Workplace Leaders

Victoria Garrad

Too often, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) initiatives at various businesses are done out of a sense of necessity rather than a real belief in their importance. However, as has been proven time and again, EDI is important not only for inspiring the best work from your people but attracting clients who, after all, are just as likely to have a diverse identity—whether in terms of culture, sexual orientation, or disability—and want to work with those who genuinely respect and value their difference.

GoodCourse’s Chris Mansfield spoke to Victoria Garrad, Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Partner at Gateley, a professional services group, about maintaining an open mind and working for authentic change truly supported by leadership. 

Victoria’s Journey

Chris: What led you to your current role?

I’m known as a Gateley lifer! I joined back in 1996 as a trainee solicitor. Back in the day, we had just one office in Birmingham: a medium-sized law firm, with eleven partners. I’m an employment lawyer by background, so I’ve always had an interest in people and people issues, and I developed my career through to partnership. I was a partner for many years but also helped the firm out internally with Human Resources (HR). Eventually, as we’ve grown quite rapidly over the last 20 years, we wanted to have a focus on strategic HR so I moved into an internal management role, joined the strategic board, and before moving into my current role, I was Group HR Director.

Chris: Gateley has a statement saying ‘Embracing diversity and avoiding discrimination is more than just about box-ticking’. How do you instil this in your company culture?

I think EDI initiatives have to be authentic, genuinely supported and driven by the leadership team, and underpinned by the organisation’s culture and values. Employees only buy into initiatives when they truly believe the leadership are behind them and don’t just view it as perfunctory. To that end, we have core values called the Gateley Team Spirit, made up of five elements that we ask everybody across the business to work in accordance with. The first is ‘Working together’. We were only able to build our business the way we have due to our value of collaboration. The second: ‘Ambitious to success’. We’re ambitious as a business but also want our people to set their own ambitions, and then we help them achieve their career goals. Third: ‘Trusted to do’. We trust our people to get on with the job, and we really saw that through COVID, with everybody working remotely. Fourth: ‘Forward thinking’. We’re quite innovative. We were a market pioneer in being the first UK commercial law firm to float on the AIM market. And the fifth: ‘Room to breathe’. This recognises we all have challenges and commitments outside of work and occasionally people need support as well as space. So our inclusive initiatives really leverage off that in our values.

Chris: How do you foster a sense of inclusion and belonging at Gateley?

This can be challenging, particularly now with hybrid working. We have flexibility, but you have to work a lot harder to create that sense of belonging, particularly for new employees because people aren’t together in the office as much. So our initiatives are all run through our five network diversity groups. Pride supports our LGBTQ+ colleagues. Thrive is for health and well-being. Inspire supports our talent to reach their full potential, with a lot of work around supporting female talent. Ability supports disabled colleagues with a particular focus on neurodiversity. And Unity, which celebrates, recognises and supports colleagues from different religious, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds. And most importantly, the initiatives cross over between the various groups, because we recognise that people aren’t silos, and so don’t necessarily resonate with just one of our networks. One of the most powerful things we’ve seen is our leaders sharing their stories and the challenges they may have overcome in developing their careers. We also run loads of activities through the networks. It’s all about effective communication, sharing, making sure people know what’s available, and then encouraging and creating time and space for them to join. 

Chris:  How do you encourage busy workers to take the time to engage with these programs?

We’re all time-poor even with the advancement of technology. I think the way we deal with that is by making sure the senior leadership is engaged in the network activities, actively sponsoring and supporting them so others feel they can commit the time to attend. We also have quarterly check-ins where we ask colleagues how they’re feeling, and what they’ve been involved with, and we actively encourage them to get involved with networks and initiatives. We don’t have high-performing teams without happy people, and to have happy people they have to be doing more than just churning out fees for clients.

Chris: How do you argue for the commercial benefits of EDI initiatives?

Culture and values are crucial because they’re the makeup of the business. We found with our significant growth period that we wanted to retain that open-door, approachable leadership team we had at the start. When people feel valued in an organisation, and that they can be their authentic selves at work, they’re much happier, perform better, and you retain more of them. We regularly run an employee engagement survey. Our last had an overall engagement rating of 82% which we were very pleased with. Then it’s quite easy to have those conversations at a board level because it’s the ethos of the business.

Quick-fire Question

Chris: What is your top piece of advice for anyone joining the legal profession today?

You have to have an open mind and be positive about embracing change. When I started out, I didn’t even have a computer! There’s been a rapid change to the way in which we deliver our legal services but that is set to change at an even greater pace over the next few years, so anybody starting out has to be ready for that.

Curious to see what the future of training looks like?
Chris Mansfield
Client Services
Chris is one of the Client Service leads at GoodCourse, dedicated to helping institutions better engage their audience to create a more inclusive, safer, and more successful environment. To request to be featured on the series, get in touch at

The future of training is here, are you ready for it?

Tired of chasing your learners to complete dull training? Let's speak today👇
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.