Hundreds of executives and legal leaders gathered at the offices of Ropes & Gray LLP for the third session of the Out Leadership: U.S. 2018 LBGT+ Senior Summit, sponsored by the firm.
Brad Malt, Chair, Ropes & Gray, kicked off the afternoon: “At Ropes & Gray, one of our proudest moments came in 2015 when we worked with LGBT+ civil rights groups to successfully argue the landmark marriage equality case Obergefell v. Hodges,” said “That Supreme Court decision marked a turning point in America’s history as a nation founded on principles of liberty and equality. For all of us at the firm, it was a profound reminder of what we can accomplish when we work together to advance equality for all our people. We must continue to take advantage of forums such as these to mobilize our energy, thought leadership and resources in support of LGBT+ equality.”
Todd Sears, Founder & Principal, Out Leadership, then launched the Out Leadership Guidelines for Corporate Engagement on LGBT+ Equality: “Because Out Leadership is situated precisely at the intersection between law firms, corporations, and LGBT+ advocacy groups, we’ve had a unique perspective on the rapidly expanding effort to engage corporations around LGBT+ equality. We’ve seen well-intentioned organizations struggle to meaningfully engage around external LGBT+ issues, and we believe the Guidelines we’re publishing today provide a useful framework through which corporations can maximize their impact.
Tiernan Brady, Executive Director, Australians for Equality (middle), Chris Crespo, Inclusiveness Director, Americas Talent Team, EY (right), and Edward (Ted) Jacobs, Partner, BakerHostetler, then offered case studies about corporate engagement on LGBT+ equality issues from the perspective of change campaigns, professional services firms, and law firms, respectively.
“We had this government minister in Ireland. He kept talking about how much he was in favor of BLT equality,” said Tiernan Brady. “He campaigned for sandwiches all over the country, which was great. We had a choice – we could say, ‘That’s terrible. You’ve left out letters. You said them in the wrong order,’ and then we’d lose this brilliant advocate. We’ve created a situation where people feel they need to have a PhD in gay to talk about gay. And we have to make it clear to them they don’t, that all they have to do is care about the person who is working beside them.”
Ted Jacobs, Partner, Baker Hostetler: “As a law firm, as business organizations, we struggle with diversity. Despite best intentions, if you look at law firms across the country, we are abysmal in terms of statistics. And our clients – including many of the companies represented here today – have incredible power to influence that issue, if you choose to use it. Ask our senior global management, “How many LGBT+ people are staffed on my cases?” There’s a lot of talk about it. A lot companies say they want reporting, they want statistics from their law firms. But is that enough? What are you doing with those numbers? Are you demanding accountability? Are you looking at the actual staffing of your cases? Are you seeing which associates are actually doing the work? Hold us accountable.”
(Hilarie Bass, Jim D’Sidocky, Kymberly Messersmith, Sally Susman, Amin Kassam)
Amin Kassam, Chief of Staff and Senior Counsel – Legal and Compliance Department, Bloomberg L.P. then moderated a panel discussion of business leaders who have led corporate engagement efforts within their firms.
Kimberly Messersmith, Managing Director, Political Risk and State Government Affairs, KPMG: “If we have clients are not happy about where we stand on LGBT+ equality, we say, ‘It’s a civil rights issue. What part of this do you not understand?”‘ And if a state doesn’t want do business with us, and we’re your state auditor, what are you going to say? ‘Oh, I’m sorry. We’re not going to work with KPMG anymore because it was a civil rights issue in their mind and not in ours.’ What are they going to do? Go to one of the other big three? Because the other big three stand where we stand as well. We’re pretty firm in our position.”
Hilarie Bass, President, American Bar Association; Co-President, Greenberg Traurig, LLP: “I think we should all recognize the elephant in the room, which is the consequences of not speaking out. I talk a lot to lawyers all over this country. And I tell them all the time that I think lawyers are being held in higher esteem today than they used to be because our citizenry recognizes that our democracy is not self executing, that people have to act to protect it.”
Sally Susman, Executive Vice President, Corporate Affairs, Pfizer: “If you’re in a big organization or you’re in a small organization, I guarantee you don’t know what everyone is thinking. Somebody in your organization thinks differently, and you can’t assume that you know their views. And that’s why these decisions have to be rooted in our I root everything in our values. I went to our research facility in Cambridge, Mass. and on of the scientists asked me whether we were going to support the March on Science. Nobody used to ask us if we supported this march or that march. But it’s a highly charged question. It’s not just, ‘Are you going to the bake sale?’ You’re going to make friends and enemies however you come down, so you have to make sure that your decision is rooted in a framework. But it’s a tricky, tricky space, which makes it incredibly interesting, too.”