Corporate law firm tackles the big dilemma of coming out at work
Halfway into Pride Month, Travers Smith has launched a new LGBT+ student mentoring scheme in partnership with sexual orientation charity Just Like Us. It’s the corporate outfit’s most recent initiative to help develop the next generation of LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) leaders.
The new programme will take the form of one-to-one mentoring sessions that aim to encourage students to be confident in their identity and openly LGBT+ at work.
Travers notes that many LGBT+ students come out at university, but a staggering 60% go back to concealing their sexual orientation when they start work. To tackle this, the firm has selected 25 mentors with diverse professional backgrounds to support LGBT+ students across the country in their transition from university to employment. They include Travers Smith partner Daniel Gerring and head of HR Carly Hubbard. Gerring, commenting on the project, said:
This initiative is a great example of Travers Smith adding value by sharing our insight and expertise and working in partnership to empower a generation of emerging LGBT+ talent. The addition of this programme to our extensive portfolio of LGBT+ projects underlines the firm’s continued support of diversity and inclusion in the workplace and wider community.
Other mentors include former Royal Air Force pilot Ayla Holdom and Amy Lamé, Night Czar for London.
Though the focus here is on supporting future LGBT+ leaders, there also seems to be a business incentive. Studies led by equality charity Stonewall — which has engaged with tens of thousands of LGBT+ students — establish that supporting LGBT+ staff can significantly enhance their effectiveness in the workplace. Its Peak Performance research states:
Staff who can be open about their sexuality at work are more likely to enjoy going to work, feel able to be themselves, form honest relationships with their colleagues, are more confident, and ultimately more productive. Lesbian and gay equality at work evidently makes good business sense.
Agreeing, Labour politician and Just like Us ally Lord Peter Mandelson voiced his support:
I’m delighted to be launching the Just Like Us mentoring scheme today. I believe that what happens to us when we’re young can have life-long impact on our ability to realise our potential. This mentoring programme offers LGBT+ young people the support and guidance needed to help them start their first job confident in their identity and sexuality and openly LGBT+.
Travers Smith also supports Freebar, an LGBT+ networking group for barristers, and has a corporate social responsibility (CSR) art programme that this year showcases work promoting LGBT+ inclusion. As Mandelson continued:
When people are able to be themselves, they are able to be their best.
Earlier this Pride Month, Linklaters signalled its commitment to LGBT+ equality by installing rainbow-coloured lights in its reception area. It seems that law firms are beginning to take a more active role in encouraging staff not to hold back — gender identity and sexual orientation shouldn’t be hindering career potential.
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