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Head of Travers Smith Law Firm's LGBT Network talks Equality and Diversity in the workplace

The myGwork team met Daniel Gerring, Partner & Head of Pensions and Chair of LGBT+ network at Travers Smith and discussed what it means to be an advocate for diversity. 

Daniel is recognised as one of the country’s leading pensions lawyers and advises on all aspects of pensions law, acting for trustees and employers as well as parties to corporate activity. He was ranked in the OUTstanding list of Top 100 Leading LGBT+ Executives by the Financial Times in 2016, and is also listed as one of the Top 10 "Inspirational LGBT+ Leaders" at this year's British LGBT Awards. He is actively involved with the work of a range of charities and not for profit organisations, and led his firm's work on corporate social responsibility until he took on his role as Head of Pensions in 2017.

Even though the term role model can make the modest lawyer feel uncomfortable at times, he is a dedicated and passionate advocate for LGTB+ equality, and for diversity and inclusion more broadly. “Creating a diverse and inclusive culture is a key business priority for Travers Smith. With strong support from partners and other senior leaders at the firm, we have an ambitious and progressive programme of initiatives aimed at fostering a more LGBT+ inclusive workplace by driving change at organisational and individual levels.”

The firm's commitment to diversity and inclusion is evident by its actions. From extending staff benefits to introducing a trans-inclusive dress code policy, the firm is committed to creating a fully inclusive workplace, to ensure LGBT individuals can be themselves and reach their full potential. Its work in this area was recently recognised by Stonewall, where the firm features in their Top 100 LGBT inclusive employers list.

Recently, Travers Smith has launched a new partnership with Just LikeUs, a charity group of ‘Ambassadors’ – LGBT university students who visit schools to share their personal story and empower the pupils to champion LGBT+ equality. Additionally, Travers Smith has developed a mentoring programme in collaboration with Just Like Us, aimed at supporting LGBT+ graduates with the transition from university to professional life. Because over 60% of graduates go back into the closet when they start working, Daniel, along with several other prominent LGBT figures from across the UK, will be using their skills and experience to nurture the next generation of LGBT leaders.

Daniel has also worked hard to involve colleagues from across Travers Smith in LGBT+ initiatives. A favourite project for Daniel has been the involvement of Travers Smith's numerous sports teams, with which they are currently running a Rainbow Laces campaign to encourage people, both within and outside the firm, to "lace up for equality" and signal their support for LGBT+ inclusion. The laces, and the initiative itself, have proved especially popular and have been embraced not only by colleagues, but also by many of their friends and families.

Under Daniel's stewardship, the firm launched its innovative CSR Art Programme in 2015, which is aimed at supporting graduate artists from the University of Westminster and the Royal College of Art with their transition to professional practice.  This year's CSR Art collection includes artwork which reflects two significant elements of the firm's broader CSR work: supporting refugees and asylum seekers, and promoting greater LGBT+ inclusion. It features a photo story by a gay artist which captures the ‘coming out’ stories of members the LGBT community living in Cumbria and an award winning photographic montage of the Calais refugee camp before its demolition in 2016. “We’re not only helping the extremely talented up and coming artist but also spreading the messages of inclusion and diversity throughout the firm, and making a strong statement on our position to all those who visit our offices.”

When asked about improvement on diversity and inclusion in the legal industry, Daniel is positive, but sounds a note of caution too. “It's great to see so many law firms be proactive in their approach towards LGBT inclusion. Good employers will often include those with fully inclusive policies and procedures, but the best are those which translate these into tangible actions. Doing the right thing is vastly more powerful than just saying it".

Daniel advises graduates to get started on the industry without compromising who they are. “Be open minded, use contacts in the LGBT+ world, find firms that lead in this area if you can, and don’t be afraid to ask challenging questions.” He understands the fears and issues many members of the LGBT+ community face in their professional life. “I feel lucky to have always felt able to be out at work in the legal field. That is something which the research suggests is sadly not shared by many graduates, and I am committed to playing my part to improve things.

"Personally, I feel it is important to be out at work, if you feel you can be – it is likely to be critical in successfully being your authentic self and identifying the full value you can bring to the workplace."

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