After my undergraduate at Glasgow I studied an LLM in human rights. This grounding in equality and access to opportunities led me into the third sector and I now work for a social mobility charity, creating opportunities for bright young people currently underrepresented in education and employment. Reflecting on the strides that have been made in gender equality over the past 100 years, it’s exciting to watch the space for social mobility and invisible diversity in the professional world.
What did your legal education at the University of Glasgow give you?
University is unique because it’s such a vast melting pot of different people and ideas. It’s one of the first major opportunities a young person has to step outside the echo-chamber of families and friends and learn to form and articulate their own opinions. Studying a course like law where people are not short of - and happy to offer – these opinions allowed me not only to be inspired by my peers and staff, but to challenge and develop my critical thinking by considering multiple views and outcomes, but also to value robust evidence.
What struggles have you faced as a female in your profession?
In my particular organisation I am very well represented as a woman, and so I’m grateful for the preceding 100 years in making this possible and paving my way. That being said, in my role I meet with a range of professionals in leadership roles and certainly as a younger graduate I can remember instances of feeling awkward or where I couldn’t be sure if this was down to my age, gender, or inexperience. Where there’s doubt I try to attribute this to something within my control and use it as an incentive.
What progress have you seen being made throughout your career?
Early in my current role I met with someone from the Law Society of Scotland who told me, anecdotally, that there are so many young women coming through in Scotland that in order to balance the gender split firms would need to hire only male trainees for something like 5 years. This has stayed with me even a few years on, and it’s hard to think of a better example of progress. The reality of course is that these young women are at the start of their careers and leadership positions are still held by men, so it will take a number of years for significant change.
What progress do you think will be made/would you like to see in the next 100 years for women in law
I hope the next 100 years sees the women joining the legal profession better represented across all levels. In order to achieve this it would be great to see law firms step up their flexible working practices and allow women who might otherwise leave the workforce to raise a family to continue to do both more smoothly. This is something that is true across the entire professional world; family and caring responsibilities still fall predominantly on women who have to juggle multiple hats as the employee, mother to young children, daughter to ageing relatives, etc. Of course men face these concerns too, but there is a reason there are more male CEOs/chairs called John in the FTSE 100 than women at all.
How can men support women in their profession?
Men in law have a rare opportunity - and should possess all the requisite skills – to advocate for women who are not in the room. Men who hold positions of power should be open to acknowledging their privilege and open to working towards solutions. They should be searching for examples of best practice and driving these forward from within. For any men reading, one solution to prevent women leaving the workforce might be offering all employees equal paternity leave. There are examples of success out there that can be learned from and adopted quickly.