International Women’s Day conference aims to inspire girls to aim high - Katharine Hardie

International Women's Day (IWD) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, but also one which raises awareness about equality and gender parity.

Katharine Hardie is Partner and Chair of Scotland and Northern Ireland, Pinsent Masons

Is it the role of a law firm to participate in this event, which falls on March 8 every year? Of course it is, and even more so when that law firm is a multinational one, with offices across 26 locations on four continents. As a business which strives to champion change and make business work better for people, that extends to the communities we live and work in.

The theme of this year's International Women's Day is "Choose To Challenge" and this day and every day we have a duty to celebrate women’s achievements by choosing to challenge inequality and by raising awareness against bias.

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We are hosting an International Women's Day Schools' Conference for schools that we partner with as part of our programme of Inspiring Young Lives in our local communities. The pre-recorded virtual format allows us to reach many more girls – around 270 compared to 60 when the conference was held in-person.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, many young people have been left with an acute loss of confidence and fear for what the future holds for them, so it is arguably more important that we provide even greater support to our partner schools and students during this time.

The IWD school event aims to inspire girls from across the UK, to aim high with their career aspirations and to motivate them to unlock their true potential. The event will provide career insights from our staff and clients, a focus on mental health and wellbeing and, looks at how we can all help to create more inclusive school and work environments and be a better ally to friends, classmates and colleagues.

Our three partner schools in Scotland, and others across the UK, will also have access to a session recorded by Girls Out Loud (GOL) on harnessing self-confidence, belief and encouraging students to think about what they can choose to challenge.

Pinsent Masons has been in partnership with social-enterprise GOL since 2019, with our staff becoming “Big Sister” mentors alongside clients. The objectives of the programme are “to empower and inspire teenage girls in the UK and beyond to have confidence, self-belief, emotional resilience and a positive self-image which, in turn, supports them to think big, embrace risk and reach for the stars”.

The feedback from our first cohort of GOL volunteers is positive, with 100 per cent of the volunteers reporting that they have experienced an increase in their professional leadership and decision making skills; 80 per cent have seen an increase in their influencing skills, and one volunteer said: “This is an excellent programme, both for self-development and for giving back to the community. I would highly recommend it to others”.

We also have a second cohort of Pinsent Masons “Big Sisters” in training and look forward to supporting GOL in this innovative project. All of this shows that although IWD is a key annual event, it is as important to be part of its laudable objective all year round.

Katharine Hardie is Partner and Chair of Scotland and Northern Ireland, Pinsent Masons


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