In the spotlight - Construction and ED&I Partner, Sarah Rock - Boodle Hatfield

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11 Jun 2024

In the spotlight – Construction and ED&I Partner, Sarah Rock

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As part of the eprivateclient spotlight series, Construction and ED&I Partner, Sarah Rock was invited to share her views, experiences and answers to their ED&I focused Q&A looking at everything from the challenges in the industry to career advice.

Sarah was recently awarded LGBTQIA Corporate Champion of the Year at the DIVA magazine awards and also contributed to DIVA Magazine’s ‘Legally Lesbian’ segment on why lesbian visibility is so important.

Why is ED&I so important to the industry?

Being truly authentic at work can never be underestimated. From the point of inclusion, for anyone who has never experienced having to hide a part of themselves at work, it can be helpful to think about this the next time they are asked a question as simple as ‘How was your weekend?’. If you have to pause to correct pronouns in your head as you are worried about someone finding out that you have a boyfriend as opposed to the conventionally expected girlfriend, your response will often seem false and laboured. Or if you dread the annual ski trip email because you’ve never travelled overseas or learnt to ski because you grew up in a different environment to most of the people you work with and so you have to come up with an excuse as to why you’re busy at that time. ED&I is important in assisting to create a workplace where everyone can bring their whole selves to work. In addition to being inclusive, workplaces benefit exponentially from being diverse. Diversity of thought and of life experience add so much to a workplace, not only in making workplaces more akin to the rest of the population but also in helping businesses to grow and win more work. Finally, equity, which recognizes that each person has different circumstances and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome, leads to a happier and ultimately more successful workplace – a win win!

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve received?

To be yourself. So many people enter the workplace believing that they have to act a certain way or do certain things in order to succeed. By trying to replicate the behaviour of others we lose a part of ourselves. I have always strived to retain a large part of being me in everything that I do – meaning that whilst I may be required to do certain things or follow certain lines, I do so in a way that is still me. This has allowed for me to be truly authentic throughout my career.

What are the main challenges facing ED&I?

There can be a sense of job done around ED&I. Whilst it is really great to see some of the steps made so far in this space, the job is really far from done. To take just one strand of diversity, there is still inequality between the sexes at work. The gender pay gap and the number of women in top roles still has a significant differential. It was really important to me on joining Boodle Hatfield that the partnership was almost 50/50 female/male – a statistic I hadn’t heard before at a law firm. Maternity leave has traditionally been a big problem for women in the advancement of their careers. I am delighted to be at a law firm with a gender neutral parental leave policy – again something I hadn’t seen at other law firms. In all other strands of diversity a lot more can always be done and it doesn’t always require a big budget behind it. Having coffee mornings with a different diversity theme each month is a small thing but does so much to raise diverse issues to the forefront of people’s minds. To my mind though, the biggest thing that anyone can do in the ED&I space to really make a difference is to be an ally to any group to which one does not belong. For example, for someone who does not identify as LGBTQIA to call out a homophobic comment has a stronger impact than an LGBTQIA person calling it out. We all have the opportunity to make the workplace a more equitable, diverse and inclusive place to be and to thrive in.

What are your favourite ways to relax/switch off from work?

I really enjoy watching sport and will pretty much watch any sport. In particular, I enjoy going to watch live football and have really enjoyed attending more and more Women’s Super League matches this year. Women’s football really exploded after the Lionesses won the Euros and it continues to grow exponentially. I am really excited to watch this sport get even bigger over the next few years as the league structure changes and the clubs have more of a say in the direction of women’s football. The fan base for women’s football is so different to men’s football and creates a fantastic family friendly environment.

Do you have a pet(s)? What are they like?

I have a cat called Michael. Michael is a British Short Hair, but I actually think he is a dog trapped in a cat’s body! He comes when you call him, he wants to play all of the time and he follows me everywhere in the house, never wanting to be on his own. He also has an interesting miaow which sounds a bit like he is trying to say Sarah!

If you couldn’t do your current role what would your dream job be?

I actually wanted to be a lawyer when I was a kid so am actually in my dream job. A very close runner up would be a professional footballer.

This article was first published in eprivateclient in May 2024

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