Senior leaders are uniquely placed to communicate an organisation’s commitment to LGBT+ equality. Visibly driving inclusive change from the top lets employees know their organisation’s commitment is authentic, heartfelt and that everyone has a part to play in creating an environment where people can perform at their best.
Georgia Dawson is the Asia managing partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. She is a committed advocate for LGBT equality both within the firm and throughout Asia. Georgia has been instrumental in Freshfields’ LGBT Allies programme (known as Halo Champions), in Asia, establishing partnerships with other professional LGBT networks across the region.
She has worked closely with a range of local organisations and has engaged her team to support pro bono projects to advance LGBT rights. One example of this was Freshfields’ pro bono involvement (along with 30 other investment banks and international law firms) in the case of QT v Hong Kong Department of Immigration, resulting in the landmark decision to recognise same-sex relationships established abroad when granting spousal visas.
Internally, Georgia has led efforts to implement the UN Standards of Conduct for Business.
Through her regular internal updates to staff in the region, Georgia demonstrates her commitment to LGBT equality, highlighting the latest activities and achievements on LGBT rights both inside and outside Freshfields.
Stonewall interviewed Georgia Dawson, Asia Regional Managing Partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Stonewall Global Senior Champion 2019.
What does being recognised with the Global Senior Champion Award by Stonewall mean to you and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer?
Georgia: It’s an honour to be recognised as Global Senior Champion by Stonewall, but I believe that all leaders should see LGBT-inclusion work as a natural part of their role. It should be business as usual.
I think it’s also important to recognise that this award reflects the hard work of a large number of colleagues across Asia and our global firm. From staff with regional remits to team members across every office - we’ve all played a role in progressing the firm’s vision of a truly inclusive place to work.
Why do you think it is important for local and global senior leaders to champion LGBT equality in an organisation like Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer?
Georgia: Championing LGBT equality is crucial because it’s about upholding a fundamental human right - equality - and ensuring people can bring their whole selves to work. Nobody should feel under pressure to pretend to be something they’re not. So for me, championing LGBT equality is a no-brainer – it’s clearly the right thing to do.
At Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer we value excellence. Creating an environment where LGBT staff in all regions can fulfil their potential is integral to our high-performance culture. For global organisations, it’s also about ensuring consistent standards for all staff, regardless of geography. So local and regional leaders need to champion the LGBT equality agenda.
What have been Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s biggest recent achievements in regards to LGBT equality and how has senior leadership supported or contributed to these efforts?
Georgia: In Asia, we’ve been working to raise awareness around LGBT rights and foster an open dialogue within the workplace. This includes starting chapters of our Halo Network, organising activities with staff and community groups, and championing change in the communities in which we work. Each action on its own may feel like a small step, but taken together their cumulative effect is hopefully making a big difference – to both individuals and communities alike. Senior leaders support this work in many different ways, such as committing the firm’s time and resources to LGBT equality initiatives, speaking at events, and working behind the scenes to encourage others to get involved.