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Women lawyers need to assert themselves in virtual world

Women lawyers need to assert themselves in virtual world

By Karin Derkley

COVID-19 Technology Women's Rights 

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Women lawyers should unmute their microphones and quickly raise a virtual hand to take opportunities offered in group video meetings, a conference was told recently.

To avoid being sidelined in the virtual world, Singapore's TSMP Law Corporation director Felicia Tan also urged women not to over-think their capacity to do an assignment.

"In the couple of seconds you are thinking about it, someone else, typically a man, who is interested in a piece of work has put up his hand. And he's probably going to knock on your door later to ask you for some advice on how to deal with that.

“I strongly encourage everyone to consider volunteering for something you want to do a bit quicker and trust in yourself that you will somehow be able to handle that."

Ms Tan said in the Career Vision session at the Australian Women Lawyers Conference that COVID-19 put paid to the assumption that working from home is not productive.

“Traditionally it was assumed that if you don't come into the office every day you are not as productive,” she said. "But this COVID pandemic has presented law firms around the world with the perfect opportunity to overcome that perception.

“I think productivity is in certain cases at an all-time high because you are conserving anything between two to four hours of getting out of the house and into court or into the office."

However, there was a risk that women could fail to put themselves forward in the virtual world and miss out on opportunities to build networks and secure assignments because they shy away from speaking up, “especially where there are perhaps lots of high-powered men who leave their microphones on the entire time”, she said.

“If you can't get your word across, type it into the chatbox or raise your hand – do something about it so that you can speak.”

Workplace Gender Equality Australia director Libby Lyons said employees who continue to work remotely once restrictions were lifted must not be seen as "low-hanging fruit" by employees forced to down-size because of tough economic times.

“It's usually the women that are going to be discriminated against here and I think it's up to all to be brave and to challenge some of these decisions as we see them come up."

Combatting this could be done by encouraging men as well as women to work flexibly, especially when it comes to parental leave.

Ms Tan also urged women lawyers to be proactive in regularly contacting their team members and clients, "even if it's just to remind them that you're alive and kicking and that you have the appetite for work".


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