What Corporates Want: diversity initiatives
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What Corporates Want: diversity initiatives

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A survey of more than 25,000 in-house counsel reveals that diversity initiatives are a high priority when choosing external counsel

ITR's sister brands, Managing IP and IFLR, surveyed thousands of in-house counsel to understand how corporates view a range of issues, including diversity, equity and inclusion.

Looking at the results, the data on in-house teams driving diversity both internally and from external counsel is emphatic. But what of the in-house world of tax?

It’s certainly a subject close to many tax leaders’ hearts. One female in-house indirect tax manager told ITR: “Unconscious bias is always there. Still we have to cope with sexual jokes or the feeling that we are not good enough and need a big brother to help out with difficult tasks.” Another female in-house tax professional said: “Being a woman in a company where men are the majority has been difficult at times. Opportunities should be equal, no matter the gender.”

But beyond doing what is obviously the right thing, getting diversity and inclusion right can lead to commercial success, according to some tax experts. Speaking to Starbucks’ EMEA in-house tax team, it’s clear that embracing a range of perspectives is business critical.

The team said: “You will not be able to consider each and every angle to a challenge if you rely on one type of personality in the team. A question you need to ask is: ‘Do these people think and behave the same way, or do they actually have the ability to generate the right kind of critical questions they need to ask?’”

Despite this, they concede the issue is far from straightforward: “By just getting the numbers right on the diversity mix, it won’t make the team automatically more inclusive or successful. Focusing on ‘celebrating’ diversity is important in having a successful diverse team.”

One in-house tax professional rams the point home: “Businesses can only thrive and profit if they are profitable. The difference between profit and loss can be found in how one manages diversity, equity and inclusion.”

For its part, ITR will continue highlighting the good work done by many tax professionals in the name of diversity and equality, including Tasneem Kadiri’s tireless work for Women in Tax and Josephine Scalia’s role in inspiring the next generation of tax leaders.

If those who contributed above are to be believed, tax teams can ill-afford not to put in similar efforts.

Regional breakdown


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From a regional perspective, 33% of survey participants from both the Americas and EMEA indicated that diversity initiatives are important to them. The percentage for APAC is slightly higher, at 36%. For those who expressed that diversity initiatives are very important, the APAC region also saw a slightly higher percentage (28%), followed by the Americas (25%) and EMEA (23%).

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Overall, APAC saw a high mean score of participants who saw diversity initiatives as important and very important at 70.5%, followed by Americas at 66.8% and EMEA at 65.7%.

In the IFLR1000 survey, the trend is similar, with the APAC region leading with 36% of respondents who said diversity initiatives are important and 27% who suggested they are very important. This was followed by the Americas with 33% of respondents answering important while 26% opted for very important. The EMEA region saw 33% of respondents answering important and 23% answering very important.

In the IP STARS in-house corporate survey, respondents from the EMEA region showed more interest than others, with 36% who indicated diversity initiatives are important and 22% who said they are very important. The APAC region saw 25% of respondents who said initiatives are very important and 34% who said they are important. The Americas had a lower percentage of respondents who said they are very important (20%) but a higher proportion (37%) who said they are important.

Global revenue breakdown

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From the perspective of corporates surveyed based on global revenues, diversity initiatives are seen as important by 35% of those with $5 billion or more. Results are similar for corporates with $500 million to $4.99 billion (34%), $50 million to $499.9 million (34%), and less than $50 million (32%). For corporates with $5 billion or more, 26% indicated that diversity initiatives are very important. Corporates with less than $50 million in global revenues also revealed similar preferences at 25%, with 24% the score for those with $50 million to $499.9 million. There was a slight dip at 22% for corporates with $500 million to $4.99 billion in global revenues.

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The mean scores saw more interest from survey participants at companies with $5 billion or more in global revenues (68.2%), followed by $50 million to $499.9 million (66.8%), less than $50 million (66.6%) and $500 million to $4.99 billion (65.6%).

For the IFLR1000 survey, results were similar with 35% of those with $5 billion or more in global revenues who indicated diversity initiatives are important. Corporates with $500 million to $4.99 billion in global revenues, less than $50 million, and $50 million to $499.9 million also shared similar results at 35%, 31% and 35% respectively. For corporates with $5 billion or more in global revenues, as well as those with less than $50 million, the score was 25%. Results were slightly lower at 21% for those with $500 million to $4.99 billion in global revenues.

In terms of the IP STARS in-house corporate survey, a similar trend could be seen with corporates that have $5 billion or more in global revenues leading at 38% who said diversity initiatives are important. This was followed by 35% for those at $50 million to $499.9 million and 34% for both those with less than $50 million and those with $500 million to $4.99 billion in global revenues. For corporates with $5 billion or more, as well as those with $50 million to $499.9 million, 25% of survey participants indicated diversity initiatives are very important. There was also a slight dip for the group with $500 million to $4.99 billion – at 20%.

Industry breakdown

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Of the sectors that made up the corporates surveyed, 63% of respondents in the advanced manufacturing sector deemed diversity initiatives as important and very important, with a quarter of all advanced manufacturing respondents rating them as very important. This is followed by the real estate and construction sector with 62% of respondents who indicated diversity initiatives as important and very important, of which 29% said such initiatives are very important. For the automotive and transportation, consumer, power and utilities telecoms industries, 61% of respondents indicated diversity initiatives are important and very important.

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Overall, the real estate and construction sector saw high interest with a mean score of 69.8%, followed by telecoms (69.2%) and power and utilities (68.7%). 

For the IFLR1000 survey, between 21% and 38% of participants said that diversity initiatives are important, reflecting the trend seen across the surveys. The media, entertainment, gambling and sport sector led at 38%, followed by oil and gas at 37%. For those who said diversity initiatives are very important, the range was between 22% and 39%. The membership organisations sector also led in this category, at 39%, followed by government and public services at 36%.

Practice area breakdown

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Across the brands surveyed, 36% of IP survey participants said diversity initiatives are important, followed by 34% of financial and corporate law survey participants and 30% of litigation survey participants.

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Financial and corporate law survey participants showed high interest with a mean score of 66.8%, followed by IP (66%) and litigation (63.5%).

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Editor ITR
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Tom is editor of ITR. He joined the team in October 2023 after stints as a legal journalist and a content professional at an international law firm.
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