If we are going to truly embrace equity, we must continue to mind the gaps in opportunity and outcomes for those most affected by the long-lasting effects of the pandemic and now the cost-of-living crisis, and strive to include under-represented groups in our seats of power and influence.
When I reflect on my career so far, the road has been far from straight. I recognise that my life choices have meant that I have had a ‘squiggly’ career compromising child-care responsibilities by working part-time for 15 years with my desire to progress my career as well as supporting my partner’s career. I took partnership very late in my career and then quickly took on a leadership role.
When I entered the legal profession in 1996 as a trainee, I was part of a gender-balanced 50:50 split of male and female trainees. The talent I worked with was phenomenal but it was clear that as a group we had a limited number of female partner role models. I am delighted that has changed and that I am part of that story and can provide support and mentorship to others.
The private practice part of the legal profession has been facing challenges in retaining women post-pandemic that has proved to be damaging to the careers and confidence of many women. The mental and physical health impact, the strain of working from home while home schooling and caring for others, the fatigue of back-to-back on-screen meetings with limited opportunity for self-care and focus on personal growth has resulted in a number of women opting out of private practice, changing working patterns or reframing their career goals.
The false pretence that we can have it all is just that. A sustainable career in the law requires balance, realism and support. We need to lift each other up not raise the ladder up behind us, and to support, guide and mentor others to succeed in the legal profession at the highest level.
As executive partner for DWF in Scotland and a member of DWF’s diversity and inclusion leadership team, I have the great privilege of leading and empowering our teams.
DWF was named a Times top 50 employer for gender equality for the fourth consecutive year recently, of which I am very proud. This year’s applicants were assessed on the work they do to remove gender inequalities in the workplace, from flexible working to family-friendly policies to pay, reward, and progression at work.
Over the last year, DWF has introduced a menopause support policy and upgraded family-friendly policies that include enhanced parental leave, among other benefits.