Christianah Babajide is a second-year law student at The City Law School. She runs a law blog called Lawcommonroom. You can connect with her via LinkedIn. She attended our Women of Influence Conference, and gives us her views below:
On the 21st of January 2017, the same day as the woman’s march, I attended the Women of Influence Conference hosted by Parliament Street.
Attendees at the conference included world leaders from law, public relations (PR), business, public affairs, technology, media and healthcare. The aim of the conference was to highlight the diversity of women in various sectors and the massive value they add to our economy. In this review, I will be reviewing the Women in Law panel.
Statistics reveal that men are more talkative in interviews and are likely to up play their CV; some even go as far as lying. Despite being more qualified than a man for job, a woman is likely to downplay her achievements and appears unsure in interviews. But why do women behave in this way? ‘The Confidence Code’, written by two journalists, states the main factor hindering women is their own self-doubt. According to Kay and Shipman, confidence is the reason men are getting promoted faster, getting paid more and reaching the senior positions. But where does this self-doubt stem from? From a young age, gender roles are socially structured with traditional subjects like Maths and Science being associated as masculine subjects and soft subjects like food tech being left for the girls. Schools and universities should work together to break down these structural inequalities.
- Sorry Syndrome
Women apologise all the time. The Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) report found that the gender pay gap widens after women have children, positing the question – are women still paying a ‘motherhood penalty?’. The report explains that when mothers return, there is a shift in how they operate; they now have personal responsibilities as a mother and are constantly thinking of their child. This breeds guilt which leads women adopting the ‘sorry syndrome’ – “I am sorry I couldn’t make the meeting” (had to pick my son from nursery). I am sorry, I am sorry, I am sorry. Women need to stop apologising all the time and accept that sometimes work isn’t priority once you’ve become a mother.
- Diversity Quotas
It is common knowledge that gender inequality cripples the legal profession. The most senior positions at law firms, barristers’ chambers and in the judiciary are still overwhelmingly dominated by white, privileged men from Eaton. However, the concept of meritocracy is hugely valued in the legal sphere hence incorporation of quotas by international law firms. However, the quotas debate has divided many women in this profession – with some not wanting to be employed or promoted because of a quota and others being pleased because it evens the playing field. The latter opinion was expressed by most women at the conference who agreed quotas helps women to get their foot in the door, the opportunity to prove themselves and empower other women.
- Female Empowerment
Women should actively support one another because when they do, incredible things happen. Once a woman has managed to break through the glass ceiling and reached a senior position, she should create a platform to aid other women to do the same. Sadly, women in law don’t appear to have a support group and as a result, tend to be the only female in the boardroom. But why is this? Some women at the conference pinned it down to lack of relationship with another female. For example, men support one another because they have bonded at the golf clubs or at the pub, whereas there are few female networking groups for women to do this.
- Time for Change: Advice for Female Lawyers
- Be realistic.
Be aware of the environment you work in and try to come to terms with the misogynistic perspectives men have of women. Recognise where your shortcomings are but always remain true to yourself.
- Pace yourself.
Being a woman is a marathon not a race. Come to terms with the fact that you can’t do everything at once. It’s important to have ambitious goals but to avoid feeling overwhelmed, try to prioritise.
- Be Confident & Assertive.
Women shouldn’t behave like men but they should believe in their abilities and stand up for themselves. Women should refrain from thinking they are gloating by attributing their success to inner qualities like grit or talent. Take risks, ask for that promotion and don’t be afraid to fail.
Equality for women isn’t a women’s issue. When women fulfil their potential, everyone benefits. Equality means better politics, a more vibrant economy, a workplace that draws on the talents of the whole population and a society at ease with itself.