By Barbara Harding, Harriet Territt, and Irene Fiorentinos
As part of Women's History Month, Jones Day celebrated the annual International Women's Day ("IWD") on March 8. IWD is a global holiday honoring the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. While the day can mean different things to different people, the global focus is always on equality and celebration.
At Jones Day, IWD was a chance to reflect on progress made to bring about equality in the law, and to celebrate the women who make an extraordinary contribution to the Firm, the law, and in their communities. It was an opportunity for everyone in the Firm to focus on their contributions to gender equality around the world.
"Choose to Challenge" in 2021
This year, the Women's Affinity Group adopted the official theme for IWD of "Choose to Challenge." What we think that means for all of us at Jones Day is recognizing the role models we have within the Firm who challenge us all to be better people, better lawyers, and better advocates for gender equality.
We also want to reflect on some of the challenges that our profession still faces to be an equal, diverse, and welcoming career choice for everyone. At the same time, we want to celebrate the women in our Firm who are leaders in their field, within the Firm, or in their community.
This year, we had more offices and regions marking IWD than ever—from Shanghai to San Diego. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many events were held virtually. But that has given us an amazing opportunity for offices and regions to plan events together, highlighting the strength of our Firm in collaboration with, and support for, each other. It is probably one of the few positive things to come out of the current coronavirus situation, which many offices are still facing.
Gender equality and supporting our women lawyers is a year-round focus for the Women's Affinity Group at Jones Day. It's important to mention there is a broad group involved—not just partners, and not just women—and we have fantastic senior support from allies (including practice leaders and PICs) across the Firm as well as from the other Affinity Groups at Jones Day.
Firmwide, Jones Day is celebrating Women's History Month with a new video honoring our women leaders and groundbreakers (click to view the video).
What does the Jones Day Women's Affinity Group do?
The Women's Affinity Group supports the retention, development, and progression of our women lawyers. The group invites broad participation across all offices and practice groups and brings women lawyers together for mentoring, networking, and career development opportunities devoted to promoting the interests and progress of women. Not every office has a separate Women's Affinity Group, but there is an active and engaged community of lawyers who participate in quarterly conference calls where we share ideas and programming materials.
How has COVID-19 affected the Women's Affinity Group?
There's no doubt that the experience of COVID-19 has been challenging for everyone in the Firm and for many of our clients. That said, and while every family and household is different, there is still a general, societal expectation that women will take on the primary responsibility for home schooling, household management, and care of elderly or sick relatives, as well as dealing with a day-to-day workload against the backdrop of worry and isolation that the pandemic has caused.
The Women's Affinity Group has very much looked within the Firm over the last year to provide support for those who need it, and to help people manage their own expectations about what they "should" be able to do. We've also tried to embrace the positives—the strides in Firm technology to support work from home (and the normalization of children, pets, and partners in the background of our video calls!).
Some of our favorite Women's Affinity Group events in the last 12 months have been on "lockdown-gained skills"—from sourdough breadmaking to calligraphy to composing haiku and taking up long-distance running. We have a truly talented group of women in the Firm.
What are your plans for the Women's Affinity Group for 2021?
We think 2021 will continue to be a year of internal focus and support for the Women's Affinity Group in many offices and regions. For those places that have, or will, come out of lockdown during the year, it will be a chance to connect with clients and to share experiences from the last 12 months. We think there will also be a real focus on networking and reconnecting internally.
Last year was a particularly special year for the Women's Affinity Group—the 50th anniversary of Jones Day appointing its first female partner, Naoma Stewart. We had an incredibly full program of events planned across all offices and regions, many of which had to be canceled or rearranged into virtual or more limited formats. So our main plan is hoping that people can come together across the Firm during the course of the year, perhaps raising a glass of something cold, and celebrate the fact that we can all be together in person, while looking forward to the next 50 years of women leaders within Jones Day.