Article by: Kate Price, Deputy Chair, ACC Australia Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Committee
International Women’s Day, or IWD, is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, with a specific focus on rapidly increasing gender parity. Even in 2021, gender parity in Australia is a long way, no matter how you count it:
- The salary gap is increasing, and up to 15% in 2020*
- Fewer than 20% of CEOs in Australia are women*
- Up to 47% less in superannuation accounts than males#
A little closer to home, in the legal industry in Australia:
- Just less than 2/3 of graduate lawyers in 2019 were female~
- About 1/3 of non-equity partners are female~
And while we should celebrate the improvements in some areas of our industry, the 2018 IBA survey into bullying and sexual harassment in the legal profession shows us that there’s a lot of work to do – so this IWD, my challenge is how to actively respond to the IBA findings, like 1 in 2 women reporting bullying and 1 in 3 reporting sexual harassment, and the smaller number of women in senior roles, I think there are broadly 3 ways to think about how to challenge myself.
1. What can I do myself?
I want to prepare myself to be an active bystander. How many times have you come up with the perfect response later that day? I am going to prepare, and practice, responses that will work in response to ‘those’ jokes, unwelcome comments or throwaway lines. I #choosetochallenge myself to speak up.
2. What can I do as a client of law firms?
Inspired by many others who have gone before me, I need to be more active in asking for diversity from any law firm I work with. If you’re looking for an inspiring call to action, check out the recent open letter from Bradley M. Gayton, senior vice president and general counsel of the Coca-Cola Company, who sets out a number of specific actions panel firms need to take to continue to work with Coca-Cola. You could #choosetochallenge your panel firms for data on diversity – why not ask what’s available, and think about what would be useful to you in deciding which firms to work with.
3. What can I do as a member of the broader legal profession?
I’m involved in the ACC Australia DEI Committee, and as a fairly new committee, the challenge this year is to find our voice and focus, so keep an eye out on future ACC Australia newsletters for developments on this front.
It’s time to #choosetochallenge and whatever your challenge, why not strike the pose (with your hand high to show your commitment to choose to challenge inequality, call out bias, question stereotypes, and help forge an inclusive world) and submit it to the IWD Gallery here.
*WGEA Gender equality scorecard
# - Per Capita, the Herstory of Superannuation, Aug 2020
ACC Australia is committed to promoting a diverse and inclusive in-house profession and has created the Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DEI) Special Interest Group. If you are interested in participating in the special interest group or contributing ideas, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.