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Athena SWAN / Women’s network – Business & Law

Yesterday, UEL Athena SWAN and Women’s Network hosted a discussion on career challenges and inspirations for women in Law (specifically at the Bar) and in Business. Thank you to all who attended and made the event so engaging and of course a special thank you to our speakers, Shernaz Engineer and Lisa Giovannetti, QC, for their time and for sharing their experience with us.

Shernaz Engineer reflected on her experiences at the start of her career in a High Street recruitment agency and in setting up her own business. Challenges she encountered included conscious and unconscious bias both within the industry and when applying for financial backing. However, through her own tenacity and determination she was able to achieve her goals.

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Lisa Giovannetti, QC talked from a personal perspective about work at the Bar. In the year 2000, there was a 50 / 50 balance of men and women called to the Bar, however, a 2015 Bar Council Study found that women represent only 35% of those with a current practising certificate and less than 20% of QCs. Considering the reasons for this, Lisa discussed enablers and barriers to work/life balance which impact on women staying in practice or not, issues of confidence and the process and allocation of cases and types of case. On this last point, a further snapshot report found that the profile of women for each practice area was approximately 30% with exception of family for which the figure was 61%.

Following the talks there was a lively discussion both on working within academia and more broadly. Comparisons were drawn on difficulties around balancing teaching, research and administration and on applying the Workload Allocation model; the relative weights given to different areas of responsibility. Important to note was that while the career paths differ between disciplines, there are common themes. Another key area discussed was around confidence, initiative and making your own opportunities to progress. For example, difficulties in progressing with research due to time restraints may be helped through collaboration with colleagues. The benefits of networking and mentoring were also discussed.

The new Athena SWAN Champion for the School of Business & Law, Professor Sunitha Narendran, was also able to introduce herself. Recently starting at UEL as Professor / Director Of Research in the School of Business and Law, Sunitha is keen to hear from staff in the School especially given the importance of research to the School.

An update on Athena SWAN was also provided which can be viewed below. Our mentoring scheme which was piloted last year is open for applications, we will be holding an event to provide more information on 7th June. Further details can be found via this link. Women’s Network will be planning further events also including practical workshops on some of the areas discussed. Suggestions are of course very welcome either to Clare Matysova, Athena SWAN Project Officer (c.matysova@uel.ac.uk) or Jummy Okoya, Chair of UEL Women’s Network (o.j.okoya@uel.ac.uk)

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