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Interview of Laura Yeates, Head of Graduate Talent

How important is to be out at work? How have you supported colleagues coming out?


Clifford Chance is committed to establishing an inclusive culture, where people from diverse backgrounds work effectively together, and can feel comfortable and confident to develop to their potential.


We believe it is important for people to be able to bring their whole selves to work and that often means being out so of course, it is important. In our team specifically, we have two LGBT people (out of seven), both of which are out and very comfortable discussing their identity in the workplace.

How and why are allies like you important in the process of helping graduates and professionals to come out in their work environment?  


In 2015, Clifford Chance created Arcus Allies, a global allies programme, to push to recruit allies to support LGBT+ colleagues throughout the firm. The aims of this programme are to create a space our LGBT+ colleagues can feel fully supported by the firm, and nurture the firm's inclusive culture.


The programme is supported by our senior leadership: the firm's Executive Leadership Group and senior leaders all signed up to this programme. We encourage and support our LGBT+ colleagues to be themselves and come out – the allies help ensure that our LGBT+ colleagues can feel welcomed and supported at work. 

How do your company and its clients profit from a diverse workforce and why do you feel important to maintain this conversation relevant?

Responsible Business is a central part of Clifford Chance's strategy. The sustainability of our business is dependent on our ability to inspire trust and earn the confidence of our people, our clients and the society at large. We strive to create a safe and inclusive workplace, and diversity is a key. 


People flourish in a diverse environment, where they are supported professionally and enjoy the equal opportunity to succeed. Our people's professional development, combined with the firm's focus on wellbeing, enable our people to bring a full range of worthwhile ideas and innovations to our business, which helps deliver better advice to our clients. 


Does your company have an LGBT network/ an Employee Resource groups? What's your involvement with these groups?


Arcus is our global LGBT+ community. Arcus (rainbow in Latin) is a powerful symbol of inclusivity and diversity that seeks to promote a culture where employees feel comfortable about being open about their sexual orientation. 


Our Arcus Allies programme was set up for employees who do not necessarily identify as LGBT+ but who wish to act as advocates for equal rights and fair treatment of LGBT+ colleagues.


As well as supporting Toby (our Arcus co-chair) in the work he is doing with the internal network, I am also on the National Student Pride Steering Committee, which is made up of 12 LGBTA business leaders across different sectors. As part of the NSP Committee, I take a leading role in the direction and strategy of the event and act as a proud advocate for the community. I was also key in introducing NSP to many other UK grad contacts, such as the Target Awards which NSP now co-host which is great profile raising for them.


Clifford Chance are also working with Trendence on some LGBT focused research alongside the University of York and Deutsche Bank. The research will be the first of its kind – looking at University and employability from an LGBT perspective.


Can you share some examples of how a D&I policy affected your company in a positive way?


Creating and nurturing an inclusive environment helps our colleagues to feel welcomed and accepted without exception in their workplaces. When we can be ourselves, rather than spending energy and effort to hide our background, our productivity improves, which also means high client satisfaction.


Clifford Chance ranked #4 in the 2017 Stonewall Workplace Equality Index, which celebrates the pioneering efforts of leading organisations to create inclusive workplaces. This is not only a recognition of Clifford Chance's progress in nurturing an LGBT+ friendly work environment, but it also highlights the fact that Clifford Chance is an inclusive employer which will appeal to the talents in the LGBT+ community as well as LGBT+ advocates.  


At Clifford Chance, we also have a reverse mentoring scheme where LGBT people mentor allies in how they can better support the LGBT community.


How do you think minority groups can support each other to reach greater equality in the workplace?


Clifford Chance runs many programmes and initiatives throughout the year and across offices aimed at promoting inclusion and diversity and wellbeing at the firm. Our London office, for example, launched the Black & Minority Ethnic (BAME) network in 2018. These programmes and initiatives bring different minority groups together to share new ideas on developing a more diverse workplace and support each other. 


One event we ran in August brought together the BAME network and our LGBT network for a celebration of Culture around the time of Nottinghill Carnival. 


We believe it is important for groups to support each other and take an intersectional approach to their inclusion and running joint events like the one mentioned above, hopefully, helps us to achieve this.


What advice would you give the younger generations of LGBT+ people looking to get started in the industry?


To research the companies LGBT policies and support networks internally before applying and ensure your employer respects diversity and inclusion in practice. Don’t be afraid to push for answers about equality if they are not initially forthcoming with them and always try to choose a workplace where you can bring your authentic self to work.


Make sure to also look out for specialist LGBT events/projects that the company is running. Clifford Chance, for example, ran our first ever LGBT graduate recruitment specific event this year called ACCEPT with solely LGBT people present. It's the commitment to these kinds of targeted projects that prove companies are really and truly inclusive of a diverse workforce.


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