The recent media focus on issues of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the workplace has generated a lot of discussion amoung our members and within the AWLA Committee. It is an issue that has arisen across all industries worldwide, and law is no exception.
AWLA is passionately committed to supporting our members, and being a voice for change. In fact, our theme for the year, ‘Agents of Change’, is now even more pertinent. We wish to focus on the future and take steps that will help promote a culture that condemns inappropriate behaviour and supports women who have been on the receiving end of such behaviour.
AWLA’s role is, and has always been, to provide support and opportunities for our members, and to advocate for women in the profession more generally by engaging with organisations like NZLS, ADLS and firms about issues that affect women in the profession. Sexual harassment is one of those issues.
As part of our role in supporting members, we would like to set up a network of women who would be willing to listen and provide support on a confidential basis to any woman who may have experienced inappropriate behaviour. We are currently working through some practical issues and drafting guidelines for this programme, but we would welcome volunteers who would be willing to become part of a panel to assist in this way. It would be wonderful to have a range of women with different levels of experience participate in this initiative. If you would be interested in this, please contact us.
We are also planning events for 2018 that address the issue, including:
– facilitating an event during the graduate recruitment period for law students from both Auckland University and
AUT to hear from each of the large firms (including Russell McVeagh) about their polices and culture around
gender diversity and harassment.
– a panel discussion event for later in the year addressing topics such as identifying inappropriate behaviour,
what steps can be taken to address it, and what learnings have been taken from the reported incidents.
In our advocacy role, we have had initial discussions with NZLS about the initiatives that they are taking and how we can assist with the work they are doing, and discussions with Russell McVeagh about the recent media coverage and the steps that Russell McVeagh have taken to encourage a ‘speak out’ culture and address gender diversity issues more generally.
We will also continue to support, and advocate for, greater gender diversity within all law firms, as that will help promote a culture that condemns sexual harassment and does not allow it to thrive.