Monday 8 March was International Women’s Day (IWD), and as in previous years, the firm’s Inclusion Committee organised a range of initiatives to mark the day.
This year’s theme was #ChooseToChallenge. The IWD website says:
“A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day.
“We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.
“From challenge comes change, so let’s all choose to challenge.”
Choose to challenge interview series
The Gender, Parenting and Carers focus group of the Inclusion Committee prepared a series of video interviews with high-profile, inspirational women from business, law and higher education. Each talked about their career, the challenges they have faced and what they still want to achieve.
Lydia Buckingham spoke to I. Stephanie Boyce, Vice President of The Law Society of England and Wales. I. Stephanie Boyce will make history in 2021 as the first Black lawyer and only the second in-house lawyer to be elected President of the Law Society. Stephanie was admitted as a solicitor in 2002 and previously worked in-house at the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. As well as being the current Law Society Vice President, she is a member of the Women Lawyers Division and chairs the Council Members’ Conduct Committee. We were fortunate in 2019 to have Stephanie visit Stewarts in person to view our Black History Month gallery, where she featured as one of our inspirational individuals.
Ama Ocansey, UK Head of Diversity and Inclusion at BNP Paribas, also gave up her time to speak with us, with Funmilayo Kolaru interviewing her. Ama Ocansey qualified as a solicitor in 1999, after an early career swerve from clinical psychology. She later moved to BNP Paribas, working on high-value transactions as senior legal counsel in Europe, Middle East and Africa and emerging markets, as well as spending stints in Tokyo and West Africa. A long-time active advocate for equality and inclusion, in 2020, she was asked by the bank to take on her current role as UK Head of Diversity and Inclusion.
Dana Denis-Smith, CEO of Obelisk Support, and founder of the First 100 Years project, also spoke with Aimee Morris as part of the campaign. First 100 Years charts the journey of women in law since they were first allowed into the profession following the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act of 1919. The project’s legacy will be the creation, for the first time, of positive role models for women in law, a deep understanding of the past combined with a celebration of today, a cross-sector platform for intelligent debate and change and a valuable archive accessible to everyone from law students to High Court judges. First 100 Years’ aim is to ensure a strong and equal future for all women in the legal profession. Stewarts was proud to host the premiere of Lady Justice Nicola Davies’ video story for First 100 Years in November 2019.
Asha Vekaria, also provided us with a written interview. Asha is a Senior Clinical Case Manager (Solicitor), NHS Resolution and Social Media Co-ordinator of the Association of Asian Women Lawyers. She asked us to challenge ourselves, and speak up. Read her interview here.
Challenging imposter syndrome
On Wednesday, 10 March, we invited our colleagues to challenge their imposter syndrome with a Big Speeches Workshop aimed at building confidence with public speaking and connecting to different audiences.
Imposter syndrome is something we hear of many people struggling with. It’s never more present than during public speaking or engaging a meeting of clients, contacts or strangers. Women are more likely to suffer imposter syndrome than men. A study reported in HR Magazine says 54% of women are reported to suffer, compared with 24% of men.
Imposter syndrome is the name for an overwhelming feeling of crippling self-doubt, which leads those afflicted to be more likely to consider themselves “intellectual frauds”. The syndrome is often characterised as a feeling that others have overestimated your abilities and that your true abilities will be found out, along with a tendency to attribute success to external factors such as luck.
The Big Speeches workshop uses the tools of actor training and the performer/audience relationship to increase your confidence, up your presentation game and access the charisma you possess to take your space in any room.
Women and the pandemic: has the conversation changed?
Lorraine Lanceley and Elaina Bailes wrote an article as a part of The Lawyer’s International Women’s Day coverage on the positives of the pandemic for women in the legal profession. They discuss whether the change in working practices and the blurring of lines between work and home could help accelerate change.
The article states:
“Amid the differing experiences and viewpoints, there is one recurring theme which we are particularly interested to explore. For some within the legal profession, there seems to have been a refreshing change in the nature of the conversations taking place. With the blurring of the lines between home and work, it seems professional women and men alike are now discussing the domestic with an openness not previously witnessed in the mainstream.”
Click here to read the full article (subscription required)
Diversity and inclusion at Stewarts
The principles of inclusion, equal opportunity and diversity are important to us. We aim to create an inclusive culture that respects people’s differences and gives everyone a chance to excel at what they do. We believe that this is enhanced by embracing our staff’s different backgrounds and personalities, and creating a positive working environment.
You can find further information regarding diversity, inclusion and equal opportunities at Stewarts here.