Alison McKee
Alison McKee

Articles From the Team

Event round-up: International Women’s Day: An Audience with Edwina Currie

Last Friday , I attended  DLA Piper’s International Women’s Day event: ‘An Audience with Edwina Currie’ at The Great John Street Hotel in Manchester.

Alison Lever, Smart Works Greater Manchester

After an initial address, the evening’s talks commenced with Alison Lever from the charity: Smart Works Greater Manchester.

Through coaching and appropriate clothing, Smart Works aims to help women (from the Greater Manchester area) to prepare for job interviews. Ultimately, the charity supports women who are re-entering the job market. In their own words:

“Smart Works Greater Manchester opened in June 2015. Since then, we have supported over 1200 women, from every borough of Greater Manchester, helping them with the clothes and the confidence they need for job success.

All of our Smart Works service delivery is provided by our team of over 45 highly skilled fully trained volunteers, and all our stock is donated through other working women or comes direct from our retail partners such as Hobbs, Whistles, Next, Evans and Bon Marche.

The two hours our clients spend with us can be transformative. We are incredibly proud to report that our success rate remains at over 65% of the clients we are able to contact going on to succeed at their job interview.”

Alison was a Partner at PriceWaterhouseCoopers for over 20 years and first became involved with the charity through fundraising events. She elaborated on some of the great work achieved by the charity, and explained they look for three main donations: clothes, volunteers and money. A great way to kick off the #balanceforbetter theme of 2019 International Women’s Day!

Edwina Currie, British former politician

Next up, Edwina Currie talked us through the highs (and lows!) of her career and what she thinks we can do to further the 2019 International Women's Day Theme: #balanceforbetter. She began with some interesting statistics:

  • The gender pay gap has decreased in Britain from 11%-9% but is stubbornly sticking at that amount. Thankfully, there’s no gender pay gap for young people.
  • Women still make up only 15% of leaders within FTSE businesses in the UK.
  • 78% of newspaper articles in the UK are written by men.
  • Women make up over half of law graduates but only 23% of partners in top law firms and 15% of High Court judges.

Clearly, there’s still work to be done. Edwina went on to talk about the three ways we can work to address the existing gender gap:

  • Employees being the best they can be – asking for development opportunities wherever possible.
  • Employers encouraging potential employees from a younger age; not just choosing the best graduates from the pack when earlier investment would produce more skilled and impressive options in the job market. The provision of flexible working and good benefits in relation to maternity and paternity leave, also allows for as many employees to flourish as possible.
  • Businesses who are sector leaders need to set an example to ensure the workplace is undeniably fair.

It wasn’t all business. Edwina entertained us with a number of anecdotes and discussed her greatest achievement: introducing nationwide screening systems for breast and cervical cancer, with associated treatment services, all free of charge on the National Health Service; making Britain the first place in the world to have both.

She talked through her experiences with Margaret Thatcher, some current affairs, and she even had some time to tell us about her stint on Strictly Come Dancing!

The event was well attended and a great success – despite the fairly torrential Manchester conditions! It was a fantastic opportunity for men and women to network under the umbrella of the #balanceforbetter theme.

While there’s work to be done, events like this from one of the largest law firms in the country, demonstrate the legal market’s keenness to ensure gender parity going forward.

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