“Macho” culture hindering gay lawyers

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The “macho” culture of law firms is hindering gay and lesbian lawyers from coming out at work fearing it will affect their career progression, a report revealed today.

Legal regulator, The Law Society’s first report on the career experiences of gay and lesbian solicitors discovered “undertones of homophobia” in legal practices with employees feeling restricted by perceptions and expectations of discrimination.

The report described “constant trips to Spearmint Rhino (a lap dancing club chain), rugby matches and drinking sessions as holding undertones of homophobia.”

Gay male interviewees highlighted a sense of “heterosexual machismo” in larger firms.

The report focuses on the factors determining whether a gay or lesbian solicitor would be open about their sexuality in their workplace.

While none of the participants in the study reported having experienced overt discrimination on the basis of their sexuality, they admitted feeling held back by stereotypes.

The report lists a number of recommendations for law firms to help tackle sexual orientation discrimination such as appropriate monitoring practices to collect data on the sexual orientation and experiences of solicitors, demonstrating commitment to diversity, and equal opportunities policies covering discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation.

Firms should also be encouraged to recognise same-sex partnerships and extend any benefits to these as they would to traditional spouses and family groups, according to the report.

Commenting on the findings, Fiona Woolf, Law Society president, said: “These findings highlight the concerns of gay and lesbian solicitors. This report should alert firms of the need to review their policies to tackle discrimination based on sexual orientation and ensure a climate of acceptance and inclusivity.

“The Law Society strives to be at the forefront of embracing equality and diversity and to provide support to address the needs of its members.”