The Stonewall Top 100 ranks the best employers across the UK in terms of LGBT+ inclusion at the workplace. Specifically, it examines companies’ LGBT+ policies, how it empowers allies and senior leadership to create an inclusive environment, and how it commits to changes in the wider community.
This year saw 14 law firms take a place in the ranking, including Irwin Mitchell. It’s clear that many across the legal sector have made promising efforts to make their firms as inclusive as possible to all orientations, and the ranking is reflective of that. Luke Daniels, Partner & Lead of IMEqual Network at Irwin Mitchell said, “Irwin Mitchell is so proud to be recognised in the Stonewall Top 100 and named as one of their most inclusive employers. It is a sad fact that we still live in a world where more than a third of LGBT+ people feel as though they have to hide their identity at work.”
It’s important that firms are as supportive and open as possible about the subject, as this can have a significant impact on the graduates they recruit on training contracts. As a trainee, it will already seem quite daunting to be arriving to a new office environment, so it’s the responsibility of firms to make sure that their organisation is as accommodating as possible. Making an active effort to do so undoubtedly leads to a more positive working culture and allows for all employees to be at ease and be themselves in the workplace.
Irwin Mitchell recognise this, and Luke Daniels explains, “Graduates will want to be sure that when they enter the workplace they do that as their authentic self and that they will be valued for who they are and what they bring so that they can achieve their potential every day. Over many years we have done great work across all areas of our business to make sure we are as diverse and inclusive as we can be and to make sure that everyone understands why this is important. Being a diverse and inclusive firm means we are able to better support each other, provide a better service for our clients and lead the way for others to follow in our communities.”
It will also invariably be a factor taken into account by prospective trainees who identify as LGBT+ when deciding on which firms to apply to. In short, if law firms are able to retain LGBT+ lawyers, they will be more likely to encourage applicants from these groups and create a more welcoming environment. Even young applicants who are not a part of these communities are more likely to be attracted to a firm which has demonstrated a commitment to progressive values and diversity.
This means that law firms should include any schemes, support networks and initiative in place in marketing materials in order to attract prospective LGBT+ graduates. For example, this could include a support scheme for employees who are transitioning, or by being inclusive in the language that is used throughout the firm.
Another initiative could involve encouraging other colleagues to become an LGBT+ ally and to be better informed on the issues that their LGBT+ colleagues face, not just in the workplace but in society as a whole.
According to statistics put together by the Solicitors Regulation Authority from data collected in 2019, 3% of legal professionals identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual. It is positive to note that this number stays consistent throughout the hierarchies of firms, indicating that there are few obstacles in career progression for LGBT+ legal professionals. This allows for the decision-making of a firm to be more representative of the society it operates in, which can be especially important to clients when it comes to choosing which firm can represent them best.
These encouraging results shouldn’t mean that law firms rest on their laurels, as there is still work to be done in order to achieve equality across workplaces in the sector. As mentioned in the criteria of the Stonewall Top 100, firms implementing more policies towards helping members of the LGBT+ community feel comfortable in the office go a long way towards achieving equality. These policies can also centre around increasing inclusivity for LGBT+ employees who identify as BAME.
Ultimately, moving forwards, the recruitment of law graduates will increasingly hinge on whether the major firms are able to show their commitment to the values espoused by Stonewall. Ensuring that the office is a safe space where all are included is not only the right thing to do, but will also ensure the very best prospective trainees apply, and in the future provide the firm with a breadth of perspectives and experiences that can better inform the clients that they work with.