Our Director, Donna Scully, speaks with Modern Law Magazine

26 June 2024

Our Director, Donna Scully, recently spoke to Modern Law Magazine about Women in Law.

What do you think is the biggest hurdle women in law face and how can law firms help women overcome it?

As with all professions, there are wider societal issues that will take time to overcome.  Legacy issues are still very much a problem (but a lot better) in most law firms but particularly partnerships.

We can’t get away from the fact that women will leave the workforce for extended periods of time to have children and to care for them.  Whilst some women want to or have to take on primary childcare responsibilities, this is changing and, for me, is the game changer for helping women to balance home and work better.  We need to a shift in both culture and paternity support for men for this to happen though.

We’ve seen a lot of women leave a profession in the law after having children – what can be done to help and encourage those returning to work after periods of maternity or family-related leave?

Proper support and true flexibility so they can have a better work/life balance. More development programmes, parental support and coaching.  I’d like to see more intervention from government with financial support to pay for childcare.

More dialogue and understanding around what women need to do to take the next steps and an acceptance that everyone is different, one size does not fit all.


What innovations have you seen in your area of the industry relating to women in law?

There has been so much positive change over the course of my career in the sector. I have noticed a huge amount in the past ten years particularly the work that has been done around gender diversity and inclusivity.

The legal sector has really had to look at talent attraction, retention and development strategies to ensure everyone can really thrive within it.

There is now a really big focus on culture and values. Things like giving employees a voice, offering true flexibility and career progression are key. Offering fair and competitive salaries and benefits is now a given, as is offering both personal and professional support in a much stronger way than what was historically expected. John and I set out these values and having a culture of diversity and inclusion when we started 30 years ago, and I truly believe that this is one of the big reasons we have been successful and for why we have 50/50 gender equality top to bottom, virtually no gender pay gap and why we attract such amazing women as a result.

Modern apprenticeships are also a fantastic way of ensuring that women and those from diverse backgrounds have access to the exciting and professional careers that are sector has to offer.

Can you tell us about any gender-diversity initiatives that your company has used successfully?

Our DEI team now has a number of key priorities linked to what is important to our people and business. All of their activity is focused on how we continue to create a culture and physical environment that prioritises and fosters inclusion, respect, empathy and listening.

We have worked closely with our leaders and managers so that they understand how the role that they play is key.  We now include DEI, well-being and career development in manager role profiles as key responsibilities.  To ensure that we have equipped our managers with the right support and skills, in addition to our formal leadership and management development programmer, our people team deliver an ongoing series of lunch and learns to support them with effectively and progressively managing their people on a day-to-day basis. They also provide ongoing and bespoke 121 support and coaching to all of our managers.   DEI is imbedded in our values and runs through our DNA.

What areas do you think still need progress?

The main one for me would be changing mind-sets around the role that women and men take in family and extended family life. This is a very complex issue that will definitely not be solved overnight.  Truly valuing feminine leadership qualities and style and diversifying and rethinking about what our Boards should look like. Staying modern and relevant so that the younger generation see our sector as attractive destination of choice.  For true social mobility and fair representation, we must continue to promote apprenticeships as an equal and legitimate alternative to university. We also need to work to improve the quality of data and tracking of data to be able to demonstrate progress.  Ultimately, we have to walk- the- walk and acknowledge that ‘tick boxing’ is not going to change anything.


Donna Scully, Director
Carpenters Group


Credit: Our Latest Magazine (modernlawmagazine.com)