Pride Reminds Us of the Need to Promote Equality for Rainbow Minorities
The Finnish Bar Association is visibly supporting Pride this year and is driving change in the culture of the field. While Pride week is an important opportunity to talk about diversity and equality, it is more important to promote the position of sexual and gender minorities throughout the year.
Laws Change, Working Life Lags Behind
Equality is a statutory right in Finland, but the customs and culture of working life are slower to change. The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights conducted an LGBTI survey two years ago. According to the survey, as many as 92% of Finnish LGBTI people are in the closet at the workplace to some extent with respect to their sexual or gender identity.
Lawyers Aren’t an Exception as a Work Community
Based on the survey, Finland is not a model student when it comes to equality. Though we have no research data on our industry, we think it is safe to say that the legal community is no model student either. It is worrying to hear that a large number of young LGBTI people return to the closet after their studies when moving into working life in our field. It is sad that this is the case in 2021.
Though there is no industry-wide research data, we have examined the situation in our own firm. In our work satisfaction survey conducted in 2020, 96% of our personnel said that they could be themselves at the workplace. This is not a bad place to start. However, the picture looked different when we asked how people felt the workplace supported them in bringing out a minority identity.
In an equality survey that we carried out in 2021, 76% of respondents somewhat or fully agreed that our work community is supportive of employees expressing their membership in various minorities if they wish. Correspondingly, a quarter of respondents felt that this is not the case. One quarter is a significant number of people in a 260-person community that values sustainability, a good working atmosphere and the wellbeing of personnel. The comments indicated that, though people felt there was no obstacle to expressing a minority identity at the workplace, the general heteronormativity of the field in general does not encourage such expression.
What are we doing about it? We have launched a diversity project in which we discuss and educate ourselves as a community, because we want to better understand minorities and work to mitigate heteronormativity in our workplace. We consult outside experts in this work.
We are happy to work with the Bar Association and other law firms to improve the situation. Role models and encouragement to be oneself are also needed. When we ask our personnel the same questions in our equality survey next year, we hope the answer will show that we have succeeded in making things better.
Improving our Culture is an Investment in Wellbeing and Business
It is up to each individual to decide how much they want to open up about their private lives at the workplace. However, in a tolerant and open workplace, employees should be able to share their personal news without hiding the name of their partner, for example, and also be able to look like themselves.
Many LGBTI athletes and artists have talked about how their performance improved significantly after coming out. A person can unlock their full potential when they no longer have to use energy to hide their identity. Genuine equality is important on a human level and can even indirectly benefit business. In our demanding field, we need the best talents and courageous individuals.