Pinsent Masons Named the UK’s Most Inclusive LGBT Employer
Stonewall, the lesbian, gay, bi and trans equality charity, listed 16 legal firms in its Top 100 LGBT-inclusive employers list earlier this month.
The highest entry comes from Pinsent Masons, which has been named the most inclusive employer in the UK in this year’s Index. The firm has continued to build on its previous strong performance, landing in position two for the last two years, and is now top of its sector, overall, and is one of the UK’s leading trans-inclusive employers.
The firm demonstrated a range of inclusive policies and practices for lesbian, gay and bi staff, and has introduced specific trans-inclusive staff training to create a welcoming environment for trans colleagues, clients and visitors. Pinsent Masons have also been actively involved in championing LGBT equality across the UK, including supporting the campaign for marriage equality in Northern Ireland and working with school partners to build inclusive learning environments for young people.
Speaking to Kate Fergusson, Head of Responsible Business at Pinsent Masons, she reveals the policies the firm integrated for the LGBT+ community.
“We have taken the approach that all of our policies and processes should be inclusive, we want our people to know that we value diversity and that they can be themselves at work. This can’t just be a box ticking exercise, it has to be embedded in to our culture so it becomes business as usual.”
Every little counts, as Kate explains that this policy extended to all areas: “This has meant reviewing the language we use to ensure, for example, our family policies are inclusive of same sex parents and our dress code is respectful in terms of gender identity and expression.
“We take this seriously and so our LGBT+ network members are often consulted and act as a sound board when our HR policies are reviewed or new policies implemented: they offer feedback and amendments which give us a really good steer.”
Pinsent Masons were also the first in the legal sector to work with Stonewall and featured in the charity’s annual review in 2008.
This can’t just be a box ticking exercise, it has to be embedded in to our culture so is becomes business as usual.
But were there challenges the firm faced when trying to champion change in this area, perhaps when first starting to implement changes?
“I think we were in a fairly good position in that we have had senior level support to enable us to start implementing change”, explains Kate.
But such an achievement obviously presented some issues, which Pinsent Masons managed to work around: “However, there are, of course, always challenges: for example, when we started our work on gender identity, we didn’t have anyone actively out as trans and championing gender identity issues in the workplace. However, we have not let this deter us, our network of allies has been key in leading this work and we have worked really closely with Rachel Reese of Global Butterflies to help us create a trans inclusive workplace.”
Richard Foley, Senior Partner, Pinsent Masons, said: “This is a very special achievement for us. It isn’t about reaching the top spot; it’s about what the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index stands for and what everyone engaged in it is working so hard to accomplish. Pinsent Masons were the first law firm to be ranked in the Index in 2008. Today the legal sector is represented by 16 firms. Our ranking recognises that like many other organisations we are championing LGBT+ inclusion in everything that we do Pinsent Masons has created an inclusive workplace that enables everyone to be themselves; from our recruitment processes through to our engagement with clients.
“We have a responsibility to champion change in the wider community. Supporting initiatives such as the campaign for marriage equality in Northern Ireland play an important role in prompting progress on the equality issues that we believe must be addressed. We are also confident that our ongoing work with our Family Support Network and work with our school partners will help create safe and inclusive learning environments to ensure that future generations are guaranteed a discrimination-free start in life.”
If I had to try to identify what had made the most difference for us, I would say senior level support is one of the key things.
The top ten also features two other legal firms, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner at number 2 (7 in 2018) and Baker McKenzie at position 10 (6 in 2018). Each of these legal firms has also received special commendation as one of the UK’s best employers for trans staff.
Last year, Stonewall released research that showed more than a third of LGBT staff (35%) have hidden they are LGBT at work and almost one in five LGBT employees (18%) have been the target of negative comments from colleagues because of their identity.
Senior management is a big factor that enables such a positive movement. When Lawyer Monthly spoke to Kate about how other law firms can become more inclusive, she explained how senior support were the backbone to starting this progression.
“The performance of the legal sector in the Stonewall Index seems to have improved year on year. Back in 2008, we were the first law firm to achieve a place on the Index and so, as a sector, we’ve been on a real journey. Of course, there is still plenty more to do and we are certainly not complacent.
In 2019, one of our key priorities will be to implement the recommendations of that work with the aim of creating a better balance of race and ethnicity within our workforce and a better workplace for all.
“If I had to try to identify what had made the most difference for us, I would say senior level support is one of the key things. We have senior LGBT sponsors and allies who have been very visible in championing LGBT+ equality, being actively involved in our network group, encouraging others to get involved and setting the tone. It is, of course, also vital that a commitment to inclusion runs through the whole business and is not seen as an ‘add on’. It has to be everyone’s responsibility from procurement through to recruitment.”
What a wonderful start to the year. So, what is next for Pinsent Masons, regarding diversity and inclusion?
“Well, as I said earlier, we are certainly not complacent and we will continue to work on creating an inclusive workplace for all of our people”, explains Kate, “For example, in 2018, we launched a new piece of work to build upon what we have been doing around race and ethnicity.
“In 2019, one of our key priorities will be to implement the recommendations of that work with the aim of creating a better balance of race and ethnicity within our workforce and a better workplace for all.”