This year, Barclays invited Senior Associate, Jenny Atkin, of St James’ Square Law Firm, to speak at their International Women’s Day event, held at the Hilton Hotel Newcastle Gateshead.
As 2019 marks the centenary of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 which allowed women to become solicitors, barristers, magistrates and jurors for the first time, the event was the perfect opportunity to celebrate this anniversary.
Jenny used #BalanceforBetter, the theme of this year’s International Women's Day, to talk about the history of women in law and how far they have progressed within the profession over the century.
She also drew upon on her own personal experiences whilst studying and working in the legal sector.
Jenny highlighted several key moments for women in law during the century, including the first female law lecturer, barrister and solicitor in 1922 and more recently, Lady Hale becoming the first female president of the UK Supreme Court in 2017.
A particularly interesting statistic that she drew upon was that in 2018, women made up circa 50% of practicing solicitors in private practice and in-house. However, there is less than 30% of women at partnership level in the legal sector.
According to The Law Society, the main barrier to this career progression for women is unconscious bias. Jenny explained how it is important for everybody, men and women, to recognise when they are experiencing and participating in unconscious bias as it is this awareness and education that will help towards a positive change of #BalanceforBetter.
Jenny articulated some important messages in her speech about the successful collaboration of both men and women in the legal profession towards #BalanceforBetter and did all at St James’ Square Law Firm incredibly proud.
The other brilliant speakers at the event included the inspirational ‘The Life of Reilly’ who talked about raising awareness of autism, Sarah Callendar from Duo Global Consulting who ran an exercise about work-life balance for the audience and Dr Joanna Berry, Durham Business School who discussed what "I’m fine" really means.
Thank you to Rachel Bell from Barclays and Lynn Proud from the Hilton Hotel Newcastle Gateshead for co-hosting an excellent event.
To find out more about the journey of women in law since 1919, visit The First 100 Years Project at first100years.org.uk – supported by the Law Society, Bar Council and CILEx, the new digital museum is made up of 100 video stories to celebrate all women in the legal profession.