International Women’s Day 2019 – Balance for Better
Cathy Smith, a barrister practising in employment and company law and a committee member of the Irish Women Lawyers Association (IWLA), writes for Irish Legal News on International Women’s Day 2019.
The theme for IWD 2019 recognises that balance is not a women’s issue – it is a business issue. Gender balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive.
The Irish Women Lawyers Association continues to work towards realising balance within the legal professions. We acknowledged last year that achievements to date, while welcome, were not enough. The increased number of women lawyers is not reflected at the higher levels of our professions. We knew that we needed to be more ambitious in achieving real change. It was clear that there was significant work still to do and in IWLA we didn’t want to be an association that simply talked about these issues but one that proactively engaged in change for the better.
In October 2018, IWLA at its annual Gala Dinner launched its new Vision statement: “To be by 2021, the foremost public voice on behalf of women lawyers in Ireland on topical areas of law relevant to women in Ireland.”
To make this vision statement a reality, we commenced an ambitious programme of new work:
- Developing a communications strategy.
- Research commissioned on proposed referendum on Article 41.2 of the Constitution and engagement with other stakeholders with a view to formulating an IWLA position;
- Submission on the Long Term Strategy for the Courts Service.
- Discussions with Kings Inns to explore and develop opportunities for collaboration with IWLA including on an internship programme for Kings Inns students.
- Engagement with the Inclusion and Diversity Committee of the Bar of Ireland.
- Supporting the Law Society’s Law and Women Mentoring programmes.
- Developing our external links through our meeting with the Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia.
Gender inequality is bad for society. It is bad for men. It is bad for women. It is bad for our legal professions. Achieving change is something we can achieve working together especially where so many of us are in fact in agreement as to the advantages that gender balance will deliver. We are unified in our desire to change the imbalances which remain and now is the time for us to actively work together to change the balance for the better. While societal and legislative change is important, the ability to achieve change resides within our professions and within us as individuals. In 2019, IWLA encourages men and women lawyers working together to consider steps which they can take as individuals and within their firms or practices to contribute to better balance in the legal professions.
Perhaps you will choose to mentor a talented woman lawyer? Perhaps when you are looking for someone for a project for a client or filling a committee role, you will consider whether the person you have chosen will contribute towards that balance we all now agree is better for society and for business? You might consider your firm’s briefing policy and consider whether your engagement of counsel represents the gender balance we now aspire to? We all need to consider what we can do to address the reasons that might cause such imbalance. These are the things we as individuals can begin to address with a view to achieving balance.
It is through working constructively together that we can realise these achievements. This was exemplified recently at our celebration of IWD 2019. While IWLA events are always open to all, we were particularly pleased to have in attendance at our special viewing of On the Basis of Sex in the Stella Theatre, some of our esteemed male colleagues including Mr Justice Seamus Noonan of the High Court, Patrick Dorgan and Ken Murphy, president and director general of the Law Society, and Alan Murphy, managing partner at Eversheds Sutherland.
IWLA will continue to work towards Balance for Better but now that we are all on the same page as to the desirability of gender balance for our society and for our businesses, where we work together, we are confident that we will actually achieve this.
- Find out more about the Irish Women Lawyers Association on their website at www.iwla.ie.