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In November 2020, Kingsley Napley organised a firm wide two week “step challenge”, tasking members of the firm to see how many steps they could do over that period. A bit of healthy competition, an opportunity to get away from our desks or dining tables, and a charitable donation by the firm if over 4 million steps were walked, jogged or ran by the end of it.
I took part in the event and threw myself into it, walking over 370,000 steps. Due to a busy caseload, those steps were predominantly done on weekends and weekday evenings, across familiar and unfamiliar parts of north London. All of my weekday evening walks were done in the dark, on my own, often for 2 or 3 hours at a time. I frequently walked with headphones in, listening to music or a podcast, switching off from the day’s work and not 100% attune to my surroundings. The streets were usually empty, with shops, restaurants, pubs and bars closed due to the pandemic.
Looking back, I don’t remember questioning my safety at any point. And to be honest, I certainly didn’t recognise that it was actually a privilege to be able to walk at night alone without fear.
Following the tragic events of this week, I have thought back to those two weeks and considered how my position might have been different if I was a woman. I now recognise just how incredibly ‘normal’ it has become for women to be warned against walking alone at night, which is something I have never had to consider as a man. This dichotomy between the experiences of men and women has been made clear by the reaction across traditional and social media. For example, a Guardian article published on 10 March 2021 stated as follows:
“Everard’s disappearance prompted an outpouring from women deeply distressed by the story, expressing that they did not feel safe and sharing their own experiences of sexual harassment, abuse and being made to feel scared and unsafe in public spaces. And this was often despite them having gone out of their way to avoid potentially unsafe situations, many pointed out. Examples of female hypervigilance include taking lengthy detours and sticking to well-lit streets, talking on the phone as a deterrent, clutching their keys, and wearing comfortable shoes in case they need to run.”
This dichotomy was echoed by a male friend of mine, with whom I was discussing the Guardian article. He said something like this:
“Having grown up and lived in East London, I’ve had many moments, such as walking home at night from the tube in the dark, where I’ve been approached by a stranger and I’ve felt scared. But I’ve never once had to question whether it might be me that they want. At worst I’ve thought that my phone and wallet might be stolen or I might be beaten up.”
Female friends and colleagues with whom I’ve spoken have all, at one point or another, had to: change their route; run; go into a shop, station or other safe indoor space; call or pretend to call someone or share their live location; cross the road (or even walk in the road to avoid dark areas); plan alternative routes; consider their shoes and outfit; tell people where they were; put keys between their fingers and consider how they might defend themselves if attacked; and let someone know they got home safely. They all speak of having done these things as if part of ‘normal’ life.
So what does this say for me and other men? Now is not the time for defensiveness and trotting out the old ‘not all men’ trope. We need to recognise the substantial gender inequalities that still exist and that violence against women by men is still very much a major public issue. We need to listen to women who share their thoughts and experiences and take those issues seriously. We need to stand in solidarity and amplify women’s voices. We should be doing what we can to help and acknowledge the privilege we have simply by virtue of being men. We cannot just sit back and take note; we need to be actively engaging in conversations with other men about inequality and challenge and call out behaviour by other men when we see it. We need to ask ourselves honestly whether we truly do those things, because we have a responsibility to do so. We cannot simply pay lip service to these issues.
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Following the tragic events of this week, I have thought back to the past two weeks and considered how my position might have been different if I was a woman. I now recognise just how incredibly ‘normal’ it has become for women to be warned against walking alone at night, which is something I have never had to consider as a man. This dichotomy between the experiences of men and women has been made clear by the reaction across traditional and social media.
Kingsley Napley continue to support International Women’s Day to help forge a more gender equal world. As a firm we pride ourselves on having a workforce made up of over 69% women, with more than 50% in the partnership. However, we know that much work still has to be done in the legal sector and beyond.
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The Home Office has this week published an updated version of the Government’s Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG) strategy. The VAWG action plan was first introduced in 2016 and this week’s refresher outlines 54 key measures the Government plans to implement to support those women and girls affected by violence.
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The judicial profession in the UK is lagging behind on the journey towards gender equality. A 2016 study by the Council of Europe found that only 30% of professional judges in England and Wales were women. Only two Member States had worse records of employing female judges than the three constituent legal systems of the United Kingdom (England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland). This blog looks at the importance of balancing the bench, reflects on the achievements of pioneering female judges and considers what can be and has been done to ensure more women enter the ranks of the judiciary.
This year marks the centenary of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 which allowed women to enter the legal profession for the first time.
People ask why, 100 years after (some) women were given the right to vote, International Women’s Day is still celebrated. The results of Kingsley Napley's survey reveal that 85% of us think the purpose of IWD is to discuss what remains to be done to achieve gender parity. In terms of what does still remain to be done, you simply need to flick through this year’s IWD blog series to get an idea of just how wide ranging the issues are.
As mothers to young children and Supervisors in the finance department we often find that these worlds collide. We have acquired a set of skills that are transferable in the workplace and particular in the management of time and people.
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The other day I discovered the story of an impressive and yet little known woman in politics. What struck a chord wasn’t just how qualified she was, as a doctor, but also how young she was when she entered public life, at just 32.
We’re lucky. We’re a top 100 law firm with a female Managing Partner and female Senior Partner. Over 75% of those who work here are women. More than 50% of the partnership are women. Half the firm’s management team are women. The statistics are good. We are certainly unusual in professional services.
Oprah’s 2018 Golden Globes speech was widely praised, even sparking now denied rumours of a potential 2020 presidential run from the American icon. Her speech was made in the context of women speaking up about sexual assault
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Since 2001, Ogunte has been developing expertise in supporting women in social enterprises and the solidarity economy to help grow their operations, their impact and develop their leadership.