Images and perceptions of a career in law for women certainly took a battering this week. It had me reflecting on my career choices. Sometimes the opportunities you DONT take turn out to be very wise.
I received early entry to ANU to do arts/law when I was in year 12. I didnt take up the offer because all my friends where going to Sydney University and I didnt have the confidence to go to Canberra by myself. I instead went to the uni my friends went to and chose pharmacy. It turned out to be a career choice decision I have never regretted. Pharmacy is a career where women are nurtured. I also realised my lack of confidence to go somehwere alone was important to address and have spent my lifetime gaining confidence to do what’s best for me.
Everyone deserves to feel safe in the workplace. I look forward to watching how the world of law makes their field a place where women feel safe
If this article reprinted below by Myriam Robin in AFR this week is anything to go by there is a lot of work to be done.
Baker McKenzie tells lady lawyers just ‘smile’
“It’s been a red-letter week for women in the law. But as Australia’s High Court, under the direction of Chief Justice Susan Kiefel, apologised to the former associates of former judge Dyson Heydon for his behaviour, some struck a rather different note.
On its Australian careers Facebook page, global legal behemoth Baker McKenzie shared a quote from an “inspirational” session held as part of its BakerWomen program.
“Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, and how you leave others feeling after they have an experience with you becomes your trademark,” it said, referencing a recent seminar on “impact, influence, brand and visibility for women”.
Silly us: we’d have thought even a lady lawyer’s success in court or boardroom the key determinant of their impact and influence.
Telling women to smile more is annoying at the best of times, and positively infuriating when the industry’s spent days discussing its systemic sexism. As is often the barometer for these things, can you imagine male lawyers being given similar advice?”
An excellent op-ed in The Saturday Paper by Bri Lee titled Sexual Harrassment in the Legal Profession can be found here
There is clearly a major problem – the solution should be simple
A global survey by the International Bar Association last year estimated that 47 per cent of women lawyers in Australia had been sexually harassed. The president of the Law Council of Australia, Pauline Wright, told The Australian Financial Review, “We know sexual harassment is a leading reason why women step away from the legal profession.”
For the past three decades, women have been graduating from law schools in equal or higher numbers than their male peers, but their numbers thin quickly once they enter the workplace. Research shows the legal profession has higher rates of sexual harassment and bullying than the national average. This problem self-perpetuates and exacerbates. In my time as a judge’s associate, I saw plenty of women, and other good people, leave because of the overwhelming misogyny of the place. Those left behind are more likely to – or be willing to – turn a blind eye to the rot.