International Women's Day 2015
The theme for this year's International Women's Day is 'Make It Happen'. The idea is to celebrate women's achievements across the globe and to champion greater equality. This Sunday, March 8 isn't just about women in 2015, it's also about women of the past, and those of the future.
We've asked some of our female Partners and Solicitors to tell us how women 'make it happen' in their fields, for their own personal reflection on International Women's Day.
Making It Happen in Family Law
Kate Donohue-Jones is a family law solicitor
specialising in religious and foreign marriages. Around the world and here in the UK, women often get a raw deal when it comes to divorce and things get more complicated when religious and international observances have to be considered. Despite this, with the right help women can make it happen and move on with their lives.
Katy comments, "It can be very hard for women who require a religious divorce as well as a legal divorce."
"Finding the right people with the support of a matrimonial solicitor who understands the difficulties involved with religious divorces will ensure that the process of separation and divorce can run as smoothly as possible."
"I have advised and worked on many different aspects of separation and divorce with a religious or international element. I then assist my clients to overcome any obstacles which they face and in some cases work with religious groups to find a resolution for my client."
Victoria Walker is a family law partner
specialising in divorce and finance work. She comments, "It's important to retain financial independence where you can, so that you are not entirely dependent on someone."
"Being dependent makes it much harder to end a relationship and start again. If you can’t be independent, perhaps because you are looking after the children then I would suggest knowledge is power. Pay attention to what your spouse does with their money, do you know what investments you have as a family, do you know how much is outstanding on your mortgage? Do you know where he has worked and who he is likely to have pensions with?"
"Having this information makes your lawyer’s job to advise you much easier and means you're unlikely to be ripped off."
Victoria concludes, "Be realistic, the tide is turning in terms of women being supported at home forever, you’ll need to be willing to get a job and earn some money once the kids are at school."
Emma Pearmaine is Director of Family Services
for Simpson Millar LLP, she believes that there is no doubt that a social change has led to a change in approach to family law – those changes are reflective of women empowering themselves, being more financially independent and expecting to be so.
"The recent case where a Judge has suggested a wife should get a job is to be read in context. The courts are trying to approach family law from a starting point of equality. So in the same way that in a children case the courts recognise the positive role fathers now play in the upbringing of their children (very different from our parent's generation), in a divorce case the courts also recognise that women make positive contribution to the household finances, either by working themselves or 'supporting' a partner to work, by taking on the majority of childcare for example."
"In all spouse maintenance cases the courts are objectively assessing a wife or husbands claim for spouse maintenance, based on their 'reasonable need'.
"Thereafter the court will be accounting for a level of income that applicant spouse can reasonably be expected to generate taking into account all the family circumstances, and the shortfall will be calculated."
Emma believes that the job of family lawyers is to support female clients and empower them to lead their lives as best suits them and their families. If a client doesn’t happen to be working because she is caring for the children and the home to enable her spouse to work to provide financially – then that is a division of labour that couple has chosen together. We will fight to ensure she is not prejudiced by that. If in turn she has decided she can work but only part time because she is also meeting childcare responsibilities which her spouse cannot assist with – we will fight for that too.
If in fact she has a long term plan to return to a job and career at some future point we might suggest that maintenance can be staggered to reflect that. If her job and career is such that the opportunity to generate sufficient to meet her needs is limited, we can fight for top up.
As a working mother of two with a demanding career Emma is able to say genuinely to clients that she understands how difficult it is to meet the needs of work and family. This insider knowledge helps to empower clients to achieve an outcome which will enable them to approach a positive future. It will give them financial security, self-esteem and enable them to meet the demands of family life.
Community Care and Mental Health
Angela Jackman is a Partner at Simpson Millar LLP
who specialises in Education, Community Care and Capacity Law. She works closely with individuals and families who are under enormous pressure due to the challenges they face, largely as a result of negative decisions or actions of public bodies.
"Angela advises on appeal rights to tribunals and applications to courts when it is necessary to take these steps to protect individuals’ rights." She believes, "What is really quite striking is the resilience of mothers, in particular, those who advocate strongly on behalf of their children and other family members, often achieving significant outcomes for them."
"Without their input and determination, many vulnerable individuals in society would experience a much poorer quality of life."
Can Women Make It Happen in Health and Safety?
Being proactive in the workplace when it comes to accident prevention and giving injured people access to real justice is a common goal we should be working towards. Emma Costin, Director of Complex Personal injury Claims
had this to say about women getting involved with health and safety.
"Women can and do make a difference by getting involved in these issues on a daily basis in the workplace. They are a powerful voice within the trade union movement much like the Cradley Heath Chainmakers."
"There are more and more women lawyers specialising in claimant personal injury than there have ever been, more women partners, and also more at board level. "
"The next glass ceiling is the senior judiciary and parliament, however we could also do with some support from women in journalism and the press."
Making It Happen In Male Dominated Sports
Although it is 2015, it's poiniant that this issue has come to light again, just days before Intrernational Women's Day. BBC Sport have reported that Carolyn Radford, the Mansfield Town Chief Executive has experienced chanting and abuse from fans. She said that "it's hurtful" and she is made to feel as though she must tolerate it. Because of this, abuse aimed at women in sport is rarely reported or tackled.
Chair of WIF, Anna Kessel also said that "sexism is so entrenched" and that this is accepted, and passed off as "banter". She contrasts this with the zero tolerance policy adopted towards racism in football.
The first woman to referee the World Snooker Championship final, Michaela Tabb, has faced similar opposition. She said that she faced hostility from other referees but this only made her more determined to succeed, "It lit the fire under me, because I thought, I’m going to show you."
These women show that they are facing hostility for the right to be treated equally.
They are making it happen.