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Bi Visibility Day - a trainee's experience of being out in a City firm

22 September 2017

As well as being a trainee at Reed Smith, I’m also a bisexual man. This Bisexual Visibility Day I want to reflect on my journey into the profession - and how the legal sector’s understanding of bisexuality and LGBT issues has changed during this time.

When I applied to Reed Smith, I was open about my sexuality - I didn’t dwell on it, but I wanted to go into the job without feeling I had to hide anything. I know this honest approach was a key factor in being taken on by the firm. They’ve been incredibly helpful, funding the launch of the London Bisexual Network and supporting me at events and awards ceremonies.

Launching the London Bisexual Network

In November 2016, the London Bi Network was launched. Its board comprised trainees, future trainees, solicitors, and professionals from the banking, insurance and professional services sectors, and myself.

The network focuses on tackling bi visibility throughout professions, something that is highlighted every year in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index, which reports that far fewer bi professionals feel they have role models than do gay, lesbian and trans professionals.

Our launch event was headlined by Lloyds of London CEO Dame Inga Beale, who spoke openly about being bi in the workplace as a senior woman, and the successes that led her to first place in the 2016 Outstanding List of LGBT business leaders.

Also at the event was a panel discussion on how the city could become more bi-inclusive and tackle the issue of bi erasure such as ensuring LGBT+ networks across firms such as JP Morgan, Bloomberg, Accenture and Macquarie were bi-inclusive.

The network also addresses the relatively high levels of poor mental health among bi people. Trans people also experience similar levels, and trans bi people are the worst affected. Together with Mind and Stonewall, I’ve just launched a toolkit on bisexuality and mental health – something I hope all employers will find useful to ensure the wellbeing of all staff, whatever their sexuality.

Real transformation

Looking back, it’s clear there has been a real transformation. Where once bi issues simply weren’t mentioned - even on LGBT+ committees - they’re now considered an integral part of inclusion in the same way that trans issues are becoming more valued.

During my time as a future trainee I was honoured to be appointed to several boards and committees, including the Law Society Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Here I’ve led policy on disability and LGBT+ issues, worked with the Law Society to ensure internal diversity, and with external firms to ensure they are as representative as possible of both clients and wider society.

Commitment to diversity and inclusion

I’m now sitting in my first seat: Shipping, and throughout the induction sessions, the firm’s commitment to diversity and inclusion was clear. We were informed of the many affinity groups we could join, and encouraged to join as early in our career as possible. Business development talks emphasise the importance clients place on diversity in the workplace.

And it was heart-warming to arrive on the Shipping floor on Monday to see Pride flags proudly adorning the kitchens.

Every firm could - and should - be as welcoming:  focused on what people can bring to the organisation, rather than their background, and allowing everyone to celebrate their differences in an inclusive culture.

I hope more firms use this Bi Visibility Day to learn more about bisexuality. I hope they contact the London Bisexual Network to find out about hosting events or working with internal teams. I hope they aim to be truly open to everyone with the ability and desire to work hard for them.

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About the author

Jonathan is an associate in Reed Smith's global Entertainment and Media Industry Group. He has experience in advisory work across international jurisdictions on topics such as data privacy, including advising cross-border on GDPR requirements and drafting privacy policies and data protection addendums, as well as commercial contracts and media litigation.

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