The International Women's Day 2023: – We need to get rid of gender stereotypes
In connection with the International Women’s Day, we have had a chat with our lawyers Hedvig Bugge Reiersen, Tonje Hagen Geiran, Xiaomin Qu and Camilla Perona Fjeldstad.
– To me, the women’s day is important because it reminds us that equality between women and men does not exist in all important areas of life. If we look at the world as a whole, there are miles left to go, but here in Norway too, where we have formal equality, there is a lack of equality in some important areas of life, such as in the private business sector, says Hedvig Bugge Reiersen, partner at the Oslo office and a specialist in corporate law.
On the one hand, she believes that it may have become easier to be a female lawyer, because there is greater awareness among both companies and clients related to the challenges that some people may experience in the combination of being a lawyer and a responsible, present parent.
– At the same time, it is a challenge that competition and price pressure have increased, requiring more marketing efforts and availability - while the day unfortunately still only has 24 hours, Reiersen points out.
– In order to get more female lawyers up on a senior level, I think all women and men in the industry must get rid of all forms of stereotypes. Female lawyers have exactly the same qualifications as male lawyers for becoming value-generating employees and perhaps eventually partners. If everyone has this kind of attitude, female lawyers will dare and wish to be focused upon – and the companies can to do so with trust, says Reiersen.
Colleague Tonje Hagen Geiran, Associate and Special Adviser and sustainability specialist, has long-time experience from i.a. government administration and industry.
Need diverse role models
Like Reiersen, she thinks we have come a long way – but that a lot of work remains.
– For example, it is worth noting that the Women's Health Committee presented its study just recently. There, it is clearly stated that women’s health has a lower priority than men’s health. Over the course of all these years in working life, there has been an increasing focus on equal rights for all, and we have come quite far. But maybe it is still a paradox that almost 40 per cent of Norwegian women are still working part-time.
– In order to promote even more women on to a senior level, I think it’s important to have a diversity of role models. In recent years, we have seen that more and more women are performing at the highest level within their disciplines, Geiran says.
– In addition, we need even more women who want to set the course for their law firm - taking leading positions, such as for example board positions to be good role models, and show that there are different ways of doing things. I'm absolutely sure we will see more of this in the years to come!
Same main challenge as before
Xiaomin Qu is a Specialist Counsel at our Shanghai office.
– Ever since the People’s Republic of China was established in 1949, the government has upheld the notion of gender equality and advocated the idea of gender balance. My own generation was very much raised in accordance with the famous proclamation that "women hold up half the sky" and educated not to consider ourselves as any less capable than men, she says.
– What does Women's Day mean to you?
– By its name – International Women’s Day – and by its observance around the world, it helps to raise people’s awareness and promote women’s rights and gender equality, which are still ongoing struggles many places in the world.
– How can the legal profession ensure that even more women stay in the profession for longer?
– The challenge of work-life balance is still, as I see, the main factor stopping women from climbing higher up the career ladder. This challenge is amplified for many women when they become parents and some unfortunately choose to give up their career because of a work culture that forces women to minimize important parts of our lives.
– In my view, the legal profession needs to change to reflect today’s world and take advantage of technology that can make work more flexible so that women are given the freedom to structure work around the other things that make up our lives, she says.
Camilla Perona Fjeldstad from our Capital Markets team describes her everyday life as an associate in our Oslo office as relatively hectic, but also very exciting and rewarding.
– In the long run, I can see that my everyday may become challenging in terms of combining a lawyer’s working-day with a family life, but fortunately I have lots of good role-models here in Wikborg Rein, who are showing that it can be done, Fjeldstad says.
– To me, the women’s day means that we mark how far equality has come, but not least that we still have a little longer to go. Therefore, I think it's good that we have an annual marking where the focus is put on equality.