UK: Law firms must challenge perception of discrimination among gay, lesbian solicitors

The Law Society has published its first report on the career experiences of gay and lesbian solicitors.
The report focuses on the factors determining whether a gay or lesbian solicitor would be open about their sexuality in their workplace. Most participants acknowledged that they were reluctant to come out at work for fear that it would seriously hinder their career progression.
While none of the participants in the study reported having experienced overt discrimination on the basis of their sexuality, they admitted feeling restricted by perceptions and expectations of discrimination.
The report lists a number of recommendations for law firms to help tackle sexual orientation discrimination:
  • The need for appropriate monitoring practices to collect data on the sexual orientation and experiences of solicitors – Participants in the study said they would welcome the inclusion of sexual monitoring questions for the recognition and choice they offered to gay and lesbian applicants.
  • The need to demonstrate commitment to diversity through the cultivation of a climate where gay and lesbian solicitors feel comfortable to declare their sexuality
  • Employers should ensure that equal opportunities policies cover discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation.
  • Firms should be encouraged to recognise same-sex partnerships and extend any benefits to these as they would to traditional spouses and family groups.
Commenting on the findings, Fiona Woolf, Law Society president, says:
”These findings highlight the concerns of gay and lesbian solicitors. This report should alert firms of the need to review their policies to tackle discrimination based on sexual orientation and ensure a climate of acceptance and inclusivity. The Law Society strives to be at the forefront of embracing equality and diversity and to provide support to address the needs of its members.”
Full text of the report is available here.