International Women’s Day – Celebrating the Women at CJCH

In support of International Women’s Day 2020, we interviewed Fuen, Allison, Sally and Rebecca from our Cardiff, Blackwood, Barry and Bridgend offices to talk about why it is important to celebrate International Women’s Day and how we can achieve gender equality in the legal profession.

Why is it important to celebrate International Women’s Day?

It is important to celebrate National Women’s Day to honour the achievements of women throughout history. We must celebrate the part they have played in minimising discrimination against women and increasing their access to rights enjoyed by men. But also to celebrate women of all backgrounds, ages and cultures coming together for one cause, to strengthen and empower women.

What woman inspires you the most?

A woman who inspired me was Princess Diana. Marrying into the Royal Family gave her a life of material luxury which she could have enjoyed without a care in the world. However, she took it upon herself to use her celebrity status to help as many people as possible. She raised awareness of humanitarian issues. She worked tired for charities and her selfless attitude can be summed up by one of her most famous quotes “Anywhere I see suffering, that is where I want to be doing what I can” She used her immense influence to shine a light on forgotten causes.

What can we do to achieve equality in the legal profession? 

Whilst we have undoubtedly made progress over the years, we are still not where we need to be. The three main things the legal profession should focus on is closing the gender pay gap, raising awareness of unconscious biases and making work more flexible around family obligations.

I think generally women need to support other women. Whilst this might be a cultural problem, employers definitely play their part. I’m glad that CJCH encourages a culture of female employees supporting and empowering each other.

Have you encountered any challenges as a woman in your career?

Yes, however, they are more than visible challenges. Most of them are not obvious and they have more to do with the way in which women are educated and the constrained expectations society has on us. For example, because of this subtle, often unnoticed sexism, women tend to second guess their own judgement, seek external validation or moderate their speech in professional settings. For example, saying “If I may…”, “maybe…”, “perhaps…” before interjecting in a conversation, which is observed less in male colleagues. On a personal note, I have reflected and worked on this, and I invite all women to not let this “invisible” sexism to undermine their true potential.

There are “visible” challenges society still must overcome in order to achieve real equality, one of the biggest being the impact of parenthood on women’s careers, compared to the small impact it usually has on men.

What does women’s empowerment mean to you?

To me, women’s empowerment means nonconformism with injustice and one’s capability to get rid of artificially imposed behaviours.

What do you think is the biggest issue today facing women in your profession?

Starting a family and striking a balance between children and work is challenging, although this is not limited to the legal profession.

There is pressure on returning to work to enable career progression. Although shared maternity/paternity is available, the perception is still that the mother should take the time off.

Ultimately, there is the added pressure that this will impact on career development and advancement.

On international women’s day, what is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about a career? (Or Career in Law)

I am fortunate enough to work in a firm where there is no gender bias, indeed we have an equal split of male and female senior partners, giving me the same opportunity to progress along with my male colleagues.

The historic misconception of gender imbalance has long since passed in most professions and regardless of your choice of profession, I would encourage women to pursue their chosen career and set aside any fears of being overlooked by men.

International Women’s Day & The Equality Act

As International Women’s Day approaches, it is a time to reflect and celebrate the amazing accomplishments of women around the world and how far we have come in advancing the rights of women.

However, it is also a time to refocus on what needs to be done in order to achieve gender equality here in the United Kingdom and around the world.

With this in mind, CJCH’s Charlotte Bardet, (updated) qualified solicitor and software piracy client account lead, examines gender equality in the workplace in relation to the Equality Act 2010. In addition to how the legal profession can improve its record on the pay gap, hiring practices and work/life balance to help reach full gender equality.

What is The Equality Act 2010 and how does it impact the workplace?

The Equality Act 2010 is an Act of Parliament that consolidated and updated over 116 pieces of prior legislation relating to anti-discrimination law in Great Britain (Act does not apply to Northern Ireland) into one single Act.

Prior Acts included: Equal Pay Act 1970, Sex Discrimination Act 1975, Race Relations Act 1976 and Disability Discrimination Act 1995

The Act protects people against discrimination, harassment or victimisation in employment, and as users of private and public services based on nine protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.

What is classed as gender discrimination? What are the differences between direct and indirect discrimination?

Under the Equality Act 2010, you must not be discriminated against because:

  • you are (or are not) a particular sex;
  • someone thinks you are the opposite sex (discrimination by perception);
  • you are connected to someone of a particular sex (discrimination by association).

Sex can mean either male or female, or a group of people like men or boys, or women or girls. This can be a one-off action or caused by a rule/policy. Importantly, it does not have to be intentional – someone may discriminate without realising it or meaning to.

There are four main types of gender/sex discrimination:

  • Direct discrimination – treating someone less favourably because of their sex than someone of the opposite sex would be treated in the same circumstances.
  • Indirect discrimination – when an organisation has a rule, policy or practice which applies in the same way to both sexes but which places someone of a particular sex at a disadvantage to the opposite sex.
  • Harassment
  • Victimisation

There are some exceptions that allow employers or organisations to discriminate because of your sex, including if it is an occupational requirement or if the organisation is taking positive action.

If you believe you’ve been discriminated against in your workplace because of your gender, what can you do

Firstly, complain/speak directly to your employer first to try and sort out the problem informally. Secondly, if the matter cannot be settled informally, talk to Acas (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service), Citizens Advice or a trade union representative.

Use mediation or alternative dispute resolution to try and settle the matter out of court. Finally, seek legal advice and potentially take a claim to the Employment Tribunal for discrimination.

 What are the main things employers can do to build a gender-equal workplace?

  • Train staff, and team managers in particular, how to identify discrimination when it takes place, how to deal with it and how to prevent it from happening again.
  • Ensure that both genders are treated fairly and equally in recruitment, training, hiring and promotion
  • Reassess job specifications for senior management positions and identify what barriers have been constructed which prevents either sex from filling them.
  • Remove the gender pay gap and be transparent about pay. Each position should have a pay bracket that outlines the salary for that role.
  • Prioritise a work-life balance and allow for flexible work arrangements.

Finish the sentence: We know we’ve achieved gender equality within the legal profession when…

My top three would be:

  • Legal letters no longer start with ‘Dear Sirs’
  • It is no longer known as a profession dominated by men in suits.
  • There are as many female partners as there are male partners (CJCH is proud to have gender equality on our board of directors)

Get in touch :

We know that discrimination in the workplace is a sensitive issue and difficult to talk about. That’s why our specialist team can assist you in getting a fair and quick solution. Get in touch with a member of our team today:


Telephone: 0333 231 6405