My Pride Story: “It took time before I believed my firm was truly LGBT-friendly”

Dee Tamlin is a programme manager in the technology innovation team at Pinsent Masons.

A career in a law firm is not just about being a lawyer.  As a programme manager in the technology innovation team, being a support team member in a law firm is a very exciting place to be.

Having joined Pinsent Masons 19 years ago, I did not come out until at least five years into my tenure, as sexual orientation was not something that was ever mentioned. It worried me that I was not being authentic. That I was not being honest in the water cooler chat about my personal life.  I was nervous attending events such as the Pride march in case I was seen on TV news.  Eventually, after confiding in a handful of colleagues who were very supportive, I started outing myself. Much to my surprise the sky did not fall down. 

The LGBT network was the first Diversity Network established in the firm and I, together with our director of HR and two equity partners were founding members. I have never looked back.  From a professional perspective, I was afforded opportunities such as meeting with senior members of the partnership to develop a diversity strategy. I have facilitated and presented at a number of events.  All of these opportunities helped in furthering my professional development.  

Being co-chair for six years (2006-2012), and my on-going involvement with the LGBT network, has allowed me to grow my professional network.  I have access to a range of people who I would never have ordinarily met.  Most importantly, Pinsent Masons being the first law firm on the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index in 2008, and currently the holder of second place, I have been part of an extraordinary journey.

In spite of the seemingly supportive environment, I still was not convinced that the culture within the firm had changed. It was only in 2014 when people were aware I was going to marry my same sex partner that I knew a cultural change had taken place.  People in the firm who I thought were paying lip service to LGBT diversity sent me congratulatory emails or stopped me in the office to wish me well. 

A watershed moment had arrived and it was then I felt truly supported as a gay women in a law firm.  From this experience, I learned that I should have been bold a lot sooner. Being a role model, being out and being authentic about being a lesbian, I was able to allow other people in the firm to demonstrate their support of diversity. Not only was I able to be myself, but the actions and words of others made me realise that LGBT diversity had become the norm.  A cultural shift had taken place. 

My advice to others would be to take the plunge, as you will be surprised by the positive reaction from others.  Not only will you be progressing on your journey but you will help others progress on theirs. 

These days, when I speak openly in the office about my wife or we hold LGBT events at our offices I think back 19 years and am amazed at how the face of law has changed.  All because a few people were bold enough to be themselves and others were there to support their cause.  What I have learned is that being gay is not purely about me being myself but it is also about my colleagues being themselves in supporting diversity. 

Looking back, progress has been made, yet there is much to be done.  As an LGBT network, our current focus is to ensure our trans colleagues can also be themselves in the workplace.  My personal goals include being authentic with our supply chain and ensuring diversity is addressed, whoever we do business with.

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