In the year of high profile women's movement campaigns such as #MeToo and Time's Up, gender equality has certainly been on the centre stage in the mainstream media. InterLaw Diversity Forum spoke to several women lawyers and allies to find out whether these campaigns are making a real impact in the workplace. In the second in our series, we speak to Alex Storer, Diversity & Inclusion Adviser at The Law Society.
(Left to right: The Law Society’s Diversity & Inclusion Team: Alex Storer, Jerry Garvey, Rebecca Blackwood, Jane McDonald, Chris Seel, Sarah Alonge and Leila Lesan)
Do you think high profile gender equality campaigns such as #MeToo and Time's Up will help progress gender equality conversations in the workplace?
AS: We are now getting used to the power of social media and high profile campaigns such as #MeToo and Time's Up have proven to be a great way to give a platform to issues that have remained invisible for too long. However, I think that there is a real risk that while awareness is raised in the digital world, very little happens in the real world to tackle the root causes.
Of course it is really encouraging to see celebrities wearing the Time's Up badge at the BAFTAs, but I wonder what happens after they take that badge off at the end of the night. Some, hopefully many, will continue to be real advocates and campaigners for gender equality, but some, unfortunately, will think they’ve done their bit. It is important we make sure we capitalise on these high profile campaigns and convert their potential into tangible changes in the workplace. This will take more than a tweet or a badge, but it’s a good start.
What can gender equality allies do to help advance women in the workplace?
AS: As with any other “minority rights” issue (whether is LGBT+ or BAME), allies are crucial to achieve equality. Without allies we wouldn’t be able to shift from a space of segregation and ignorance to one of understanding and inclusion. So, the first step for gender equality allies is, in my opinion, one of education and awareness. Only by understanding more about the issues women face in the workplace and, crucially, about the benefits that equality brings for everyone, can men become effective allies and advocates who can help us achieve true gender equality.
What are you/The Law Society doing to celebrate International Women's Day?
AS: Personally, I am celebrating it by learning more about the many female role models that have shaped the legal profession in the last 100 years. The first 100 years project is really a great source of information for that.
As the lead adviser for Gender Equality, I am also using this celebration as an opportunity to push for more internal dialogue on key issues that still affect too many women in our profession, starting with sexual harassment and the gender pay gap.
Finally, I ensured The Law Society marked IWD 2018 by hosting an empowerment workshop (7th March) and an inspirational evening event (8th March) featuring speakers like our VP Christina Blacklaws and the recipient of the Women of the Year 2017 Award, Sue Millar. This event will also offer delegates an opportunity to find out more about groups and support available to them, including our Women Lawyers Division, LawCare and the InterLaw Diversity Forum, just to name a few.
My final thought: though we all must take time to celebrate IWD this 8th March, we mustn’t think that this is anywhere near good enough. Gender equality is not something that can be achieved in a day, we all must continue to campaign, educate each other and create spaces for an inclusive dialogue that will, eventually, allow us to achieve the equality we all aspire to.