Female lawyers project looks to accelerate progress

Denis-Smith: We don’t want to wait another 100 years for equality

The team behind the First 100 Years has launched its latest project, The Next 100 Years, dedicated to achieving equality for women in law over the next decade.

Founder Dana Denis-Smith said “we don’t want to wait another 100 years for equality”.

The plan to is help “accelerate the pace of change in the legal profession, encouraging collaboration to tackle the inequality that still persists between men and women, improving the visibility of women in law and supporting the women lawyers of the future”.

One of its key initiatives will be the creation of a cross-profession taskforce to examine the main barriers to equality and drive recommendations for change.

The First 100 Years project was created to chart the journey of women in law in the first 100 years following the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919, which paved the way for women to become lawyers for the first time. The five-year project has now come to an end, following the centenary celebrations in 2019.

As well as creating over 40 films featuring pioneering women lawyers, the First 100 Years published a book, launched a podcast series, commissioned an artwork – the first hanging in the Supreme Court to depict a woman – and ran a series of guided walks around London.

The Next 100 Years will continue this work too, capturing the stories of today’s pioneering women lawyers and educating the public on the legacy of the legal pioneers of the past.

Ms Denis-Smith, founder of both initiatives and CEO of Obelisk Support, said: “The First 100 Years celebrated the hard-won progress of the last 100 years and the stories of those legal pioneers that are so vital in providing a solid, positive platform for the future.

“Now, as we look forward to the next 100 years, we need to take action to accelerate the pace of change and remove the barriers to women’s progress still built into the legal profession.

“Many organisations in the legal world are moving in the right direction, but we don’t want to wait another 100 years for equality.”

Ms Denis-Smith has previously spoken out in favour of quotas on law firms for the number of women at both equity partner and management level as “years of talking” about diversity have failed to drive sufficient change.

The Next 100 Years’ first major event of 2020 will be a photoshoot ahead of International Women’s Day on 8 March.

Expanding on the success of last year’s shoot – which saw 800 women photographed across the country – women working in the law and men who are champions of equality, are invited to venues across the UK and internationally on Thursday 5 March and Friday 6 March as part of the #FaceTheFuture campaign celebrating the achievements of women in law.

Shoots are taking place in London, Nottingham, Birmingham, Glasgow and Leeds, as well as international locations including Paris, Sydney, Singapore, Mexico City and Washington DC.

The Next 100 Years’ work is funded through donations from individuals, businesses and prominent organisations across the profession. It is backed by Spark21, a charity founded to celebrate, inform and inspire future generations of women in the profession.

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