To celebrate Black History Month, Stewarts’ Inclusion Committee had the privilege of hosting a Q&A session with I. Stephanie Boyce, President of the Law Society of England and Wales. Mary Ojidu summarises the event here.
Black History Month has been celebrated across the UK every October since 1987. This national celebration aims to promote and celebrate the Black contribution to British society, and to foster a better understanding of Black history. Its origins date back to the 1920s and the establishment of Negro History Week in the United States.
Stewarts has marked the occasion in recent years with a series of events and educational initiatives that highlight members of the Black British community who have made significant contributions to British culture within law, business, education, politics, sport, music, arts and entertainment.
For the 2021 event, our staff were invited to ask I. Stephanie Boyce questions about her journey into the profession, her experience as President and how we as a body of professionals can continue to improve ethnic diversity and inclusion.
The Q&A also included discussions around allyship, implementing successful diversity strategies, ethnicity pay gap reporting and the mental health and wellbeing of Black, Asian and other ethnic minority solicitors.
Stephanie provided us with an insight into her journey to the presidency. When she was younger, she was told that a career in law would not be possible for her because of her lower class socio-economic background. She was in time able to overcome both the seen and unforeseen barriers that presented themselves along the way. Stephanie explained that is not possible for her to talk about her journey without discussing the barriers she has faced as a Black woman.
In her tenure as President of the Law Society, Stephanie hopes to leave a lasting legacy of change. She emphasised the importance of creating a diverse and inclusive workforce, going further to say that it is both a business and moral imperative. It is essential that as a profession we reflect the communities we serve and that we ensure talented individuals are able to progress within the profession regardless of their background.
The panel discussed the Law Society’s Race for Inclusion report, which found that only 8% of partners in the largest firms (50+ partners) in England and Wales are from a Black, Asian or other ethnic minority backgrounds. This figure has only changed by 1% since 2014. Stephanie said this shows we need greater diversity not only at entry level but at senior levels of the profession. She went on to say that it is not enough to give someone a seat at the table, but that their voice must be heard at the table as well.
Stephanie shared that perseverance is the secret to her success. She explained that determination and resilience have been the driving forces behind what she has achieved: it took Stephanie four attempts before she was successfully elected as deputy vice president of the Law Society. She makes a point to talk about this openly because she believes it is important for us to own and share our stories. The session closed with some final words from Stephanie in which she encouraged us to believe in ourselves and our abilities, as this is the advice that took her to the presidency.
We are very thankful to Stephanie for joining us for this impactful and empowering session.
I. Stephanie Boyce biography
I. Stephanie Boyce was officially inaugurated on Thursday 14 October 2021 as the 177th president of the Law Society. This makes her the first person of colour and the sixth woman to hold the office in the Law Society’s two centuries of history.
Stephanie was admitted as a solicitor in 2002 and has a wealth of experience in corporate governance, regulatory frameworks and professional regulation. She holds a Master of Laws in public law and global governance from King’s College and is a Fellow of the Chartered Governance Institute. Stephanie is a Council member of the Law Society representing the Women Lawyers Division and Board member of the Law Society, a solicitor member of the Joint Tribunal Service and holds a number of statutory appointments with her local authority.
Stephanie has recently been appointed to the HM Treasury and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy commission – an independent taskforce boosting socio-economic diversity at senior levels in financial and professional services.
Further resources available from the Law Society:
The Law Society Race for Inclusion Research Report
The Law Society Race and Ethnicity Terminology Guide
Life in the Law Research Study by LawCare – Ethnic Minority Groups and Mental Wellbeing
Ethnicity Pay Gap: What You Need to Know
Diversity and inclusion at Stewarts
The principles of inclusion, equal opportunity and diversity are important to us. We aim to create an inclusive culture that respects people’s differences and gives everyone a chance to excel at what they do. We believe that this is enhanced by embracing our staff’s different backgrounds and personalities, and creating a positive working environment.
You can find further information regarding diversity, inclusion and equal opportunities at Stewarts here.
If you require assistance from our team, please contact us