Law firm first organisation in NZ to receive Rainbow Tick

by Sophie Schroder01 Sep 2014
Law firm Simpson Grierson has just become the first organisation in New Zealand to be awarded the coveted Rainbow Tick, a benchmark that recognises workplaces which understand, value, and welcome sexual and gender diversity.
The firm underwent a comprehensive diversity and inclusion certification process in the lead up to being awarded the tick.
Simpson Grierson chairman Kevin Jaffe says as diversity has always been an important benchmark for the firm, being accredited with the Rainbow Tick is a “significant milestone”.
"We signed up to the Rainbow Tick because we want to make sure our workplace is truly inclusive and supportive of people from different backgrounds and in particular the LGBTI Community. Our goal is to let both our staff and our clients know that we embrace diversity and support our LGBTI staff,” he says.
HR director Jo Copeland told NZ Lawyer that the firm has been working with Rainbow Tick since the concept was launched in New Zealand in February.
She had attended the launch function to see what it was all about, and was impressed by the calibre of organisations that were involved.
“Honestly it just seemed like a no-brainer to us.  It felt do-able and like it would make a difference to someone's life.  And the feedback from our staff is that it is making a huge difference to them.”
Simpson Grierson has made a number of positive changes as a result of being in the programme, Copeland says.
One of the most important ones was setting up a pride network to support staff, friends and families of LGBTI people connected with the firm.
“We now offer training to staff so they can better understand what it is like for someone from the rainbow community to have to come out every day,” she says. “It was been a real education and has made us more understanding, which has to be good for everyone.  We've had partners say that this has been some of the best training and events they've ever been to.” 
In a professional context, Copeland thinks becoming the first organisation to be awarded the Rainbow Tick is significant because law firms are not typically seen as being at the forefront of innovation.
It’s important to signal that the industry has changed and the “days of the old boys club” are over, she says.
One of the members of Simpson Grierson’s pride network says they hope the award will set an example going forward.
"Hopefully it galvanises the rest of the legal community into promoting acceptance and open mindedness.”
Michael Stevens, director of the Rainbow Tick Programme says the firm worked hard and have demonstrated a real understanding of the value of having a “truly inclusive workplace”.
“This is a clear and positive sign to their entire workforce that they can bring their authentic selves to work. It is a real sign of the times that one of the country’s most prestigious legal firms sees the value in this sort of work,” he says.