Don’t get me wrong, I love the concept, but what is it actually celebrating? Such a big banner covering so many different aspects. Different women, different cultures and societies around the globe, different stages of (r)evolution. Perhaps it is various minor victories throughout the year such as Australian cricket, agreeing to pay women the same as men? It has been a great year for the #metoo movement for obvious reasons, and as a father of two daughters that gives me greater hope for the future. International Women's Day ("IWD") is clearly a good thing to keep the pressure on for equality, celebrating some of the achievement of women for a better balance, better world. It’s also the time of year for the corporate world to talk more of equality and diversity; of why the board rooms would be, could be better if there were more women in them. And there we have the problem – lots of talk, very little outcome, or as the Suffragettes put it “Deeds, not words”. Over 100 years later, those deeds are being put into action, but by too few.
I get invited to a lot of diversity and equality events because I set up a law firm a few years ago to create a new structure for diversity and equality. In our firm we don’t even think about women v men – we just concentrate on excellence; for us, IWD is not really relevant internally, but it is externally, and we want other law firms and other businesses to copy what we do. We don’t talk about equality and diversity – it is simply a simple fact of who and what we are – equal. In one recent event I was invited to, a round table, there were numerous representatives of Big Business there, global brands, powerhouses – we were informed about the committees they had set up, the money that they had put in to get women’s rights on the table. Great words. I told them of the Aria Grace Law model – equal pay, flexibility at work, diversity and inclusion as part of our basic DNA and everyone, including me as founder, gets an equal share of profits pro rata their billing. There’s no equality without wealth share and equity. “We do deeds, not words.” I said, although I am not sure they appreciated my “words”.
I get that it is very difficult for these large organisations to retrofit equality and diversity into their operations – it’s easy for us as we started with a blank sheet of paper; we had no structure to fight against and we deeply embedded our #ethicalworld standards into our DNA from the outset. But I suspect that Big Business doesn’t want equality, not really. They can implement all sorts of technology innovation immediately, but social innovation, not so. If they wanted equality, they would have fixed it by now - if they really wanted to start to fix the equality issue, all they would have to do is implement equal pay. Now. They could do it, straight away, at the click of a finger. You don’t need to create a structure to do this. Do it now. Deeds, not words. Simples.
When I look at the change in our law firm, I look over the last 12 months to see what we have done, to see what we have achieved, and it is enormous: from the levels of women who have joined, heavy weight senior figures, former partners or heads of banks. It’s big stuff. We are going to appear in major global publications later this year, the Chief Economist of Spotify interviewed us and he loved our model, and we are creating noise about diversity, equality, equal pay, giving money to charity, planting trees after every deal we sign, spreading wealth and working for the common good - you get the idea. We can celebrate achievement. It’s not even about Aria Grace Law - we desperately want others to do what we do, because it is successful and our model works. Deeds, not words.
So, when I look at what the World Economic Forum has to say about the gender pay gap, that it won’t close until 2186 (no, that is not a typo), and that despite several major City law firms running gender pay gap analysis, the pay gap is actually getting bigger, I wonder what are we celebrating? Perhaps IWD 2020 should not be a day of celebration but of reflection of how far we have come but how far we still have to go, and a day of commitment to make IWD 2021 really worth celebrating.
Update by Lindsay Healy – Founder of Aria Grace Law 06.03.2020