updated on 18 November 2013
On Tuesday 29 October the team at Shearman & Sterling launched its first annual Women in Law Conference. The event was open to women students of all universities, degree disciplines, years and backgrounds, and over 150 applications were received. From this pool, 60 women were invited to Shearman's HQ to discuss the challenges and opportunities of being a woman in law. The event was supported by Rare Recruitment.
The event hoped to address the issues that women find most significant when competing in the traditionally male world of City law. Shearman & Sterling wanted to encourage open discussion on balancing life with work. HR Director for EMEA Lois Gordon said: "This is not about positive discrimination for women, it is about levelling the playing field so that women are given the chance to compete fairly with their male peers."
The evening comprised of a keynote speech from Jo Rickard, London office deputy managing partner and head of litigation, followed by a panel Q&A session with tax partner Sarah Priestley, senior associate Anna Duncan, Lois Gordon and trainee Catherine Kempsey.
"It was interesting to see how many issues which are perhaps perceived to be 'women’s issues' actually apply to both men and women," Lois observed. Senior associate and working mother Anna Duncan reflected: "I certainly don't feel that I have all of the answers, but I hope that in some way I was able to convey that the juggling act of being a professional woman and having two small children, while certainly not without its challenges, is entirely possible."
Attendees' feedback suggested that they were pleasantly surprised by the personal nature of the event and how open discussion was encouraged, rather than simply being an event that focused on selling the firm. Attendees also felt that the event positively encouraged resilience and entrepreneurial spirit, while outlining how women can overcome obstacles to achieve their goals, both professional and personal.
After the panel discussion, attendees were encouraged to network with Shearman employees to continue asking their burning questions to the firm representatives and discussing the hot topics that the evening had brought to light.
We all hope that those who attended left with greater insight into how women are affected by the challenging career path of being a woman in law and how gender equality can be put firmly on the agenda in a warm and open environment.
The firm is looking forward to hosting the second annual event next October, with details to be released on the graduate website.
Katie Meer is graduate recruitment adviser at Shearman & Sterling.