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#EACHFOREQUAL - HOW BETTER TO SUPPORT WOMEN IN YOUR LAW FIRM

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International Women’s Day is a celebrated holiday in my house. I am a proud mother of an 11-year-old daughter, and I want her to grow up in a world where she knows she can do anything or be anything. She already knows that she is as smart, as tough, as capable as the boys in her class, and I tell her all the time she can be anything she wants to be when she grows up.

However, if my daughter told me she wanted to be a lawyer, this news would cause me concern. A recent study by The First 100 Years project showed that over half of women they interviewed in the legal sector had experienced or witnessed sexual discrimination or harassment in the workplace. Don’t get me wrong, it already infuriates and angers me as I work in the sector, but if my daughter wanted to also enter the field? I would want it to change before she has even left secondary school. 101 years women have been legally allowed to operate in this space, why are we still fighting sexism and struggling for equality? How can we be better?

I have two pieces of advice to my clients on how to tackle these issues: Hire or promote women into positions of power and walk the walk when it comes to your approach to Diversity and Inclusion.

Let’s start with living the values of your D&I practices. Most firms have perfunctory policies on sexism and harassment in the workplace, and indeed they role them out to tick boxes but ask yourself, how often are you reviewing these policies? Updating them? Running awareness campaigns about them? Supporting people who must report using them? How you use and enable your policies, how you enforce them and how you promote them is a big indication of how much they are worth in your firm. If they remain in a draw with little acknowledgement or renewal, then maybe you need to review if you’re reciting procedure rather than taking action.

As for hiring women into positions of power, this one seems even more obvious. According to a 2018 SRA report, women only make up 33% of Partners in the UK. By encouraging women in your firm into decision making positions, there is a fairer representation and a more even playing field for women to influence the policies that affect them. Similarly, many psychological research studies show women to be more compassionate and community-led in their decision-making process, meaning more favourable and inclusive policies for a better range of staff.

I often speak with clients about their culture as it's a big draw for candidates, and it can often be a deciding factor between applying or moving on to the next firm. It is how firms tackle issues such as these that speak volumes about the type of place to work they are. Make sure your firm is strong on their stance in sexism to ensure you’re bringing the right people in.

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