Equality Campaigner pur sang
In EQUAL in LEGAL’s Trailblazer series we feature Tiernan Brady. Tiernan is the Director of Global Inclusion at Clifford Chance LLP and he was the executive director of the Equality campaign in Australia and the Political Director of the Yes Equality in Ireland.
“My career has bounced about a lot and has defied all plans but it has always been about campaigning for equality. Before starting with Clifford Chance I was the director of the Australian referendum campaign for marriage equality for LGBT+ people and before that the political director of the Irish Yes campaign for marriage equality. Thankfully both campaigns were successful and they remain the only two countries in the world to introduce equal marriage laws by a public vote. I was the policy director for the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network in Ireland before those campaigns working on civil unions legislation and launched Ireland’s first community based HIV rapid testing service and served as director of organisation to the Tanaiste, (deputy prime minister) of Ireland, Mary Coughlan, and served as mayor of my home town of Bundoran in Ireland, the surf capital of the world if you like good waves!
My guilty secret is I studied law back in university but then ran away to become a campaigner! I surprised myself by ending up in the law when I met the team in Clifford Chance. We talked about how equality and inclusion are a matter of justice and should instinctively be a core value of the legal profession and how we need to reimagine inclusion by using campaigning to achieve it in the sector and in society. We realised we were in total agreement about the new approach and I therefore joined Clifford Chance in 2019.
Set targets, develop role models and implement reverse mentoring
The equality strategy we apply at Clifford Chance has three strands: Change the Rules, Change the Culture and Change the Lined Experience.
The great campaigns require a lot of initiatives – there is no single idea that will create inclusion. From recruitment to retention to promotion, law firms will have different challenges across different groups: gender, ethnicity, LGBT+ etc.
This month we will become the first global law firm to introduce global and regional inclusion targets at all levels of the firm. These targets will have real deadlines and accountability. I believe targets are a catalyst for change and that we will see significant results on gender, ethnicity, and LGBT+.
Whilst some of our initiatives, such as targets, change the rules we also need to change the culture and the lived experience. My favorite initiatives here are reverse mentoring and role models. They allow people to see other people’s experiences and show what is possible. I find reverse mentoring to be the most effective training you can provide.
Equality and Values
The approach we take to delivering equality is that we need to see it as a permanent campaign. We have a goal but there is no finish line, there is no day where we all get to say “we have done it” and just go home. I believe a great campaign requires several principles that guide all the initiatives – We have to make space for people to become campaigners and that involves empowering them not telling them that they are awful people. Nobody ever became an advocate for LGBT equality after being called a homophobe.
What allows people to become advocates is when they see inclusion through the values they already have – fairness, equality, respect and dignity. Great campaigns do not ask people to reject their values or tell them that they are terrible, they allow them to affirm their values and let them see that they are the greatest ambassadors for those values in their own spaces – at work, at home and in their community.
Human stories: Inclusion is not a what, it is a who
Secondly, we need people to understand that inclusion is not a “what”, it is a “who”. The greatest reason people become supporters of equality for people from minorities is when they know someone from that minority. Inclusion then stops being an idea and become Michael or Claire. So we need to present our campaign through human stories that allow people to make that journey.
Make space for conversations and listen to each other
Third, we have to make space for people to have conversations. We know that the world we live in is a bit angrier than it used to be. Social media and media, in general, has played a big role in creating these divisive environments. That means people feel reluctant in workplaces and even in families to ask questions about inclusion issues. It is not because they don’t want to be supportive of equality, it is that they are worried if they ask a question or get the language wrong then people will attack them or think they are prejudiced. This atmosphere is stopping people from having the conversations we need to allow them to become advocates. People feel they need to become “experts” before they can be “advocates” and that is the wrong way around. For each of us to become advocates we simply have to have conversations. Listen to each other and be respectful and empathetic. Our campaigns and initiatives, such as reverse mentoring, are all designed to make that space for people.”
“A permanent campaign delivering human stories through respectful conversations. The great thing is that once you understand that it is not rocket science – we can all do that in our workplaces.”