2017 – 2018 has been a time of great change for gender politics worldwide. The #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns look to run and run: this affects all our workplaces.
The gender pay gap and its complex causes are part of our working lives at Cloisters as well; from the cases that myself and my colleagues have lent our expertise to for both sides, which have changed the way equal pay law operates in the UK, to giving evidence in Parliament on legislative change and lobbying the Bar Standards Board on parental leave.
So our ongoing work with clients at the coalface of pregnancy discrimination, equal pay audits, objective justification arguments for refusing flexible working and suffering the effects of dual discrimination, provides us with the impetus and commitment to work on these vital issues outside the courtroom as well. This is a special position to be working in, we thank our clients and solicitors and are grateful for their personal insights.
The year ahead will be a crucial one: further gender pay reporting, the forthcoming Shared Parental Leave judgments in Ali and Hextall, the Women and Equalities Committee reports on sexual harassment and fathers and the workplace – these will affect law reform going forward.
But perhaps the most difficult of the challenges which lie ahead is actually not one which we lawyers can hope to change via the courtroom: that of cultural change.
To take one example, if it is the case that sharing care between fathers and mothers is the key to reducing the Gender Pay Gap how can we make any difference to that shift; where fathers taking leave for early years childcare becomes acceptable to consider without fearing negative career consequences. We as barristers can start by updating our chambers’ parental leave policies and sharing model policies with others across the Bar – once we have male mentors and sponsors around us advocating such change, childcare may stop being what is frequently the responsibility of the working women.
Whilst today we should be celebrating how far we have come in terms of equality – we also need to keep in mind a list of the weighty tasks ahead.