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Being, Women

View profile for Bethany Isard
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There are so many things to celebrate about being a woman and International Women’s Day focuses on celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. This year, the theme for the UN International Women's Day is 'DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality.

Whilst wearing an item of purple clothing, the team here at Feldon Dunsmore took the time today to write down their thoughts on who inspires them and why, what we would say to our women super heroes and we have given a kind thought to a colleague. Its great to see so many of the team making a difference!

As women in historically a predominantly male dominated field of work, it is important to understand the women that created a precedent for change. The of the two women that come to mind for me are Lady Hale and Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Having excelled in their field, they sought out ways to combat injustice both within their fields and in fields associated with them. They were no less than pioneers.

In 1984, Brenda Hale, the Baroness Hale of Richmond became the first woman to serve on the Law Commission. She led the work which resulted in the Children Act 1989 and the Mental Capacity Act 2005. In 1994 she was appointed a Judge of the Family Division of the High Court. She was promoted to the Court of Appeal of England and Wales in 1999 and in 2004 became a 'Lord of Appeal in Ordinary' in the House of Lords. This was the highest honor until the Supreme Court was established in 2009 where she became its deputy president in 2013 and president in 2017.

In 1956, Ruth Bader Ginsberg was one of 9 females in a 500 person class at Harvard Law School and she faced constant barriers and gender discrimination from even the highest of authorities for ‘taking a man’s spot’. She served as the first member of the Harvard Law Review. Following a brief break in her career to undertake research for her book on Swedish Civil Procedure practices, she became the first female professor at Columbia Law School to earn tenure. She also directed the influential Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union during the 1970s and fought many landmark cases before the U.S Supreme Court before Bill Clinton nominated her to the Supreme Court of the United States.

In recent decades, we have seen a stark turn in the amount of female lawyers who are climbing the ranks. The SRA’s diversity stats currently show that 52% of all lawyers are women. Feldon Dunsmore are proud that our female employees make up 67% of all employees and we will continue to break diversity barriers.

The play Prima Facie was written by Suzie Miller, a criminal defense lawyer working in the human rights sector. It gives an intellectual insight into both sides of the justice system whilst reflecting on factual statistics of current society. The play has sold out night after night and portrays Tessa, a young barrister who defends sexual assault cases, who Suzie comments is an amalgamation of all those people who walked through her doors. Suzie commented “when the MeToo movement took hold and women all around the world started publicly sharing their experiences of sexual assault, she felt like its time had come.” As a young lawyer and a woman, if you haven’t already seen this play, I would recommend it wholeheartedly.

As a society we have seen so many amazing, progressive advances into gender equality through political action. We have explored different ideologies, we have pioneered groundbreaking research, we have broken down stereotypes and we are overcoming victim blaming. To reflect on a few;

The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022, which gained Royal Assent in April last year, has come into force on 27 February. It means that 16 and 17 year olds will no longer be allowed to marry or enter a civil partnership, even if they have parental consent.

We have moved mountains in regards to the body positivity culture, we have seen plus size models and models with a disability so much more than in the early 2000’s.

The #metoo movement took flight when the media and afterwards the authorities raised issue and looked into how women are treated within Hollywood. It called for industry wide change and this really resonated with women from both an entertainment background and in other sectors and encouraged them to speak out against what they’ve experienced. Days after the Weinstein article was published, the me-too hashtag went viral on Social Media and its really showing that we are paying more attention. As Maya Angelou once said “I am a Phenomenal Woman, and for that, I will not bow my head.”

Progressive steps like this are incredibly important as they have shown and continue to show how strong we can be when we come together to create the powerful movements, we are seeing now more than ever. Having spoken about so many triumphs, it would be wrong of me to write this blog without mentioning that there have also been many steps taken in the wrong direction for gender equality and ending violence against women.

In current times it is as clear as ever that we must continue to recognise and discuss inequalities in our society. The overturning of the Roe v Wade ruling serves as a stark reminder that we have a long way to go before sex equality is truly obtained. It has now been decided that the women of America no longer have the right to make decisions concerning their own bodies and health. Already, 13 states (Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming) have introduced trigger laws which have been put in place whilst new laws are passed and there look to be many more to follow. The decision will be sure to enact global political change.

We have all the women that came before us to thank for the great strides we have already taken towards equality and now it’s our time to pave the way for the next generation of inspiring women.

As part of the BBC’s annual coverage of global events surrounding International Women’s Day, each year a list is read containing all of the names of women who have been killed in the UK by men over that 12 month period. Last year, Jess Phillips, Labour’s shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding read the list and recalled how the list the year before ended with Sarah Everard who was murdered by a Metropolitan Police Officer. “Here are the names of the women killed since that so that supposedly watershed moment,” she told MPs. The list included Sabina Nessa, a school teacher from East London who was murdered in the early evening as she walked to meet a friend.

See the full BBC Article here - International Women's Day: Jess Phillips names UK women killed by men

The list of names was compiled by Karen Ingala Smith, who leads the Counting Dead Women project. She commented: “This wasn’t the government doing the work, it was women giving their labour away for free.”

Everyday across the globe, women are denied basic human rights because of their gender and so many women have given their lives for the hope of a better future and they will be remembered and their legacy will continue through all of us.

I will leave you with these words:

“We realise the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.” — Malala Yousafzai, Pakistani activist and Nobel laureate

“I’m sometimes asked, ‘When will there be enough?’ and my answer is, ‘When there are nine.’ People are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.” —Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Georgetown Law School, 2015, on how many female Supreme Court Justices is enough.

Our work should equip the next generation of women to outdo us in every field. This is the legacy we’ll leave behind – Rupi Kaur

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