Stonewall outs City firms’ improved gay-friendliness

The City legal market is steadily becoming more gay-friendly, if a Stonewall student guide is any indication.

Seven firms made it into this year’s student careers guide published by Stonewall, which promotes the rights of gay, lesbian and bisexual people. Only one, Pinsent Masons, made the cut last year.

Clifford Chance, Herbert Smith, Linklaters, Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw (MBRM), Pinsents, Simmons & Simmons and The Law Society were all named in the guide as “safe” places for people of all sexual orientations, as reported on www.the (31 October).

Baker & McKenzie is on Stonewall’s list of ‘diversity champions’, but joined after the student book went to press.

The minimum requirements firms had to meet to be considered by Stonewall were to ensure equal benefits to same-sex couples, to encourage employee network groups and to ensure a zero-tolerance policy on homophobia in the workplace.

One contentious point among firms was publishing diversity statistics, including sexual orientation, on their websites. Simmons’ website states that 1.55 per cent (which would equate to around 15 people) of its London staff is not heterosexual. Linklaters, meanwhile, publishes statistics only for its US office, where one partner out of the 23 in New York was openly ‘out’.

Other firms were considering publishing statistics. Bakers head of diversity Samantha Mobley told The Lawyer: “We’re still thinking about whether we should monitor sexuality. We certainly have a number of openly gay partners, but it’s a privacy issue. That information can be sensitive.”

Pinsents has just collated diversity data, including information on sexuality, for the first time firmwide, including from its offices in China and Dubai. Although the results are not yet available, Pinsents HR director Jonathan Bond said there were few interviewees who chose not to disclose their sexuality.

Although the increase in firms named in the guide is encouraging, no firm is included on Stonewall’s index of the 100 most gay-friendly workplaces. MBRM London managing partner Paul Maher said: “We’re committed to promoting a working environment based on inclusivity and we’re under no illusions that this is a major ongoing challenge.”

But Pinsents head of property Adrian Barlow, who is “comfortable with being known as a gay man”, predicted an increase in firms credited by Stonewall.

“What’s important to us is inclusiveness,” he said. “If someone’s valued, then they’re comfortable with who they are and that makes them more confident at their job. It’s just a good business decision.”