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International Women’s Day – Ashley McCann

Published: 11 March 2021
Time to read: 3 mins

The theme of this years International Womens Day is #ChooseToChallenge – what does that mean for you in your work life?

I am challenging myself to consider gender equality in the Scottish legal profession from an intersectional perspective. As things stand, 53% of solicitors and 33% of partners are women. I find these statistics encouraging but do not consider them an optimal barometer for progress. The difficulty, I think, is that we tend to talk about gender inequality as separate from inequality based on other socio-economic factors such as race, class, sexuality, gender non-conformity and disability. I think it is important to recognise that the (very real) challenges privileged, white, cis-gender women face in their legal career differ from those who face other forms of inequality, which often operate together and exacerbate each other. I believe more needs to be done to encourage women from diverse backgrounds to enter the profession. The development of the law will be better for it.

Tell us about a woman who you believe has helped shape the legal profession since the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 allowed women to become lawyers?

Ask any family lawyer and they will give you the same answer: Lady Hale, the first woman Justice of the Supreme Court. Her work has been hugely influential in moving family law on with the times, strengthening the rights of same-sex couples, protecting women and children from violence and diversifying the judiciary.

On the week of International Womens Day, what is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their a career in law?

Choose to challenge your inner critic – the familiar voice that leaves you feeling like a fraud and second-guessing your value at school, university or in the workplace. Maya Angelou summed this line of thinking up perfectly: Uh-oh, theyre going to find out now. Ive run a game on everybody.” This nagging sense of self-doubt affects women and minority groups disproportionately. If left to manifest it has the potential to hinder our career progression, self-development and – most importantly – happiness! Too often women ascribe their successes to luck or happenstance rather than competence and hard work. I am making an effort to re-frame my thinking in that respect.

Which woman (or women) do you admire the most?

I hate to sound cliché but there are too many to mention. One of the things I love most about being a woman (which does have its downsides) is the strength of female friendship. I feel very fortunate to call lots of women close friends and I admire them all. They are empowering, compassionate, committed and funny. Together with my mum they form the ultimate support network/cheerleading squad. So rather than identifying a particular person, I’ll say I admire the close and enduring friendships women work to maintain.

What has been your proudest moment in your career so far?

Probably securing a traineeship at a top tier firm in the third year of my law degree, largely because the job market was so competitive following the financial crash in 2008. Thanks to the inner critic of my early twenties I was convinced it would fall through before I started and if not then, not long after!

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