By Fram Virjee and Jim Moore
Often the quietest and least discussed discrimination is visited upon LGBT coworkers. Perhaps it is because, unlike many diverse colleagues who “wear” their diversity in public, our LGBT coworkers must affirmatively “come out” and share who they are. Without the support of an accepting work environment, many LGBT employees choose to remain in the background. As a result, they cannot give themselves fully to their careers.
How do we transform a workplace from uncomfortable and stifling to inviting and productive? For us it began with what was, at the time, the highly provocative notion of providing domestic partner insurance. We incrementally made changes because, simply put, it became personal. Our generally conservative, white, male leadership refused to tolerate injustice to one of their own—a partner who was brave enough and secure enough in the firm to share his diversity. That epiphany lead to domestic partner benefits and recognizing domestic partner relationships for all purposes in employment. It was the result of empathy and kinship and finding value in difference and inclusion.
How can one be so sure of the sea change? Recently a small group of employees suggested O’Melveny create a video to add to the It Gets Better campaign. We leapt at the opportunity and the response was overwhelming. Within hours there were hundreds of volunteers, including an assembly of some of the bravest who were willing to go on camera and tell their stories. Their willingness to step forward was inspiring. As the project was completed and there was a flood of emails saying the project was “the best thing we have ever done” and “my proudest moment at the firm,” there was a realization that our LGBT coworkers were heroes themselves because they felt supported, welcomed, and because they knew they were part of the fabric of our firm.