Creating long-lasting change through its support for LGBT communities
Stonewall is Europe’s leading charity for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. It works with individuals and organisations to help them understand how they can make a difference for LGBT people at work, at home and in their communities.
It campaigns in the UK and internationally to eliminate homophobia and biphobia in communities, and empowers LGBT people and their allies to be role models where they live, work, shop, socialise or pray.
Freshfields is a founding partner of Stonewall’s Global Diversity Champions programme, a best practice forum for global organisations that are committed to LGBT equality across the world.
The guidance provided by Stonewall has helped us to grow Halo, our global LGBT network, into one of the firm’s largest employee networks with over 100 members across 16 of our 27 offices. Drawing again on Stonewall’s experience of allies’ programmes, in 2014 we launched our Halo Champions network for staff who do not identify as LGBT, and who support and promote the equality of their LGBT colleagues. We now have over 190 Halo Champions globally.
The significance of the firm’s Halo and Halo Champions initiatives, along with others, has been recognised by Stonewall in its annual Workplace Equality Index. The Workplace Equality Index is an evidence-based benchmarking tool used to assess employers’ achievements and progress on LGBT equality in the workplace.
‘Freshfields’ ongoing support for our programmes and campaigns, as well as their commitment to continuous improvement shows how supportive they are to their LGBT staff and the wider community.’
Chief Executive, Stonewall
In 2014, Freshfields became the first leading global law firm to enter the Top 100 and in 2015 was ranked 9th as well as being named a Top Global Employer in an unranked list of only 11 multinational businesses. In 2016, we maintained a position in the Top 20 and were included as a Top Global Employer for the second year running as a result of our support for LGBT staff worldwide.
Our recognition as a Top Global Employer by Stonewall is particularly important. As a global organisation we operate in some regions that are more challenging from the perspective of LGBT equality but we are committed to giving the same level of support to our LGBT colleagues wherever they are.
Edward Braham, Freshfields’ senior partner, comments on our recent results: ‘I am delighted that we are being recognised for all the hard work and determination of my colleagues to ensure that our firm is inclusive and welcoming to all our LGBT employees. Inclusion in both the Global Employer and Workplace Equality lists is important to us all at Freshfields. We will continue to prioritise creating a supportive working environment for all who work in the firm.’
As the initiatives we undertake in relation to LGBT at the firm evolve, we continue to look for new ways to collaborate with Stonewall. Every other year the Halo network holds a global conference, bringing together members from across the firm. At its most recent conference in London, Halo Champions joined some of the sessions for the first time. Sarah Foster, Major Partnerships Manager at Stonewall, co-facilitated a session on the importance of role models alongside two of our Halo members. On the relationship with Freshfields, Sarah said, ‘As a Global Founding Partner, Freshfields have demonstrated their commitment to Stonewall and to equality for LGBT people.
‘With their support, we have been able to grow the Global Diversity Champions employers forum to be the largest of its kind, ensuring that multinational organisations have the tools they need to take action to protect their LGBT staff wherever they are in the world.’
Looking to the future, in addition to the work we do for our own LGBT staff, we believe that firms such as ours have an important role to play in helping create real change for the better in the wider community.
We have used our global reach and legal expertise previously to make a submission to the UK All Party Parliamentary Group on Global LGBT Rights’ creating a report on recommendations that the UK government, businesses and NGOs can take to enhance LGBT rights worldwide, and are proud to work with a number of other organisations tackling LGBT rights globally on a pro bono basis.
We are currently working with Stonewall on one of three key strategic work streams focused on identifying ways to ‘drive change through collective influence’ with other Global Diversity Champion members. We will be supporting Stonewall as it aims to realise its ambition to grow the number of Global Diversity Champions to accelerate improvement in workplace practice and improve the lives of LGBT people across the world.
Ruth Hunt, Stonewall’s chief executive, says: ‘Freshfields has been a longstanding partner to Stonewall. Their ongoing support for our programmes and campaigns, as well as their commitment to continuous improvement shows how supportive they are to their LGBT staff and the wider community.
‘To be recognised as a top performing law firm and as a top global employer against fierce competition is testament to the hard work of the Freshfields’ team. We look forward to continuing to partner with them for years to come to help create a world where everyone is accepted without exception.’