Our aim is simple – to be a diverse and inclusive workplace where everyone has the opportunity to achieve their potential.
This is vital if we want to attract and retain the top talent. We want to create a welcoming, positive and supportive environment in which all can flourish, regardless of their gender, race or ethnicity, background, religion, physical abilities, sexual orientation or gender identity.
We also look beyond our firm through our involvement with external organisations and our collaborations with clients. We believe it is important to work with others to create sustainable change in our profession, the business world and our wider communities.
We are making progress but there is more to do. We have a clear set of priorities and are focused on creating greater diversity – and greater inclusion – in the areas of gender, race and ethnicity, social mobility and sexual orientation and gender identity (LGBT+).
We want to ensure our firm is gender diverse at all levels, but particularly within the partnership. To achieve this aim we use a range of measures, including setting targets for partner promotions and initiatives such as our global sponsorship programme for women. We know it is vital to create a working environment that is equally welcoming to men and women. We also understand the benefits of bringing together people with shared interests and common goals, and our women’s networks are an integral part of this.
Outside our firm, we take an active role globally in the 30% Club – a group of business leaders committed to achieving better gender balance at all levels of commerce.
Race and ethnicity
As a global organisation we want to broaden the firm’s representation among different races and ethnicities, particularly at senior levels.
Our efforts in this area include our global Black Affinity Network, which brings together lawyers of black African and black African Caribbean heritage from across the firm.
Externally, a number of our lawyers have been chosen by the Council of Urban Professionals to join a 10-month leadership training course.
And we celebrate Black History Month in both the US and the UK, hosting talks and other events with a number of our clients.
We want to ensure access to careers in our firm and the legal profession in general is not restricted by a person’s social, educational or financial background. We aim to find ways to identify exceptional talent beyond traditional methods that view academic achievement as a prime indicator of potential.
We run a number of programmes to address this. These include the Freshfields Stephen Lawrence Scholarship Scheme, our UCL scholarships, our Legal Outreach programme in the US and a professional skills workshop programme with ITE College East in Singapore. We also aim to provide opportunities for young school students from underprivileged backgrounds by supporting their aspirations to enter university, for instance through our partnership with Villiers Park.
Sexual orientation and gender identity (LGBT+)
In 2014 we became the first leading global law firm to enter the Stonewall Top 100 Employers for LGBT people in Britain. For the past two years we have featured in the Top 20, and have been named a Top Global Employer. We are also a founding member of Stonewall’s Global Diversity Champions programme. Further afield we were recognised as a bronze standard organisation in the inaugural Hong Kong LGBT Workplace Index Awards 2015, organised by Community Business.
We have a thriving global network, Halo, for our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) staff, while our Champions network enables staff who do not identify as LGBT+ to actively support their colleagues. Halo hosts a global conference for all members every other year, providing an important opportunity for members to meet and support each other.