8 March 2023

International Women’s Day 2023

International Women’s Day Content

Every year on 8 March International Women’s Day (IWD) celebrates women’s achievements and raises awareness about women’s equality. This year the theme is: Embrace Equity.

“Imagine a gender-equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women’s equality. Collectively we can all #EmbraceEquity. Celebrate women’s achievements. Raise awareness about discrimination. Take action to drive gender parity.”

We share our own experiences and thoughts of embracing equity here:

Hannah Auger

Associate, UK and European Patent Attorney

Equity is about giving people what they need, rather than giving them the same thing as everyone else. This is important as equity recognizes that everyone is unique and has different needs, and it seeks to meet those needs fairly. As a result, equity is more challenging compared to equality. It is reasonably easy to state that “the same rules apply to everyone”. It is much more difficult to arrive at policies of positive action or affirmative action that feels fair and just to all concerned parties. Positive action does not seek to give preferential treatment simply because someone possesses a protected characteristic (e.g. age, sex or race), but instead encourages steps to be taken to lessen disadvantages or remove barriers and obstacles caused by someone possessing a protected characteristic. No two people work the same and we all need different support to bring the best version of ourselves to work.

John Chettle

Partner, UK and European Patent Attorney

For me, embracing equity includes embracing flexibility. In an organisation like Venner Shipley, in which everyone operates in a demanding role, flexibility can be a tool and a way of thinking which recognises people’s different circumstances and gives them space to thrive personally and professionally. Flexibility as a mindset helps me to support my colleagues in an equitable way.

Siân Gill

Head of Chemical and Life Sciences, Partner, UK and European Patent Attorney

Embracing equity requires us to recognise that people are different and consequently face different challenges and have different needs. This goes beyond those differences that equality traditionally focuses on and it can be challenging to understand the differences and needs of others. Embracing equity is therefore also about providing an environment in which people are comfortable and confident to speak up about their needs and to share their experiences. An environment where people know that others have their back.

Jane Martin

Partner, Chartered Trade Mark Attorney

Looking back over my long career as a Trade Mark Attorney (approaching 40 years), working conditions and opportunities have greatly improved for women in the workplace.

At the start of my career (in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s) I experienced discrimination in the workplace, both as an employee and as a partner, over pay, equal opportunities and working conditions. It was extremely difficult to juggle a high-pressure workload with family life, and there is no doubt that I was held back in my career because I was a working mother.

Fortunately, things have changed for the better, and when I see the opportunities and conditions for women here at Venner Shipley, it is difficult not to feel a touch envious of my younger female colleagues, who now (rightly) enjoy equal opportunities and pay for equivalent jobs and positions. It is also clear that the introduction of enhanced maternity pay, paternity leave, shared parental leave and the possibility of part-time working for fee earners at every level within the firm has greatly improved the career prospects for women, and indeed men, within the firm.

The introduction of hybrid working at Venner Shipley has also greatly improved the life-work balance for many women, in particular for women juggling family commitments including childcare and care for elderly or disabled relatives. As well as helping women, I believe this also benefits the firm as a whole, as there is no doubt that improving the mental health of employees and partners leads to increased productivity and commitment to the firm.

I am sure we will continue to improve equity in the workplace, so that the needs of all female employees and partners are met and that gender discrimination will be confined to history.