International Women’s Day 2023 #EmbraceEquity

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International Women’s Day 2023 #EmbraceEquity

This year International Women’s Day is all about equity as well as equality. The aim is to commemorate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women all over the world, whilst celebrating the individual journeys that led them there.

Equity is fundamentally different from equality, as it embraces our differences in a way equality alone cannot. For example, where equality would give every woman and man the same resources to achieve a set goal; equity tailors the resources given to each individual dependant upon their unique needs, for people to live in a society that is both fair and embraces autonomy.  

We have spoken to some of the wonderful women of Acuity, to get the conversation flowing…

Claire Knowles is a Partner in our Employment Team. This International Women’s Day Claire has reflected on how the ‘9 to 5’ has changed over the last two decades for women, and what workplaces can do to encourage equity.

Q: What do you think can be done to achieve an equitable future for women in the workplace, and what are some issues that need to be addressed to help more women succeed in business?

A: Where to start! I’ve seen a huge change in how women are perceived and supported in the workplace over the last 20 years, which have been for the better. Yet, there’s still so much more to do! An obvious one is childcare costs that mean women become disincentivised to return to work, or struggle to create a meaningful balance. If the UK had better and more affordable childcare in place, women would be better placed to concentrate on their work and developing their careers. An example of how this works well is Sweden and Denmark, whereas Japan is suffering hugely by maintaining patriarchal views of the role of mothers in work.

Q: Who do you consider to be your biggest female role model and what impact have they had on your life and career?

A: 100% Dolly Parton, I’m a huge fan of her as a businesswoman. Not only is she incredibly successful as a musician and financially, but she’s a keen philanthropist raising millions for children each year. She attracts the devotion of very diverse and often contradictory group of people (the republicans and the democrats!), and she does things in her own style.

Elle McCook is a Solicitor in our Corporate Team and has shared her view on the importance of #EmbracingEquity and celebrating the women who have paved the way for us to do so.

Q: What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

 A: ‘International Women’s Day has been celebrated for over 100 years and was initially born from the courage of 15,000 women marching through the streets of New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights for women. For me, International Women’s Day is about exactly that – celebrating the achievements of women who have fought for gender equality and for the rights of women from all around the world and from all different walks of life. The day is a good time to reflect on the huge achievements that have been made but is also a good opportunity to look ahead at the further work that needs to be done by all of us to create a more equitable society for the next generation of women.’

Harriet Kennerley is a Solicitor in our Commercial & Technology Team and is passionate about encouraging the budding female lawyers of the future to reach their full potential.

Q: What advice would you give to the next generation of women in their legal careers?

A: Focus on finding your strengths and play to those – finding happiness in your job makes day to day life a lot more interesting and rewarding. If you’re interested in a particular sector, do research, go to networking events to build your knowledge and when opportunities come up to get involved with work in that area, you’ll be in a great position to get involved.

Ask all the questions – everyone started somewhere! You should never feel bad for asking questions, even if they feel “silly” to you. You are paving the way for the next generation of strong and confident female lawyers, so it’s expected that you’ll have to ask a few questions along the way!

Be confident in your abilities and be proud that you are a woman in the legal profession – it was only just over 100 years ago the very first female solicitor was admitted to the roll in England, and it’s amazing to look at how far we have come since then, but it’s just as important to keep pushing forwards and continue making progress for women in a profession which is still considered to be male dominated.”

Juliette Franklin is a Legal Director in our Employment Team and looks at the tenacity and strength of her daughters, Courtney and Chloe who inspire us all to ‘be a force of nature.’

Q: Who do you consider to be your biggest female role model and what impact have they had on your life and career?

A: Who is my biggest female role model? The answer to that question takes no thought – my beautiful daughter, Courtney. Courtney often tells me how much I have inspired her to be the person she is today (said whilst blushing!) – what I haven’t told her, or haven’t told her enough, is how much she inspires me to be the person I am today.  Courtney is an identical twin to our other beautiful daughter, Chloe. Tragically, three years ago, at the age of 21, we lost Chloe after a very short illness. In the blink of an eye, Courtney lost a person she was close to, in a way that few could understand. Three days later, Courtney was due to attend her final assessment centre to join the Army. No one would have judged her or blamed her if she chose not to attend. But, she showed tenacity and strength of spirit that I could only dream of, and she attended that assessment centre and smashed it – for her sister. She is now training to be a paediatric nurse and I could not be more proud. I am truly humbled by her and proud of her – she is bold, she is fierce, and she is beautiful. She has taught me that whatever life throws at you, you get up each day and you fight on – no one or nothing should cause you to give up. And finally back to Chloe – she loved art.  We have a stone that she painted – it’s a little haphazard but it takes pride of place in our home. Each International Women’s Day in particular I look to it as a message of inspiration: “Have some fire. Be unstoppable. Be a force of nature”.

Jennifer Butcher is a Partner in our Litigation Team and shares with us how she has successfully broken through the barriers she has faced in her legal career and is committed to inspire others to do the same.

Q:  As a female leader, what has been your most significant barrier and how did you overcome it? How do you inspire and support women in your team?

A: To me, IWD is a celebration of the achievements of women and the steps that have been taken towards gender equality, but also a much-needed reminder of the work that is still to be done. Throughout my childhood and career, I have been surrounded by strong female character and role models (most notably my mum and three vocal sisters!).

Despite this, being a woman in the legal world, which remains dominated by males, has always presented its challenges. Pushing for flexibility in working hours and managing two years on maternity leave during my junior years, whilst simultaneously striving to ‘keep up’ with my male peers, being the most obvious of these. I have also often felt that the expectation of women in the legal world is set lower and that this was something that I had to recognise and fight against. However, I have always been passionate about the importance of women being in leadership positions, for the multitude of skills that they bring – including communication skills, the ability to adapt, and creativity.

So even through these difficult years I made sure I pushed to challenge myself and put myself in positions which were often outside of my comfort zone, to ensure I did everything I could to overcome these barriers. Now as a female leader, I try to inspire by example and nurture confidence in women in my team to do the same, to ensure that in the future we have even more female leaders!

Laura Spence, a Trainee Solicitor in our Employment Team, has shared who she would like to celebrate this international women’s day.

Q: Who do you consider to be your biggest female role model and what impact have they had on your life and career?

A: ‘My mother made the decision to have a career change in her late 30’s in order to fulfil her long-term goal of becoming a nurse. She demonstrated utter determination and commitment to this goal by balancing looking after two children with working long hours in a demanding NHS role, whilst also studying for a nursing degree.  I am strongly of the view that with hard work and commitment, women can achieve their career goals without sacrificing having a family/personal life, and I owe this mindset to my mother.’

Chiara Howfield is an Associate in our Corporate Team. For Chiara, International Women’s Day is about recognising skills and experience- equally and equitably.

Q: What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

A: International Women’s Day is an important day for women in all walks of life; it is about celebrating the achievements of women and raising awareness of equal and equitable opportunities for women. It’s a subject that has always drawn attention but particularly so over the last few years with the gender pay gap reporting. It isn’t about women having better rights or enhanced rights compared to other genders. To put it simply, if women have the same experience, skill set and ability as their counterparts, they should be offered the same opportunities and pay. For me, that’s what International Women’s Day is about.’

In 2023, we can be proud of the strides women before us have taken to allow us the equality we see today- but we cannot be complacent! We must begin to #EmbraceEquity.

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