The latest news from Women Lawyers of Western Australia (Inc.).  If you would like to submit an article or news item, please Contact Us.

According to this article written by Angela Priestly and published today on Women's Agenda, the 'Next Big Thing' is about all the great new things that technology can do – as heard by a line-up of (mostly) men.

In April 2015, the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre will host The Next Big Thing Summit. This summit brings together "the world's foremost thinkers, innovators and business strategies" to discuss, presumably, the next big thing.

It just so happens that 93% of those "foremost thinkers" are male. Just one woman, Digivzer CEO and co-founder Emma Lo Russo, is listed next to the 14 men. There are two four-person panels on the program, neither of which feature any women. Seemingly, only men are privy to "the next big thing" – despite the fact women make up half the population and are using technology and social media at the same rate as men.

It's men like technology innovator Mark Pease who can help the 'next big thing' in conferences, summits and events get their gender balance right in the future.

Over the weekend, Pease wrote at The Register that he's taking a stand against 'sausagefests'. "I won't be speaking or even attending events where women have been forgotten, excluded, or ignored," he said.

As he later told Women's Agenda sister publication StartUpSmart, the turning point came during #gamergate, and he's publicly taking a stand because otherwise he will merely be part of the problem.

Pease joins a growing list of men who are speaking out about male-dominated events. Late last year, Sex Discrimination Commission got 21 senior executives and public servants to sign her 'panel pledge', including Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, Macquarie chair Kevin McCann, Chief of Army Lt Gen David Morrison, ANC CEO Mike Smith and Telstra CEO David Thodey.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

The Law Council of Australia has just released Australia's gender equality scorecard with the key results from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency's 2013-14 reporting data.

This report examines findings from the comprehensive gender data provided by Australian employers and provides an overall statement in the introduction which says:

"Lifting female workforce participation and closing the gap in earnings between women and men is a significant national productivity imperative. At an organisational level, employers increasingly recognise their future growth depends on their ability to maximise the full potential of the best female and male talent."

Dismantling the cultural and structural barriers that limit women's ability to engage in employment and then progress to leadership roles is central to achieving gender equality. This endgame depends, in part, on employers establishing the strategies and initiatives that are known enablers of gender equality, and then tracking their impact."

The report surveyed more than 11,000 employers and 3.9 million employees. Some of the key results include:

  • Women comprise only 26.1% of key management personnel (KMP) positions and 17.3% of CEO positions
  • 33.5% of employers have no KMPs who are women and 31.3% of organisations have no "other executives/general managers" who are women
  • Less than one in ten organisations have set a target to lift the number of women around the boardroom table despite only 23.7% of directorships being held by women and just 12.0% of charis being women
  • 19.9% the gender pay gap for full time base remuneration; 24.7% the gender pay gap for full-time total remuneration
  • Only 13.6% of employers have a strategy for flexible working and only 13.2% of employers have a strategy to support employees with family or caring responsibilities
  • Less than one in four employers have conducted a genmder remuneration gap analysis to check for potential pay equity issues
  • Few employers are taking a startegic whole-of-enterprise approach to gender equality, Only 7.1% of employers have a standalone overall gender equality staretgy

Click here  to read the whole Report Card on the Law Council's website.

WLWA agrees that used to its full potential, the data in the report will be a game-changer. A high-level overview of the data is outlined in this report with a more comprehensive dataset available online at www.wgea.gov.au via a powerful data visualisation tool. Critically, employers will have access to their own customised, confidential benchmark reports that map and track their performance against the comparison group they choose.

WLWA are excited to use the data in this report to assist in implementing the recommendaitons of their 2014 Gender Bias Review Report available here. 

Should you be interested in joining the Gender Bias Taskforce Implementation Committee  or one of our working groups, please Contact Us to submit an expression of interest setting out the working group that you are interested in joining and your full contact details.

 

 

In an article published today on Women's Agenda, Anna Spargo-Ryan addressed the danger of Mark Latham's column which attacked both feminists and those suffering from mental illness (published on the Australian Financial review yesterday) and addressed in a WLWA newsflash here.

Spargo-Ryan attacked Latham's column for reinforcing the stigma surrounding mental illness in Australia and relayed her own encounters with mental illness explaining how her dad felt the horror of not knowing his father was contemplating suicide before it was too late as well her own experience with Post Natal Depression. 

She talked about the importance of starting a conversation with someone and how sharing stories on her online blog helped her to realise she wasn't alone and reinforced how vital community is to address mental illness.

"Reduction in stigma only happens when people feel confident that they can speak truthfully about what's happening to them. Sometimes it takes a brave person to come out first, but once that person does, and another person does, and another person does, we begin to have a conversation. We start to educate people through real life, to help them understand that depression is not a weakness, that anxiety is not always rational, that being a person with a mental illness is not to the exclusion of all other things.

And when we do that, the people who can find us and see us and know us are the people who haven't felt that they can speak up, thank you internet. People at bus stops, people in dark rooms, people at work, people on holiday. People who are experiencing some kind of lapse in their brain function, whether permanent or temporary, who aren't alone anymore, and who can see a way forward." - Spargo - Ryan

SANE Australia has something to say about stigma: Stigma in the media is especially harmful because the media plays an important role in shaping and reinforcing community attitudes.

The words used by Mark Latham in his column yesterday included: "How will the children feel when they grow up and learn that they pushed their mother onto anti-depressants? Women I speak to in western Sydney, who have no neuroses or ideological agenda to push, regard child-rearing as a joy."

WLWA agrees that the reintroduction of stigma surrounding PND – during PND Awareness Week, is a dangerous activity and could be risking women's lives who are on the cusp and haven't started a conversation about their internal battles yet. Spargo-Ryan asks the reader to imagine: a woman with a month-old baby, who is sitting on her couch and feeling nothing. Maybe she realises she needs help. Maybe she's even thinking about getting some. Then she reads something from someone in the national media that tells her she's got it all wrong. That if she were an even half-decent person, she would find child-rearing a joy. That the author of that piece is a strong and real parent because he doesn't need any help. That the only kind of parent you can be is an able, capable, joyous one.

Suicide is the leading cause of maternal death. WLWA calls for it's readers to use this debate to work together and help remove the stigma attached to mental illness by supporting both women and men who may be suffering in silence.

Click here to read the whole article.

 

WLWA would like to congratulate the winners of the Australian Corporate Lawyers Association (ACLA) In-house Lawyer Awards 2014.  The winners were announced last night at the Annual Awards Dinner, held at the National Wine Centre in Adelaide and published online by Australasian Lawyer. Big award winners included Debra Tegoni, the executive general manager – legal & regulatory services at Crown Melbourne, who took home the title of Corporate Lawyer of the Year.

Tegoni's win is recognition of the fact that the talented lawyer has managed to build an effective team that works in a highly regulated environment, constantly subject to significant public scrutiny. But the in-house lawyer has also gone above and beyond: Through mentoring and public speaking, she has supported and been an advocate for greater representation for women in corporate Australia. She sits on the Victorian Government's Gambling Ministerial Advisory Council and has played a key role in developing Crown's Social Responsibility strategy. Tegoni is also highly regarded by Crown's senior management for her legal expertise and broad commercial and leadership skills.

The Suncorp Group was another to come out of the awards triumphant, and its legal & secretariat team won the Legal Team of the Year (Large) award in recognition of their success in delivering high quality and value for money legal and secretariat services for the Group.

Click here to see the full list of winners.

According to this article by Andrew Heaton, published online on Sourceable Industry News and Analyses on 17 November 2014, a study of 13 cohorts from two architecture schools in South Australia between 1999 and 2011, the Why Architecture Graduates Do Not Register as Architects: A Quantitative and Qualitative South Australian Study 1999-2011 by four researchers from the University of Adelaide found that as at 2014, more than three quarters of the female graduates had not registered as architects in any jurisdiction.

The authors describe this phenomenon as concerning given not only gender equality issues but also the value women can bring as a source of skilled labour to the profession. While acknowledging that the findings can partially be explained by the fact that registration as an architect is not essential in order to be permitted to design buildings (though those who are not registered are not able to refer to themselves architects,) the authors argued that a gender bias in registrations does exist with women accounting for around four in 10 architecture graduates but only 21 per cent of registered architects.

They concluded that several factors contributed to this. First up was the culture of the industry, in which a number of the women studied placed more emphasis on gaining acceptance in a male-dominated environment than on obtaining a title and some found the registration process itself to be unfriendly to women."I found the registration process to be an 'old boys' club," one of the women studied said. "Women are the minority. It didn't seem straight down the line."

In response, the authors made 41 recommendations covering universities, graduates in practices, practices themselves and professional bodies and associations. Universities, for example, should provide explicit information about the route to architectural registration as well as networking and mentoring seminars for women, report authors argued. Firms, meanwhile, should aim to create a 'pro-registration' culture within practices. In large firms, for instance, this may mean a graduate registration development program that enables graduates to rotate through sections to contribute to different areas of practice.

Click here to read the whole article.

 

In an article published online on the Times Higher Education on 13 November 2014, Jon Marcus examines the decline of all-female institutions in the West and their rising popularity in the developing world.

Marcus says when Mursal Hamraz finished secondary school in her native Afghanistan, she had just one option to further her education: taking up an offer of a place at a public university to study for a fine arts degree, which was not of interest to her. Six months later, her father told her of a new private university in Bangladesh that would provide her with a full scholarship.

"My dad is really supportive of my education, which is an exception in Afghanistan," Hamraz says. "Most fathers don't want their daughters to go to university or even to do jobs."

Hamraz attended the Asian University for Women in the port city of Chittagong, which opened in 2008. Today, its 500-strong student cohort comes from Afghanistan, Bhutan, Cambodia, Indonesia, Burma, Pakistan, Palestine, Syria and eight other countries where women face restricted opportunities for education because of politics, religion, caste or culture.

All-female higher education worldwide has come to a divide: in the West, where women have unfettered access to co-educational institutions – and, among the student body, outnumber men at many of them – women-only universities are closing and enrolment is largely declining. But in many developing countries, new all-female campuses are opening and expanding, and enrolment is soaring. But if there is a split in the direction of single-gender institutions for women in the East and West, they also have a paradox in common: single-sex universities give women the tools they need to help reverse the cultural forces that put them there in the first place.

Click here to read the whole article.

According to this article by Michael Bradley, published today on Women's Agenda, Marque Lawyers started in 2008 with a 60% female workforce and it's never reached such a low level again. Bradley says the firm is currently at 77%. The partnership is 50% female, so they still have some progress to make. However, his favourite percentage is 100. Six of Marque Lawyers senior female lawyers have had babies (five have had or are soon to have their second Marque baby) and taken parental leave, and they've all come back. In an industry where so many working mothers simply give up trying to balance work and parenthood, the firm's 100% mum-retention rate is something special.

Those numbers don't fit comfortably with the legal profession's hand-wringing narrative around why it's so hard to reconcile the 60 per cent female law graduate ratio with the under 20 per cent of law firm partners who are women. The biological imperatives of motherhood are politely tip-toed around, but the meta-message is constantly being reinforced that women do have babies, you know, and it's just a square peg in a round hole scenario after that. Legal practice is hard, clients are demanding, so no matter how flexible and accommodating law firms try to be, it just doesn't quite work.

Bradley says "The business model is part of the problem: timesheets, the relentless focus on money, the internally competitive culture. While these things do make private practice unpleasant for everyone, particularly for lawyers who have other priorities (such as kids), there's something else at play. Bradley says his firm used to puzzle over this, too and, a few years ago when four of their partners and senior associates announced their pregnancies almost simultaneously, by necessity they had to give it serious thought. What would make their mums want to come back and, when they did, what would enable them to stay?

It's simply an absence of trust. Most organisations, certainly most law firms, do not trust their own people. Bradley says he sees manifestations of this everywhere.If you don't trust your staff, then of course they won't trust you back. You must then make them live by rules, because there's no other basis on which you can relate to each other. That's fine, but you shouldn't be surprised when the rules prove to be insufficient for their purpose, given that everyone is, in fact, an individual."

The partners at Marque Lawyers decided to make no rules at all. Bradley says "Each of our returning mums has determined her own arrangements, and those arrangements change as often as suits her. We've all had to learn to work differently, as pretty much every day someone is working from home.As a firm, we agreed in principle that being physically together is a value in itself, so we commit to gathering together at certain times. Outside that, we're free agents. We've established, through lived experience, that our approach works. We'll be sticking with it."

WLWA hopes more firms can follow Marque Lawyer's example and learn to trust their employees in order to increase the numbers of females returning to the workplace after maternity leave.

Click here to read the whole article.

An article written by Georgia Dent, published today on Women's Agenda, provides comment on an column published by Mark Latham today on the Australian Financial Review in relation to women, the workplace and mental health.

Dent says that rather than focusing on any of the substantive issues in those loaded topics, Latham simply, and predictably, resorted to denigrating a female journalist, feminism and indeed anyone who has, or does, take medication for depression. (Dent says she can't for the life of her figure out why any stigma is still attached to mental illness in Australia when we have a former political leader, afforded a voice in a national broadsheet, who uses that platform to write with such compassion and reason on the topic.)

The essence of Latham's 'argument' is that feminists don't like kids and they're crazy (the article is titled "Why left feminists don't like kids" click here to read). He knows this because Lisa Pryor wrote a column saying anti-depressants and caffeine help her juggle her family and working life. Latham writes that some women like their children so much that they don't want or need to work "But the inner-city feminists know little of this. They spend a lot of time complaining, ostensibly on behalf of other women, yet their real priority is themselves. More often than not, they don't like children and don't want to be with them. They use political feminism as a release valve, trying to free themselves from nature's way. Thus left feminism is akin to a psychoneurotic disorder: externalising personal feelings of distress and deficiency into the demonisation of children."

Dent correctly points out that liking or loving one's children does not determine whether someone needs, or wants, to work. Loving children, however enriching, does not generate an income. Australia also has a peculiar demographic issue  that means in the coming years as the baby boomers exit the workforce we have a legitimate need to have as many people (men and women) working – and paying tax - as possible. Women working is not a fluffy luxury item. This is underscored by the fact that on the weekend the G20 resolved to boost women's workforce participation as a lever for economic growth.

To achieve that objective there are a myriad of policy, workplace and cultural changes that need to be affected. These changes range from childcare to paid parental leave to flexible work practices to, crucially, tackling the sustained biases which impede women in the workplace. Sometimes the challenge is that these biases are unconscious but in Mark Latham's case the challenge is they're openly apparent and able to flourish.

In publishing this piece the question Dent is left asking is not whether feminists don't like kids. It's whether the AFR doesn't like women? Because if they do, she finds it difficult to reconcile the decision to continue to publish columns like this. WLWA would tend to agree.

Click here to read the whole article.

According to the morning briefing published today on Australasia Lawyer, Morgan Lewis has published an article commenting on its election of Jami Wintz McKeon as chair of the international firm. It points out that the firm is the largest in the US headed by a woman and highlights that female-led law firms are still a rarity, especially at the biggest firms. Figures from the National Association of Women Lawyers show that only 17 per cent of equity partners are women and of course not all equity partners are in management roles. The article calls for more to be done to promote women to senior roles and suggests there could be a 'ripple effect' from a woman being appointed to such a high profile role.

The article also points out that Jami Wintz McKeon is the first female to hold the position in the firm's 141-year history and one of only a handful of women leading international law firms today. As the firm's global Chair, Ms. McKeon sets the strategic direction of the firm and leads 1,400 lawyers across Morgan Lewis's 26 offices.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

 

According to this interview by Anna Vidot and Mark Colvin published on ABC News Online on Monday, November 17 2014, there are fears that the West Australian Government decision to scrap funding for an interpreting service could deny justice to some Aboriginal people in the Kimberley.

The Kimberley Interpreting Service helps Aboriginal people navigate the technical English of police interviews and the courts and is the only service of its kind in WA. But at the end of June this year, the State Government scrapped its funding for the Kimberley Interpreting Service. Indigenous incarceration rates in WA are already the highest in the country, and there are concerns it could get significantly worse.

Anna Vidot spoke to a representative from the Interpreting Service, Desmond Taylor about the Government's decision to cut funding. Desmond and his colleagues offer interpreting services in more than 30 languages for Aboriginal accused, as they navigate police interviews and the courts.

Desmond said "It's very worrying because a lot of the Aborigines who don't speak English as their first language, they're going to be incarcerated and the prison system is going to go up without interpreters."

The Kimberley Interpreting Service's chief executive, Deanne Lightfoot, says it may not survive without government intervention. "Without clear communication in the court process, throughout the whole justice process, there's actually a miscarriage of justice. To be honest, we are in a really dire position and we really need the Government to get behind us". For more information on the interpreting services click here.

The chief justice of Western Australia Wayne Martin told the ABC he's concerned too. "There is a need certainly in the justice system for adequately resourced interpreter service. And if the decision that's been announced has the effect of not providing that service, then it's a backwards step."

"There are large parts of our state, not just the Kimberley, but also the Pilbara, the lands area east of Kalgoorlie, there are large parts of our state where the primary language spoken is not English. There are recurrent problems in this area, which is why we need a base of adequately trained interpreters in the various languages that are regularly used around our state. I've been calling for it, a properly funded state-wide interpreter service, along the lines that exist in the Northern Territory for six or seven years now, and that to my way of thinking is the only way of adequately addressing this problem."

Click here to read the whole ABC report. 

The lack of available interpreting services in WA was recently addressed in the 20th Anniversary Review of the 1994 Chief Justice's Gender Bias Taskforce Report launched by WLWA on 23 September 2014. Research conducted by WLWA concluded that, amongst other things, there was a lack of accessibility and availability of interpreters in WA and recommended the State Government ensure interpreters receive the necessary training and established a
taskforce with the view to increase the number of interpreters.

Seeing that the recommendations of the 2014 Review Report are implemented will be the focus of WLWA's work in the coming months and years. WLWA will be lobbying the State Government in relation to its decision to cut funding to this vital Interpreting Service.

Click here to view a copy of the 2014 Review report and click here to view WLWA's press release of the launch.

 

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