In addition to celebrating 295 years of NautaDutilh, we also celebrate five years of ND Globe, our internal LGBTQ+ network. Among its objectives is raising awareness of the importance of diversity in a traditionally conservative field. We asked co-founders Alexander Hijmering and Boudewijn Smit about their experiences.
Alexander: "Some subjects only become ‘normal’ once we start talking about them. Diversity is a good example. Years ago, at the New York office, Elizabeth van Schilfgaarde asked me if I would like to set up an internal LGBTQ+ network. At the time, diversity was not a widely discussed topic. The G-word was rarely spoken, and at most whispered. When you’re in the closet, silence makes the situation more difficult as you never know if it’s safe to raise the subject.
At first, I hesitated. I didn’t know if the firm was ready or why I’d been chosen. But eventually, I said yes. In the months that followed, five colleagues and I took steps that led to the establishment of ND Globe in 2014.
Looking back, I could never have foreseen the changes this network would bring about. Not only within NautaDutilh but for me personally. It has further increased my involvement in the firm and opened the door to many new contacts and networks. I also cannot stress enough how important it was for ND Globe to have received support from the board and the partners – right from the outset. We were given room to build something of which the firm can be proud."
Boudewijn: "I’ve been involved in ND Globe since the very beginning. In fact, I was still a student when ND Globe started. For me, openness is perhaps a more pronounced characteristic of NautaDutilh than for those who have been at the firm longer. I met LGBTQ+ colleagues on my first day at work, so I immediately felt safe and able to be open about my sexual orientation. That feeling of security and support is vital if we want to encourage colleagues to be themselves at work."
Alexander: "A lot has changed in the past five years. There’s more openness, and other forms of diversity are more widely discussed. Regardless of whether someone is gay, wears a headscarf, organises their work differently or is a caregiver, what matters is that the majority gives the minority room to be themselves. Non-LGBTQ+ individuals can become members of ND Globe, take part in an LGBTQ+ tennis tournament, be active in the SPOT group or simply display a rainbow flag on their desk. Support is important."
Boudewijn: "Diversity is also essential when it comes to business development. ND Globe has shown that diversity and inclusion are also important to many of our clients and prospects. For example, we engage with them in the Roze Zuidas Borrel (Pink Zuidas Drinks) and sponsor various events. We are also a member of the Workplace Pride network and have an active SPOT group. During onboarding, we provide diversity training for new employees to make it easier for people to be themselves at work."
Alexander: "When we established ND Globe, we became trailblazers in the legal sector in the Benelux. Many large law firms now have a similar network. And those that don’t, such as smaller firms, can turn to the Stichting FORWARD, of which Boudewijn was the first chairperson. We launched this initiative to enhance LGBTQ+ visibility across the entire legal profession. There are now more than 25 member firms; company lawyers are also welcome to join. We are proud of our accomplishments in terms of raising awareness of the importance of diversity in a traditionally conservative field."