Spark 21 Conference 2016

Published 17th November 2016

On November 9th 2016, Spark 21 and the First 100 Years project held their second annual conference to promote gender equality and diversity in the legal profession. They day was a great success, with 150 delegates from all over the country (and beyond!), and raised nearly £3,000 for the project – thanks to the generous individual donations of participants. The money raised will go towards continuing the historic video library being built by the First 100 Years project, to ensure the stories of female legal pioneers are not lost to history.

Have women been Trumped?

The news that the U.S had voted against electing their first female President in favour of a Trump presidency, marked the tone of the start of the conference and prompted a change in the programme to include a panel debate on what the vote outcome meant for women. The panellists included Agnes Ayekpa, Dame Janet Gaymer, and Rhiannon Adams. Despite fears that mood music from across the pond might affect the discussion on equality for women in the UK, the consensus of the day was that women ought to take a leaf out of Hillary’s book, brush themselves off and continue with their ambitions.

Panel Discussions

Spark 21 was proud to have such a high calibre of panellists steering the debate at the conference. From discussing the power, as a woman, in saying “I am good at what I do” rather than explaining away success as simply ‘good luck’; to listening to men’s experience of witnessing gender inequality in Law; through to discussing the larger implications of sexism with our ‘Lessons from Other Professions’ panel — each of our speakers were insightful, engaging, and truly dedicated to improving the future for women working in Law.

The importance of the First 100 Years Project

Every so often, we will be reminded of the importance and urgency of the First 100 Years project. In December 2015, we had the honour of meeting and interviewing Frances Murphy of Slaughter & May. As one of the most formidable corporate lawyers in the City, she carved a reputation for excellence at a time there were few women in her field. Sadly, Frances passed away in May this year. Thanks to our interview with Frances, the First 100 Years has ensured her story has been captured so she might inspire future generations of lawyers. We played Frances’ interview at the conference, introduced by our Film producer Scott Jones – and you can watch it here.

Lord Chancellor reveals new plans for diversity in the judiciary

Spark 21’s special guest at this year’s conference was the Rt. Hon Liz Truss MP, who became the first woman to hold the title of Lord Chancellor earlier this year. After commending women such as Lady Hale and Dame Linda Dobbs for their historic contributions to the legal profession, she spoke of her plans to diversify the judiciary; focusing on increasing the number of minority ethnic and female candidates making it to the top of the profession, whilst stressing the importance of talent over “box-ticking”.

The Secretary of State for Justice also mentioned the recent events concerning Brexit and the independence of the judiciary, stating: “This week’s events show the importance of the judiciary in our constitution and our free society. Our independent judiciary is vital. From the Supreme Court down, we are unrivaled around the world in having judges who are independent, impartial and incorruptible. I can think of no higher calling than joining the judiciary.”

Inspirational Women in Law Award

We would like to congratulate the winner of 2016’s Inspirational Women in Law Award, Keily Blair. Our award was in search of the stories of the next generations of lawyers that can be included in the First 100 Years video library. Our judges – who had to judge the finalists on an anonymous basis – were unanimously impressed by Keily’s commitment to be a mentor and champion of women in law. As well as receiving one of our limited edition printed toilet rolls, Keily’s story will now be filmed as part of the First 100 Years project and featured on our website.

Congratulations are also in order for our four runners-up: Georgina Wolfe, Annie Flower, Gemma Pesce, and Claire Sng.

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To support the project, you can make a donation via our new JustGiving page, or text FHYC00 to 70700!

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