A new frontier in the boundary between professional and private life – solicitors’ undertakings
International Women's Day 2019 fell in the year we are marking one hundred years since women were allowed to qualify as solicitors.
To celebrate this, I have been involved in a number of round table events which were run by the Law Society in an initiative championed by Christina Blacklaws. Women met to talk about their experience of being a woman in the legal profession and asked a number of questions, but the one that interested me the most was, 'have we progressed and have things changed?'.
I met incredible women who I could have listened to for hours. I also, unfortunately, came across women who were just starting out in the profession and had already gone through experiences that made me sad and angry.
I heard of many BAME women being called by their colleague's name, because the firm - apparently - couldn't tell them apart! I heard of women not being recognised for work they contributed to because 'they thought it was the other Chinese woman who did it'.
Worse still, the firms they worked for were well-known and I think that was the part that saddened me the most – that these stories are everywhere and can be found in firms of all sizes.
They asked the more experienced women what they should do in such situations. Some advised the women to 'call the person out'. Others felt it was part of what happens and said they should do nothing – just get through the training contract.
Respondents spoke of having a ‘work face' and not being able to be their true selves at work.
These stories were mixed in with other – sadly – typical stories of bias such as, 'I've just got back from maternity leave and feel that my career won't progress, because I've been looked over for promotion'. 'I feel guilty if I have to leave work early to go and do the school run, but when my male colleague does the same he is applauded for being a hands-on dad!'
Despite these stories, there were many fantastic and amazing tales too, and gender equality in the law has most definitely progressed over the years. I heard many women talk about the fact that firms had been operating unconscious bias training for all levels of fee earners, including partners, and this had a noticeable impact on how women were treated in the workplace. There were specific programs introduced to encourage new mothers to return to work, and career paths for those - typically women - who had taken career breaks.
I am incredibly fortunate to work for a firm that has at its helm an inspiring woman as our managing partner, as well as a mostly female partnership. We are listed in this year's The Sunday Times best companies to work for, ranked at 16th in the country.
I was the first BAME partner, but since then we have a lot more. This is how we have grown organically and it has always been based on merit. I appreciate we are a minority in the profession but I believe that over time, more and more women will hold senior roles.
Why? Because multitudes of evidence that having a more balanced workforce leads to greater productivity. Law firms recognise that they are required to mirror their client base and, as we operate in such a global environment, questions are raised in legal tenders as companies want to know the makeup of your workforce, what policies you have on diversity and if you are an inclusive employer. If you are not able to answer these questions positively then you are likely to lose out.
I tried to find out who was the first BAME woman to go on the roll as a solicitor and I still don't know! I describe myself as having three 'strikes' against me to deal with. Firstly, I am black, a woman and from a working class background. All of which I embrace and am so proud of because this is how I was made.
My message to those reading this is: always be proud of who you are and what you have achieved. As Oscar Wilde said, 'Be yourself; everyone else is taken'.
IWD is an opportunity to build on the progress that has been made towards gender parity and to celebrate the achievements of women on a global scale. This year, #BalanceforBetter.
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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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.
Marcia Longdon, Partner in our Immigration department, writes for The Law Society Gazette for International Women's Day 2019.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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
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."
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.
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