The NZLS CLE recently organised a conference entitled “Women, the Law and the Corner Office” running separate sessions in Auckland and Wellington as well as a live web stream. Most of the attendees would, I suspect, agree that this was an inspiring event, and Justice Glazebrook needs to be commended for spearheading this initiative. Her paper, “It is Just a Matter of Time and Other Myths” clearly dispels the myth that the “trickle-down” (or is it up?) effect of men and women graduating in equal numbers from New Zealand law schools will eventually fix the problem of the lack of women in senior positions in the law.
Whilst some of the reasons for this relate to childcare responsibilities, or to personal choice, it is clear that this is not the whole picture. We were very fortunate to have the opportunity to hear Mary Cranston, who, amongst other things has been named as one of “The 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America” share some of her reflections on this topic and provide some strategies for operating in different ways. The theory (or reality) of “unconscious bias” finally made some of the behaviours I have observed over the years make sense to me. As women, it seems to me that we nearly all suffer from a lack of confidence and a reticence to take risks. Maybe we should be learning about how to deal with these things before taking the extra constitutional law paper!
The only sadness is that change will only really come about if men start changing too – accepting the need to address things like unconscious bias in the workplace – and it was a pity there weren’t more of them at this positive and useful conference.