International Women’s Day

The best place to start with an article relating to International Women’s Day is with their own website quote “A challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change. So let’s all choose to challenge”.

This is a task which BTMK Solicitors take seriously; we believe a company can only be at its best when the people within it are chosen on their skill set, their ability, and a mutually beneficial relationship alone. This is reflected in our company structure and the talented women who help make BTMK as successful as we are.

The legal industry has been traditionally male-orientated, but this position is slowly changing. Law firms are seeing more female directors, partners, and solicitors and the gender disparity is being addressed. At BTMK we are proud to be part of this sea-change. A recent press release stated that women now make up more than a third of all board members across the FTSE 350 for the first time. This is a positive trend that is reflected here at BTMK; of our ten-member board of directors women are strongly represented by Yvonne Hume, Fiona McAnaw, and Johanne Turner and our Finance Director, Joanna Smith. Of our fourteen, non-board member solicitors, eight are women; we currently have four (young) women on our trainee solicitor programme; and have recently started on the apprentice solicitor programme with two female students. The operational side of the business also reflects this growing equality with our Finance Director, Joanna Smith and of course, me, our HR Manager (Lisa Smith) being part of a four-member Leadership Team, which oversees the day to day operational side of BTMK Solicitors. We are likely to see over time, considering the female presence in the firm at a senior level, the board dynamic changing to one of gender parity.

Louise Mickleburgh, a 3 year PQE solicitor in our Litigation and Dispute Resolution department observed that while studying her undergraduate law degree and Legal Practice Course between 2011–2015 there was a noticeable gender difference in that over half of students were female and since starting her legal career there have been positive changes in the profession generally for women. Louise elaborated to say in 2017 the SRA reported that there were more women than men entering the profession and a year later, it was revealed that there were more women practising as solicitors than men. In addition, Baroness Hale was also appointed as the President of the Supreme Court in late 2017 and she is the first woman to serve in that role. These recent shifts in the profession have been very empowering and undoubtedly will have also been very encouraging for other women to comment and progress their careers in law.

Ruth Hemingway, a senior solicitor with many years’ experience in our Personal Injury & Clinical Negligence Team, commented that she feels companies are more open to flexible working and are more attuned with a work/life balance than previously and this makes a better environment for women to organise family life or for those who wish to sit on boards or in governing roles relating to their interests, around their working life, without any adverse impact to their career. Ruth also said now there are more routes into becoming qualified to the profession, this also offers a much more flexible approach which can only aid to a better balance.

The outlook for the legal profession looks very promising for the future of equality; there are without doubt positive changes, proven by the increasing number of women now studying law at degree level and progressing through to becoming qualified solicitors. These deep rooted patterns can take time to address but with the right company culture they can and will be eradicated. The Covid-19 related working from home experience is likely only to accelerate this transition as the whole world realises that working hours need not be restricted to 9am-5pm on weekdays, that effective work can be combined with a great family life.

On this International Women’s Day, and every day, we would like to recognise all women (and the men who support them) who have challenged inequality and have seen that challenge bear fruit. We look forward to continuing our role at BTMK in supporting this change.

Lisa Smith – Head of HR at BTMK Solicitors

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