The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day “Press for Progress.” With global activism for women’s equality fuelled by movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp, and the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report finding that gender parity is still over 200 years away, we need to stay motivated and continue to #PressforProgress.
Last week, I had the privilege of being in conversation with Elizabeth Broderick, Australia’s longest serving Sex Discrimination Commissioner (2007-2015), in front of people from our Australian practice. It was a great coup to have Elizabeth as our guest speaker, as she is a powerful and influential voice in the struggle for gender equality and has worked tirelessly to break down structural and social barriers faced by women and men to achieve it.
Elizabeth established and convenes the globally recognised ‘Male Champions of Change’ strategy, enlisting a ‘who’s who’ of powerful male leaders to tackle workplace gender inequality. In September 2017, she was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva as its Special Rapporteur and Independent Expert on the issue of discrimination against women in law and practice. The work she is doing all around the world is truly impressive.
At Norton Rose Fulbright, we’re proud of what we have achieved in the area of diversity and inclusion, while recognising that there is always more to be done. With that in mind, I would like to share some of Elizabeth’s key messages, which are food for thought for any organisation:
- Gender equality is not simply a ‘women’s issue.’ Men need to step up in equal partnership with women, and to speak up in order for change to occur.
- Although law firms are making progress, the legal industry hasn’t come far enough. The focus in law firms needs to be on men and flexible work. No amount of women working flexibly will change attitudes unless men follow suit.
- Women are over-mentored and under-sponsored. Talented women need to be sponsored in order to progress.
- Be bold. If organisations are not hitting their gender equality targets, then they need to throw out the strategy and start again.
- As important as #MeToo is, the campaign does have a negative aspect. Some men fear that their actions could be misconstrued which can lead to women being excluded from important opportunities and information. We need to be vigilant to ensure that women are not being disadvantaged.
I’m confident that the Australian business community, including the insurance industry, can make positive strides in this area if we continue to confront the issues and work together to #PressforProgress.
Norton Rose Fulbright is a proud sponsor of Dive In, the festival for diversity and inclusion in insurance