INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY 2021

IWD: The right to walk alone without fear – what I and other men need to be doing

12 March 2021

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.

Latest blogs & news

IWD: The right to walk alone without fear – what I and other men need to be doing

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.

#ChooseToChallenge this International Women’s Day

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.

The lionesses: how female footballers are tackling equality with pride

When you cast your mind back to last summer, you may have hazy memories of enjoying an aperol spritz during the heat wave, listening to Lewis Capaldi on every radio station, or your attempts to desperately avoid buying plastic bottles and single use cups.

Fathers can be flexible too! Equal sharing of family responsibilities

We all have family responsibilities, regardless of our gender.  Today’s parents typically want to be equally involved in family and parental responsibilities. 

BAME heroines who exemplify #EachforEqual

While great leaps forward have been made and women-led movements have been gaining unprecedented attention and support (see the #metoo movement), minority ethnic women are often left behind as these struggles are compounded with the intersection of their race / ethnicity and gender.

IWD: Ending bias in law firms would also boost productivity

Marcia Longdon, Partner in our Immigration department, writes for The Law Society Gazette for International Women's Day 2019.

IWD: Combatting violence against women and girls - are we there yet?

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.

IWD: A Reflection on 100 Years of Women and the Law

It is impossible to let International Women’s Day pass this year (particularly for a female lawyer) without remarking on the fact that this year will mark 100 years since women were permitted to join the legal, and certain other, professions. 

IWD: The best we all can be

Maybe it was the opportunity to debate anything but Brexit, but the January 2019 release of Gillette’s new advert ‘Believe’ was a hot topic among my friends.

IWD: Guest blog: A day in the life of a wife, parent and lawyer

First day back at work tomorrow. Just like Nina Simone I am ‘Feeling Good’ as I mentally plan the year ahead. Last year’s slate has been wiped clean. In the absence of abject failure, there is always hope. As ever, the plan is to simultaneously be a decent wife/mother/family member, run a house, produce high quality work, develop my career, participate in the community and find more time to live. I propose to take it one day at a time, but tomorrow and the rest of the year will look like more like this...

IWD: Balancing the Bench – Why We Urgently Need More Female Judges

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.

IWD: 100 Years Later - What is there still to be done to achieve balance?

This year marks the centenary of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 which allowed women to enter the legal profession for the first time.

IWD: Celebrating International Women’s Day - because women’s rights are human rights

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. 

IWD: Mumanger

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.

IWD: Women and finances on divorce – show me the money

I meet people of all ages and stages of life going through separation and their knowledge and participation in respect of the family's finances varies greatly.  In my experience, in a long marriage where the wife has stopped working to have children and the husband is the main or sole earner, this impacts on the roles each take on during the marriage.

IWD: Guest blog: Who was Baroness Edith Summerskill and why is she relevant today?

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.

IWD: Speak up now, the time is right

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.

IWD: Unlearning the language of silence

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

IWD: Welcome to the 4th wave of feminism

In a now infamous interview President Trump said "No, I wouldn't say I'm a feminist. That would be, maybe, going too far. I'm for women. I'm for men. I'm for everyone. I think people have to go out ... and they have to win. And women are doing great, and I'm happy about that."

IWD: Guest blog: how to #PressforProgress and get a solidarity economy that works for all

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.

Share insightLinkedIn Twitter Facebook Email to a friend Print

Email this page to a friend

We welcome views and opinions about the issues raised in this blog. Should you require specific advice in relation to personal circumstances, please use the form on the contact page.

Leave a comment

Skip to content Home About Us Insights Services Contact Accessibility