Issues facing LGBTI lawyers arise no matter the workplace, and corporate counsel must be no different in doing what is right, according to a leading in-house manager.
ANZ head of legal, IT and IP Dean Allright said there is a lot of “great progress in diversity” being made for those in professional services, with the LGBTI community having more opportunity and fewer obstacles nowadays.
But there is a danger, he warned in backlash following the successful “Yes” campaign for same-sex marriage.
“We need to ensure we continue holding the community together,” he said.
“That presumption of an easy path could be our biggest challenge.”
Speaking to Lawyers Weekly about being named in Deloitte’s Outstanding 50 LGBTI Leaders list, Mr Allright said issues faced by sexual minorities are no different in-house to more traditional legal environments.
“At their most fundamental, issues such as discrimination, prejudice, bias, bigotry and bullying, and their resulting impact on health, wellbeing and performance, can arise in any workplace,” he said.
When asked what LGBTI people in senior legal positions could do to create a more supportive workplace, he noted that while sexuality shouldn’t define any individual or their career trajectory, nor should it ever limit an individual, it can be really important for people to be “out at work”, so as to provide “visible role models to LGBTI Australians of all ages”.
“I have simply been honest and open and taken calculated stands against prejudice,” he said.
“I have to acknowledge that this is less heroic than it is for many when one works for an employer that genuinely supports diversity and actively encourages us to bring our whole selves to work.”
When it comes to ensuring those in-house can feel supported, he said it was simply a matter of corporate counsel simply doing it.
“There is a growing and compelling body of evidence which demonstrates the value of diversity in the workforce and LGBTI staff, like everyone, can offer so much more to their employers who support them and enable their staff to [showcase our whole selves].”
For those coming through the ranks of in-house legal environments, he advised that one’s sexuality doesn’t need to be a definitive statement on one’s career, nor should it be a limiting factor.
“If you are working for an organisation that can’t accept your sexuality then I would question whether that’s really the organisation you want to work for,” he said.