Diversity and inclusion
A place where all can flourish.
Our aim is to be a diverse and inclusive workplace where everyone has the opportunity to achieve their potential.
This is vital if we want to attract and retain top talent. We want to create a welcoming, positive and supportive environment in which all can flourish, regardless of their gender, race or ethnicity, background, religion, disabilities, sexual orientation, gender identity or any other dimensions of difference.
We also look beyond our firm through our involvement with external organisations and our collaborations with clients. We believe it is important to work with others to create sustainable change in our profession, the business world and our wider communities.
We are making progress but there is more to do. We have a clear set of priorities that include a focus on everyday actions and inclusive leadership, our diverse talent pipeline, and changing the dialogue and increasing engagement. These priorities ensure we are focused on building a more diverse workplace and greater inclusion for all.
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We want to ensure our firm is gender diverse at all levels, but particularly within the partnership. To achieve this aim we use a range of measures, including setting targets for partner promotions and initiatives such as our global sponsorship programme for women. We know it is vital to create a working environment that is equally welcoming to all, whatever your gender identity. We also understand the benefits of bringing together people with shared interests and common goals, and our women’s networks are an integral part of this.
Outside our firm, we take an active role globally in the 30% Club – a group of business leaders committed to achieving better gender balance at all levels of commerce.
Launched in November 2018, the EDGE Commitment has been developed by our Women’s Network in London in collaboration with colleagues across the firm, and aims to promote gender equality across the firm globally. The initiative aims to empower our people to take very practical, everyday actions in their working lives that will cause incremental, tangible changes that will in turn foster true equality. Individuals across the firm have signed up to EDGE (2000+ across the firm globally since launch), committing to 10 every day actions.
In recognition of the under-representation of women on international tribunals, in 2015, members of the arbitration community (including Sylvia Noury, Partner in dispute resolution) drew up a pledge to take action. The Pledge seeks to increase, on an equal opportunity basis, the number of women appointed as arbitrators in order to achieve a fair representation as soon practically possible, with the ultimate goal of full parity.
Freshfields was a founding member of Stonewall’s Global Diversity Champions programme, and featured as a Top Global Employer in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019. Freshfields was the first major City law firm to enter the top 100 of the UK Workplace Equality Index in 2014 and Freshfields Asia Managing Partner Georgia Dawson received the 2019 Global Senior Champion Award – only a single person each year can hold this prestigious accolade.
In 2016, Freshfields Tokyo co-founded (with Goldman Sachs, Linklaters and Morrison Foerster) an LGBT Lawyers and Allies Network (LLAN), which aims to promote LGBT+ equality in Japan, specifically focusing on same-sex marriage.
In 2017 we were awarded a gold medal by the wwP (work with Pride) PRIDE Index for our workplace inclusion efforts in Japan. In 2019 we were named a silver-standard organisation in the biannual Hong Kong LGBT+ Workplace Inclusion Index organised by Community Business where we also shared similar bronze success in 2017 and 2015.
We have a thriving global network, Halo, for our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) colleagues, while our Champions network enables those who do not necessarily identify as LGBT+ to actively show their support for LGBT+ equality. Pride is celebrated across our networks with global and regional events, and many of our offices across the world also recognise IDAHOBIT (the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia).
We are proud to express our support for the UN LGBTI Standards of Conduct for Business. We believe these standards are reflected in the firm’s existing commitment to being a responsible business, including much of the firm’s pro bono work, alongside the endeavours of Halo and Halo Champions. We also have trans equality and gender expression global guidance in place, providing a framework for best practice and an expression of how we, globally, endeavour to treat our people.
As a global organisation we want to broaden the firm’s representation among different races and ethnicities, particularly at senior levels.
Our efforts in this area include our global Black Affinity Network, which brings together lawyers of black African and black African Caribbean heritage from across the firm.
Launching in 2007, the firm’s Legal Outreach programme, has equipped New York high school students, from non-traditional backgrounds, with skills in writing and reasoning to empower them to achieve academic success and admission to the most elite US colleges. Members of our Black Affinity Network mentor these students as they get exposed to the culture and types of work at a corporate law firm.
And we celebrate Black History Month in both the US and the UK, hosting talks and other events with a number of our clients.
Our ongoing commitment to create the right environment to foster open and frank communication underlines the importance placed on mental wellbeing at Freshfields (which itself forms part of our broader thinking on employee wellbeing). Freshfields is driving this conversation at all levels of the firm across the globe in a number of ways.
In partnership with Mental Health First Aid England, the firm has a fully trained Global Mental Health Support team, equipped with the skills to recognise, support and provide guidance to those who may be experiencing mental health issues.
We pledged to increase the number trained in mental health first aid skills, aiming by World Mental Health Day 2019 (10 October) to have one in 25 of our people trained – we are pleased to announce we have now surpassed that target, and now have over 200 people trained globally.
We encourage and promote recognition of key awareness days and weeks around the globe with a range of internal events and communications. These include World Mental Health Day, supporting the green ribbon campaign in the UK and ‘Time to Talk’ day.
We want to ensure access to careers in our firm and the legal profession in general is not restricted by a person’s social, educational or financial background. We aim to find ways to identify exceptional talent beyond traditional methods that view academic achievement as a prime indicator of potential.
We run a number of programmes to address this. These include the Freshfields Stephen Lawrence Scholarship Scheme, our Legal Outreach programme in the US and a professional skills workshop programme with ITE College East in Singapore. We also aim to provide opportunities for young school students from underprivileged backgrounds by supporting their aspirations to enter university.
Freshfields is committed to being a disability inclusive employer. We are continually looking at ways to attract and progress our disabled talent. We also aim to support our colleagues who are affected by disability, such as those with caring responsibilities and to give all an opportunity to champion disability across the firm.
On the International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2019, the firm was pleased to announce that it joined the Valuable 500, committing at a senior level to disability inclusion globally. We also partner with Business Disability Forum, who help organisations become disability smart as well as Myplus Consulting who advise on better attracting, retaining and progressing talented disabled graduates. We bring together disabled colleagues and Champions to be part of our disability network, Freshfields Enabled, with the aim of working together to become a more inclusive workplace.
We recognise that we need to have targeted initiatives and programmes, but also continue to evolve our efforts to recognise the complexity and interwoven nature of diversity, so are seeking opportunities to bring together different groups, both within the firm and in partnership with external organisations. We have been developing a number of initiatives to ensure we foster an inclusive culture where everyone has the opportunity to progress. Examples of these initiatives include:
- Inclusive leadership workshops – a programme for partners, counsel and senior directors globally, aiming to help leaders explore how to mitigate bias in talent decisions and strengthen inclusive leadership skills.
- Reverse mentoring scheme – our pilot programme launched in January 2019 in partnership with our three global networks, HALO (LGBT+), Black Affinity and Women’s Networks. This scheme involved partners and senior directors being mentored by a more junior diverse colleague for a period of six months.
- Intersectional film festival - in 2018, the London Black Affinity Network co-launched an Intersectional film festival with the London Women’s Network and HALO. The festival brings to the firm a series of films exploring the often interwoven nature of class, race, gender, sexual orientation and disability in our society.
Meet the team
Helen Ouseley, Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion
Kristina Adey-Davies, Global Diversity & Inclusion Senior Manager
Rachel Brooks, Global Diversity & Inclusion Executive
Amy Tye, Diversity & CSR Senior Manager (Asia)
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
Related responsible business in action case studies
Every Day Gender Equality (EDGE) commitment
Encouraging small steps to make big changes
Freshfields Stephen Lawrence Scholarship Scheme
Opening doors for an under-represented demographic
Creating long-lasting change through its support for LGBT communities
The drive to put more women at the top
Using the law to help student interns from New York achieve their dream of going to college