It was a pleasure to be invited to write the foreword of Natalya’s book Raising the Bar: Women in Law and Business and now it is wonderful to be here at the launch, celebrating with Natalya and her parents Peter and Jansci.
2015 is a remarkable year.
2015 marks the 20 year review of the Beijing Platform of Action to, signed by over 180 countries. It was an ambitious action plan with the goal of advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment globally and is as still as relevant today as it was then.
2015 is the year when the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs, which will take over from the Millennium Development Goals, will be agreed. Gender equality will become a stand-alone Goal in the SDGs.
Of course 2015 also marks’ Natalya’s launch of her first, but certainly not her last, book.
This book is also about gender equality, or rather the lack of it in the legal profession.
The 2015 International Women’s Day theme is ‘Make it Happen.’ This is a direct call to action.
And that is exactly what Natalya is doing.
Last year the New Zealand Law Society President issued a message to the Society that the Law Society had made the subject of the retention and advancement of women lawyers a key focus.
The stats are worrying.
Over the last 2 decades more women have been admitted to the bar than men and in the last decade that number has been consistently over 60%, yet:
- Only 46% of practising lawyers are female – the highest percentage since record keeping began in 1980;
- 22% of partners in law firms around New Zealand are female;
- 28% of the Judiciary are female; and
- 15% of Queens Counsel are female
The loss of female lawyers is a disaster for the sector on every level.
The incredibly strong, irrefutable business case for gender equality at senior levels applies just as much to law firms as it does to supermarkets, banks, insurance companies, and yes even our highest governing body, Parliament.
The real threat is that if gender equality is ignored, business will underperform, lose any competitive edge that ultimately will be financially costly.
It is too easy to go straight to emphasise the dollar cost of ignoring gender equality thinking that is the only way to get business to take notice but in fact it is not only the bright thing to do, it is the morally right and ethical thing to do.
Natalya is an astonishing young woman.
This book has been written by someone who is at the beginning of her career not at the end or middle.
“Raising the Bar” started life as a Master’s thesis focusing on just women in the legal profession. It was a result of Natalya questioning with other female law students how their careers would map out and in particular how they could combine career and family.
On entering professional life Natalya found that despite the rhetoric being touted by some large law firms of making life easier for women with flexible work, the reality was a deep seated culture that young lawyers needed to do it tough, working long hours because that was the way it had always been.
Natalya found that even some male lawyers were also questioning this unwritten rule.
There is a saying ‘if we always do what we have always done, expect no change.”
Natalya is demanding change. We need to do things differently. She isn’t a baby boomer like me, Natalya is a Gen-Y who are or very soon will be our leaders of the future.
If feminism is a belief that gender should not limit anyone's chances at life, then Natalya you are a feminist. You and your family should be incredibly proud of your achievement.
It is my great pleasure to official launch Raising the Bar: Women in Law and Business by Natalya King.
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