‘We recognise that we have more work to do,’ says firm’s UK chairman
Gowling WLG has apologised after computer screensavers in its Canadian office describing a black man as “very nice and extremely polite” drew criticism online.
Gowling tweeted on Monday calling for firm members in Canada to share what black history and culture mean to them, in recognition of Black History Month, which is celebrated in the month of February in Canada.
One statement made by a firm member surfaced on social media, and was widely condemned by users for appearing to be “tone-deaf” and perpetuating anti-black stereotypes.
“My daughter inspires me a lot. When she was younger, she often spoke of her friend Daniel,” read the quote (screenshot top). “One day, my husband and I attended an event at her school and finally got to meet Daniel. He was very nice and extremely polite; my grandmother would have said he was ‘well brought up’. Never during the course of her friendship with Daniel did my daughter mention he was black. That night, I went to sleep with the hope that one day, race-based conflicts would forever be behind us.”
One user tweeted in response, “let’s do some issue spotting together on why this quote from one of your employees should have been left on the cutting-room floor”, while another paraphrased, “‘our company is so committed to diversity, that one of our employees has a kid with a black friend!'”
Gowling WLG tweeted on Wednesday: “We apologise for our screensaver message that appeared in this post. It does not reflect our values. The message has been taken down and we are reaching out to all of our people to listen to their perspectives and learn from this matter.”
Andy Stylianou, chairman of Gowling WLG UK and the firm’s lead on diversity and inclusion, said in a statement:
“We are deeply sorry that a post that does not reflect our values appeared on an internal network in Canada on Wednesday. We apologise for the offence this has caused people and have removed the post. We are also speaking with our people to ensure their voices and perspectives on this are heard, and so we can learn from this matter. Addressing racism in society requires a collective effort and we actively encourage our colleagues to become allies. However, we recognise that we have more work to do to educate, upskill and empower them.”