Stonewall: firms not gay-friendly enough

Law firms have made giant strides forward in terms of providing equal opportunities for gay and lesbian people, but still have a long way to go to reach an acceptable standard, according to Stonewall, the lesbian and gay rights lobby group.

The 2007 Workplace Equality Index does not list any law firm in its top 100 gay-friendly UK companies, but Stonewall director of workplace programmes Stephen Frost said four City firms applied to be part of the index.

“It’s only a handful taking part, but it’s better than previous years and we expect it to continue to get better,” said Frost.He declined to name the firms involved, but said there were now 10 firms in Stonewall’s Diversity Champions best-practice programme.

The firms involved in Diversity Champions are Allen & Overy, Baker & McKenzie, Clifford Chance, Herbert Smith, Linklaters, Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw, Olswang, Pinsent Masons, Simmons & Simmons and Weil Gotshal & Manges.

“These firms should be given credit for taking the first step, but they’re a long way from where we want to be,” said Frost. “Lesbian and gay issues in law firms is still a difficult subject in many firms – that’s not the case in peer industries such as investment banking.”

Frost said that, despite none of the law firms being recognised in the workplace equality index, the four entries would allow Stonewall to benchmark the legal industry for future comparisons between firms and sectors.

He added that, while most firms had implemented equality policies, the profession was still lagging far behind.

“Law firms need to show that being gay won’t make an impact to a person’s career,” said Frost. “Getting better involves an investment, and taking part in the index is a key way to identify practical goals to create a more inclusive workplace and recruit and retain the best people.”