LGBT+ lawyers

Pride in the law: experiences of the LGBT+ community within the legal profession

During LGBT+ History Month 2021, LGBT+ legal professionals and colleagues who consider themselves allies to the LGBT+ community, were invited to take part in an online survey about their experiences of being LGBT+ or an ally in the legal sector. There were 617 individual responses to the survey, with 62% identifying as LGBT+.

Pressing issues

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Workplace experiences

To achieve the full value of diversity, workplaces must be inclusive; enabling people to be themselves, share ideas and contribute diverse perspectives.

The survey revealed that a majority of LGBT+ respondents (97%) felt able to be themselves at work – either sometimes (44%) or always (53%).

LGBT+ legal professionals were also more likely to report positive rather than negative experiences in their workplaces – positive experiences commonly related to the availability of formal and informal networks, whilst negative experiences were associated with a lack of visible LGBT+ role models.

Being out at work

In the survey, 82% of LGBT+ legal professionals indicated they were out to colleagues, and 38% were out to clients. This is an increase on 2009 survey findings where 63% of respondents were out to colleagues and 24% were also out to clients.

The 2021 survey revealed that:

  • gay men were more likely to be out to colleagues and clients compared to lesbian/gay women and bisexual individuals
  • the majority of LGBT+ respondents in senior positions were out to colleagues; open responses suggested that the experience of being out was easier at a more senior level

Several senior respondents reflected on their feelings of responsibility as someone in a senior role, to be a positive force for change – this is welcome given the wider survey findings about a need for visible role models.

Creating a supportive working environment

Experience of homophobia, biphobia or transphobia

  • Over one-third (37%) of respondents said they had experienced homophobia, biphobia or transphobia in their workplace
  • Under one-fifth (18%) of those experiencing such negative behaviours had reported these experiences themselves. A further 18% indicated that someone else had reported the incident
  • The most common reasons for not reporting incidents was that they felt the behaviours were not serious enough to report (40%), they lacked confidence it would be resolved effectively (26%), or they were too afraid to report it (14%)
  • Around three-quarters (78%) of respondents indicated there were opportunities to raise concerns anonymously or seek confidential support about homophobic, biphobic or transphobic behaviour in their workplace. Whilst 57% of respondents would be confident in making use of such routes, around one-fifth (21%) said they would not

Allies

The majority (91%) of LGBT+ respondents reported having colleagues who were not LGBT+ themselves, but who were supportive and active allies for LGBT+ equality in the workplace. 47% said they had “a lot” of allies and 44% said they had “a few”.

Networks

Two-thirds of respondents were members of at least one LGBT+ workplace or professional network. A lack of awareness was the most commonly cited reason for not being a member of a network (32%).

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