In October 2019 PDT published an article called ' It's Different for Girls' celebrating PDT's Women in Law forum, launched as a space for the women at the firm to share their experiences. 18 months later and in the week of International Women's Day 2021, I thought it a good time to reflect on what we have done.
Covid-19, the pandemic, lockdown, home schooling, caring for elders have all been challenges we have faced over the past year, and it has been more important than ever for women to have a forum like this. I wanted to consider what those who come to the meetings get from the conversations we have.
An overarching theme is confidence. So many of the attendees said that to be part of the group made them more confident to say that it's different for them, to call out bad behaviours, to say no, to raise issues that affect them and to have their say. This doesn't just apply within the virtual four walls of our meeting space, but also in client and other internal meetings and situations.
Others reported actually seeing cultural changes both in the firm and when dealing with clients and contacts, as people outside the group become more aware of issues for women, especially around networking opportunities and the burden of being a working woman with caring responsibilities. The forum helps with shifting mindsets externally, and the conversations we have create building blocks for the future.
But the real essence of the forum is support for everyone, no matter their experience in law or their role within the firm. PDT prides itself on being totally non-hierarchical, and this has never been evidenced more clearly than within this forum. The feeling of openness and connection between individuals, the ability to spend time with different people and listen to their experiences and advice, the opportunity to pick up tips to take forward in our careers, to be innovative as to how we work, network and interact, are all invaluable. This forum has given us space to have conversations we previously didn't have.
None of the issues raised at the forum are new, nor are they specific to women at PDT or in law. But having the space to talk about them and to come up with solutions has been energising in a time when it has been easy to feel disconnected or despondent. As we said in our article in 2019, we are doing something and I hope this encourages others to set up their own forums, to have these conversations and to create cultural change in the workplace and beyond. Perhaps one day it won't be quite so different for girls.
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