Women in the Law UK launches Charter for organisations firms and chambers. committed to gender diversity 

• New Charter for firms that demonstrate active commitment to promoting gender diversity and wellbeing in the legal sector launched at last night’s Women in the Law UK Annual Dinner in Manchester
• Winer of inaugural Women in the Law UK essay competition announced.

14 March 2019: Women in the Law UK has marked this year’s centenary of the lifting of the bar on female participation in the legal profession by introducing a Charter for firms that demonstrate realcommitment to diversity and wellbeing. The Charter was officially launched at last week’s (14 March) Women in the Law UK Annual Dinner in Manchester, which was attended by over 300 senior legal sector influencers from around the country.

The Charter recognises barristers’ chambers, law firmsand legal businesses that are actively trying to bridge the gender gap in the legal profession and actively promoting employee wellbeing. Other criteria for awarding the Charter include actively promoting the retention of female talent in the legal profession, actively promoting the progression of women from black and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, and demonstrably supporting the activities of Women in the Law UK.

Sally Penni, award-winning barrister and founder of Women in the Law UK, said, “We have made huge strides as a profession since the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act was passed in 1919, enabling women to practise the law for the first time, and the mood at last week’s dinner was, quite rightly, celebratory.Nonetheless, we still have a long way to go and the time is now right to launch a formal standard for gender diversity in legal practice.

“The Charter both recognises the achievements made by forward-looking firms and provides a benchmark to which others can aspire. I would encourage all legal businesses that are serious about gender diversity to apply and look forward to a time when whether firm has achieved the Women in the Law UK Charter is a key consideration for female lawyers considering a career move.”

The Annual Dinner at which the announcement took place was held at the historic Midland Hotel in Manchesterwhich overlooks the city’s new statue of suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst in St Peter’s Square. Guest speakers included Mrs Pankhurst’s great-granddaughter, the activist and writer Dr Helen Pankhurst CBE.

The other speakers who addressed the event were thePresident of the Supreme Court, Baroness Hale, the retired High Court Judge of the Queen’s Bench Division,Mrs Justice Cox, and the first Asian woman to service as a High Court Judge in the United Kingdom, Mrs Justice Cheema Grubb.

The Annual Dinner also saw the announcement of the winner of the inaugural Women In the Law UK Essay Competition for aspiring lawyers. The subject for this year’s competition was, “What remaining barriers exist for women, and BAME, women in the legal profession and what steps can be taken to see more women leaders in senior roles in the law, in firms and in courts?”

The winner, who received a cash prize and the opportunity to be mentored by a senior member of Women in the Law UK, was 17-year old Yoelle Lalaye, who entered the competition on the recommendation of her mentor from the One Million Mentors scheme. Her essay will be published online at www.womeninthelawuk.com.

Miss Penni, who practises out of Kenworthy’s Chambers in Manchester and is also vice chair of the Association of Women Barristers, said, “The quality and quantity of entries was fantastic, particularly given that this is the first time we have held this competition. The response we received was really encouraging for the future of our profession.

“I would like to congratulate Yoelle on her original, thought-provoking and exciting contribution to this debate. I look forward to seeing her make her mark as her career unfolds over the years ahead.”

The Women in the Law UK Annual Dinner raised money for a number of charities including Prevent Breast Cancer, The Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, the Christie hospital and the Stroke Association. The principal sponsor of the event was the wealth management firm Close Brothers, with the drinks reception sponsored by Lincoln House Chambers, Stowe LLP, The Legal Director Byrom Street Chambers, Munellys group Plc, Clark Wilmott Clerk Red Lion Chambers, SRA and CILEX and Skills Sanctuary as well as support from The Inns and the Circuit. 

Conscious of social mobility and diversity, The event welcomed Students from FLEX and women  on maternity leave and students from non traditional backgrounds. 

Women in the Law UK was founded in Manchester by the barrister Sally Penni to provide support to women at all stages of their legal careers and to address the gap in female representation in leadership roles within the profession. It runs a wide-ranging programme of events in the North West and in the past six months has begun holding regular events in London, Leeds, Liverpool and Edinburgh.

Women in the Law UK’s events are held under the Chatham House Rule, enabling speakers and audience members to speak freely and learn from each-others’ experiences in a confidential environment. Previous events have covered subjects including career progression, why lawyers need to sit on boards, how to network and make it work for you, and what lawyers can learn from inspiring businesswomen.

To book places at Women in the Law UK events readers should visit www.womeninthelawuk.com  or book directly via www.eventbrite.co.uk. Individuals and businesses that are interested in joining Women in the Law UK or applying for the Charter should email womeninthelawuk@gmail.com.

Their conference takes place on 15 November 2019 in Manchester.

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