IWD: A recap of our actions (not words) and pledge for the year ahead 

By Caroline Hill 

International Women’s Day can be a fairly divisive topic: some people think it’s important to mark the occasion and celebrate the amazing women in our industry and lives, and some find it downright patronising. City AM ran an article on 6 March with the very headline ‘International Women’s Day: Is it Patronising?’ presenting opposing views between the two women interviewed. Freelance journalist Ella Whelan said IWD is run like a PR day for girl power, which, apparently, is a negative thing. 

For me, International Women’s Day is an opportunity to account for the actions that we have taken towards improving diversity over the past year. Talk is a little cheap, in this context, but what is needed is very frank dialogue about the work we have done; what we could do better; and what we pledge to do in the year to come. IWD has the potential to become something of a global audit where we can both hold leaders to account and celebrate their achievements. 

At Legal IT Insider, there a couple of things I’m really proud of, and one is the event that I launched last year in partnership with Cosmonauts called The Say Gap, which teaches women in the legal sector to speak in public and be more confident and visible. Among newly-qualified solicitors, 64% are women. By the time you get to partnership, the percentage of women drops to 33%, and among equity partners that figure is 25%, according to the most up to date data. There are lots of factors at play here but my mission is to help more women stand up on stage; contribute to articles; and be heard loud and clear. Too often women are not putting their hands up because they are afraid to fail, and there is plenty we can do to help change that. If you are interested in finding out more or registering for the next Say Gap event towards the end of this year, see https://www.thesaygap.co.uk/ 

Another thing I’m proud of is Legal IT Insider’s collaboration with Netlaw Media’s diversity initiative DELTAS, which aims to promote and encourage inclusiveness and diversity in all aspects of IT and security by nurturing younger generations. Let by Netlaw Media’s CEO Frances Anderson, DELTAS does some great work in organising law firms to host children for educational sessions; sending people to visit schools across the UK; and providing hardware to schools that in many cases have insufficient resources. I personally need to do better at going into schools and speaking to children and pledge that by this time next year, I will report back on school visits. If you want to get involved (I encourage you to do so) take a look at https://www.deltassociety.com/

As a publication, we don’t hold back in identifying things that are not good enough or plain wrong. That was the case recently when a large number of women spoke up about harassment they had been subjected to at legal technology conferences. The accusations followed LegalWeek in New York in January but the problem is widespread, and our article shining a light on the problem has been a springboard for many conversations. We support the creation of a code of conduct for event organisers that holds attendees to a high standard of behaviour wherever they are, either within the conference venue or at offsite gatherings. 

Lastly, I personally am always on the lookout for opportunities to promote women, and initiatives that support women. In January, I interviewed Andrea Markstrom, CIO at Schulte Roth & Zabel about the first i.WILL summit at the start of February and was delighted to hear that they had incredible attendance and will be running the event again. i.WILL is a professional women’s networking forum in NYC, New Jersey and Minnesota, which provides a forum for women to connect, inspire, and conquer. If you want more information on joining, contact Andrea – https://www.linkedin.com/in/andreamarkstrom/  

We can all do more. The law needs to have a truly diverse voice in order to achieve great decision making. As a publication we want to make a difference, so please get in touch if you have ideas.  

Until next year.