retention is essential for the next stage of this journey. Chair of Travers Smith Faith Resources Group and partner in the Finance Group, Jonathan Gilmour, shares more…

I came to the Firm ten and a half years ago as a lateral hire. I left my previous firm shortly after my oldest son was born. He was premature and it was touch and go at the beginning. I was given two weeks' paternity leave and the morning I returned to the office a partner pulled me onto a call with a client. She announced, ‘Here is Jonathan and he will lead the transaction, refreshed and ready to go from his ‘holiday’.’ At that moment I knew I needed to move to somewhere that was sincerely supportive of my wellbeing and my career and which recognised that I was entitled to a life beyond the office. I was attracted to Travers Smith, with its independent model and high-quality work. I did have one concern, at the time Travers Smith had a reputation for being very old school and I was wary of whether I would feel included or supported. Thankfully, the firm could not have been more different to that reputation, particularly in terms of acceptance of religious observance and what that means. There was much diversity and inclusion work to be done, but crucially, and uncommonly at that time, there was a willingness to learn. 

Change takes time, honesty, and constant commitment. 

Over my time at Travers Smith, I have seen how diversity and inclusion has impacted the way we interact as a firm, how we approach our clients and how we recruit at the graduate and lateral hire level. Active diversity networks, under the careful stewardship of our CSR & Diversity Director and our D&I Board, mark an almost unrecognisable shift from the small group that drove the agenda when I joined. People throughout the Firm now understand why diversity is valuable. Our Gender Balance, BAME, LGBT+, Faith Resources and Enable Groups do not merely support discrete identities but recognise shared experiences and build a broader sense of community. I am immensely proud of the progress we have made. We are regularly approached by our clients and other firms to act as mentors for their diversity and inclusion journeys. 

Inclusion and retention are key for the next stage of the Firm’s journey. 

As Chair of Travers Smith’s Faith Resources Group, I strive to provide support and resources to our people, clients and visitors who want to observe their faith in the working day. That our people and our visitors are supported to observe their faith in a free and fulfilling manner is now front of mind. We are currently working on plans for a fully resourced multi-faith room for our new offices. It is one thing to have a diverse workforce, we must also work to make everyone feel included. I would say that inclusion is our next biggest obstacle, I still get calls and emails from trainees or vacation scheme candidates saying, “Ramadan starts two weeks after I join, what do I do?” or “I am a Seventh-day Adventist and I want to know that I will not need to work on Saturdays.” A lot of trainees are also nervous about leaving their home communities to work in an unfamiliar environment. They need to know they will be supported and that involves changes in our mindset, the language we use in the office, and the social events that we hold. When I first joined, events mostly revolved around drinks evenings, now there are sports, music, art and book clubs, as well as diversity and inclusion groups. These activities, as well as a structure of mindful and well-informed supervision, provide a sounding board and essential support.

It is crucial that we are honest and recognise that there is still serious work to do to ensure that partnership is not the preserve of one type of person. We will continue to work to ensure that people of any race, gender, accessibility requirement, faith or background feel that they can succeed in the City and at Travers Smith.

Want to read more?

Read more information on Travers Smith’s diversity and inclusion networks.

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