Promoting gender equality throughout women’s careers

As an Asian woman in the UK today, diversity and equality have always been important influences – and challenges – in my life.

The life of any lawyer is filled with obstacles to overcome, but there is no denying that the journey is all the more difficult for women.

Unconscious bias undermines the opinions of managers and clients, and a lack of understanding around issues such as motherhood and menopause hampers the reach of many excellent female attorneys across the country.

As a result, too many women are leaving our industry at the associate level and it’s easy to see why.

There are the age-old issues of gender bias – women have to constantly prove their intelligence, pushing for recognition that is easily bestowed upon our male counterparts.

The good news is that understanding of unconscious bias has improved dramatically over my time in the profession, although its complete eradication is still a long way off. But life also creates its own career obstacles for women.

We are losing new mothers who don’t feel like they can “do it all” and other women who have found discriminatory bias – conscious and unconscious – exhausting.

Then, as we age, we face more adversity. Going through menopause causes a plethora of jokes, callousness and masking of symptoms to the point that one in six women who go through menopause consider quitting their job.

The result of all of this is that we are losing a huge pool of talent and experience of women who are leaving the profession much earlier than they should.

According to Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA)more women than men are entering the legal industry, while currently only 30% of management positions, including firm partners, are held by women.

A non-universal experience

My passion for supporting women is rooted in my own experiences.

After the birth of my first child, I took maternity leave. The time I was able to spend with my newborn was invaluable – I don’t regret it, and no woman should regret it – but when it came time to get back to work, I felt anxious. I had been out of the loop for a while, would I need to prove myself again?

I was part of the first generation of my family to go to university and as a British Indian I grew up facing adversity but suddenly having to worry about my professional life because of a milestone personal natural was a mistake.

I was fortunate to return to a supportive company where our culture is based on empowerment that trusts and empowers you to determine how, when, and where you deliver your best work, balanced with your personal and professional needs.

Recognizing that a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work for all of us is a major focus of our inclusion strategy at Moore Barlow, where more than half (56%) of our partnership is female. But we know we still have work to do to ensure equality in a company where 75% of all employees are women.

We take active steps to provide women with the flexibility and support needed to ensure that the life stages they must go through – which their male colleagues do not – are not a barrier to progress. For example, we recently launched our Menopause Support Initiative which includes providing wellness support to those in need.

Green signals

Progress is being made – we are at least talking about the issues affecting the sector – and changing entrenched social prejudices will always take time.

It is important that we signal support where it is available and seek to generate more opportunities to address systemic biases in our workplaces.

I am proud to work for a company that is ready to listen and adapt to the needs of its employees and always seeks to make changes where they are needed.

I remain optimistic that the current small shifts toward greater workplace representation are the tremors before a landslide of change in the legal industry.