IWD: A note from a bloke

3 March 2017

The 8th March is International Women’s Day, and in the build-up we are running with a #BeBoldforChange Campaign in which we publish a series of blogs each day discussing gender parity, and why IWD is still relevant.  Having read the blogs thus far, I am ashamed to see that all of them are written by my female colleagues, so this is my attempt to show some solidarity.

When I read Joanna Yates’ blog about her experiences as a trainee and solicitor it made me embarrassed to think that there are people in this profession who can still act and talk in that way.  It also saddened me to think that there are men who feel the need to comply with such limiting stereotypes.  Personally, I don’t mind standing behind a barbecue, but I have never really understood why it has been such a gender designated role.  I suppose it might be something to do with mighty hunters returning from a day spent chasing down a buffalo, but in suburban North London, where I live, the supermarkets deliver, so you don’t really have to do that anymore.  In fact – and I recognise that I am really going out on a limb here – I generally prefer the salad area – it’s less smoky, and you can join in the conversation.

To paraphrase Chairman Mao/John Lennon, if women really are “the other half of the sky” then it has to follow that IWD is just as important to men as it is to women.  It certainly is to me – the people that I care about most in the world are my wife and two daughters, and the latter have been brought up in the expectation that they should not in any way be disadvantaged because of their gender.

When they were young (20 years ago) I decided to work part time, so that I could be more involved in their upbringing.  Some people thought this was foolish, and others thought it was brilliant.  I just thought it was a good idea, and the mere fact that I was a father and not a mother shouldn’t get in the way of my having both a career and the fullest possible role in bringing up my children. 

On another personal note, the Kingsley Napley Choir will be performing at our IWD event and those of you who have seen us perform will notice that our choir is mostly female.  Sometimes we have as many as three men, but often I am the only one.  I am not sure why this is so, but I suspect that it is another example of the self-limiting gender stereotypes that we tend to impose on ourselves.  Barbecues for men, choirs for women.

Of course my colleagues and I are writing these blogs from a position of privilege.  We live and work in a world where there is a statutory protection against discrimination, and in which good employers know that gender cannot be a barrier to advancement.  In other places that is not the case.  Women and girls don’t have equal rights when it comes to education, work, and the freedom to dress and speak as they wish.  Their lives are simply not as important as those of their male counterparts.

So it might be said that the things that Joanna Yates and I are talking about are “first world problems”, and to a large extent that would be right.  However, it still doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t celebrate all that we have, and remember that we still have a responsibility to lead from the front, and to show that equality is a reasonable aspiration for everyone.

So my message for IWD is that we should think about our sisters around the world.  As for ourselves, if we want to burn some meat on a barbecue, sing or indeed have a career, we should enjoy doing so as human beings, and rejoice in the fact that it doesn’t matter whether you are a man or a woman.

Terrence Donovan is a Partner at Kingsley Napley Solicitors, and the Head of the Clinical Negligence and Personal Injury Department.  He can be contacted at tdonovan@kingsleynapley.co.uk

Kingsley Napley are proud to support the #BeBoldForChange campaign and are publishing a series of blogs to promote discussion around gender and the continued relevance of International Women’s Day. 

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