Thu 01 Jun 2023

Drive for diversity must be fuelled by inclusion

Last year we celebrated our ability to come together again to mark Pride after being kept apart because of you-know-what. Just one year on, do things still look so rainbow-tinted? For many of us, this year's Pride Month has echoes of how it used to be: the challenges are different, but the tone of the debate is eerily familiar.

Of course, when I look out at the legal profession, I am encouraged by the strides that have been made. But we still live in a world where many in our profession still face discrimination here in Scotland, and where the rights of LGBTQIA+ individuals are not protected elsewhere in the world. In Uganda legislation adopted in March include the death penalty for certain same-sex acts and a 20-year sentence for “promoting” homosexuality, which could criminalise any advocacy for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer citizens. 

Against this backdrop, it's on us to be honest about the challenges we face, and to come together once again to reiterate our commitment to progress in the profession and beyond, and the initiatives that really make a difference.

And for the team here at Morton Fraser, we see real progress when we focus on inclusion and belonging - without which well-meaning diversity initiatives just won't work.

What do we mean by that exactly? Well, if diversity means being invited to the party, then inclusion is being asked to dance. Belonging is choosing the music. (Just try getting our lot off the karaoke at the summer barbecue!)

In order to cultivate an inclusive atmosphere, we - across the legal profession - need to be intentional in our firms about how we make people feel. It's in the things we do, the climate we create and how we lead.

Creating an inclusive culture means ensuring that our colleagues feel seen and heard, and creating psychologically safe spaces, free of judgement, to allow everyone to bring their whole selves to work.

This psychological safety allows our colleagues to be at their best more of the time, it is our key to unlocking talent (regardless of background) and that talent is what benefits our clients in the quality of the legal advice they receive, and in the way our firm reflects the diversity of our clients themselves - and this is what underpins our firm's growth.

The happy by-product of an inclusive and psychologically safe workplace is greater diversity, which we see in studies, like those of the profession produced by the Law Societies of both Scotland and England and Wales, demonstrate a growing number of those entering the profession have had positive experiences - but there are still improvements which can be made, and the positivity does not yet extend all the way across our LGBTQIA+ rainbow.

That's why this year we are delighted to be hosting speakers from across the legal and professional services sectors to share their personal experiences at our 'This is Me' event in Edinburgh during Pride Week, in an effort to bring clarity to the issues facing the LGBTQIA+ community today, and the parallels from the past that we will need to face once again. We hope that across the profession this year, we will be joined in the efforts to promote understanding, tolerance and acceptance - and to fuel diversity initiatives with inclusion.

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