Law firms that want to work for Bank of Montreal better have their answers ready — last year, for the first time, BMO started to demand diversity numbers from potential firms. If a firm posts low numbers, it might lose the file to a more diverse firm.
At first, BMO only wanted to know how many women and visible minorities work at each firm, says Anne Sonnen, deputy general counsel at BMO. But, since then, the bank has ramped up its demands. Now, it asks for stats in three more categories: people with disabilities, sexual orientation and aboriginals.
Plus, BMO wants people from those groups to occupy all levels of the firm, including positions of authority. Sonnen says she wants just as much diversity in the associate ranks as she does on the management committee.
All this might seem new, but Canada is just playing catch-up. In fact, American firms collect and share diversity numbers all the time. And that encourages law firms in the United States to hire more women and minorities — a trend BMO hopes to kick-start in Canada. “Numbers matter,” says Sonnen. “What you measure is what changes.”
Sonnen had plenty more to say about diversity in our roundtable on how to make law better.