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When it comes to gender equity, ‘every little bit counts’

A new campaign has urged lawyers around the country to donate and raise awareness of the workplace gender equity gap, after women were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

user iconLauren Croft 07 April 2022 Big Law
Hannah Ellis
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A “pay it forward” campaign, #EmpowerHour is an initiative from not-for-profit, volunteer-run organisation Dress for Success (DFS), which, following International Women’s Day, implored lawyers to donate one hour of their pay and raised awareness of the workforce gender gap.

This follows the release of Dress for Success’ COVID client impact survey, which reveals that during the height of the pandemic, 66 per cent of women were not receiving an income – and that remote learning, the loss of childcare and household support services led to a big rise in unpaid work during the lockdowns, disproportionately affecting women.

In conversation with Lawyers Weekly, Hannah Ellis, managing partner of The Workplace Employment Lawyers – an all-female-led firm – urged those in the legal profession to support the campaign.


“By donating just one hour of your pay, you can help women achieve employment and financial stability. To us, the campaign represents more than this. We all know that the recent challenges across the globe, including the COVID-19 pandemic, have disproportionately impacted women and affected the economic independence of vulnerable women,” she said.   

“In our space, we see this impact acutely in women being disproportionately represented in those industries that have been hardest hit and suffered huge job losses (like retail and travel). Against this backdrop, we are more committed than ever to doing everything we can to progress towards gender equality, and this campaign is one tangible way we can all get involved to help shift the dial.”

With aims to raise $250,000, which will enable the organisation to transition hundreds of women back into employment, following the overwhelming impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic, DFS has currently raised $129,000.

“As lawyers, our desire to ‘help’ is innate in our experience. When we first opened our doors, we helped in the only way we could – with knowledge and time. As lawyers, we’re in a privileged position in terms of being able to distill complex issues into pragmatic solutions. Sharing this knowledge and lightening the burden for others, is one of the best and most rewarding ways we, as lawyers, can help,” Ms Ellis added.

“However, Dress for Success also relies heavily on its donors for financial support. We’re proud that we’re also able to help in a financial sense now by organising our annual charity lunch, where we give generously and graciously call on our broader network to support this wonderful cause.

“The other way to get involved is to donate any workwear to the Dress for Success Sydney team who do such an amazing job at upcycling garments that you may no longer wear. Their styling service gives the Dress for Success Sydney clients the confidence to get back out into the job market and overcome bias and discrimination when entering or re-entering the workforce.”

This initiative is one that is particularly important for the firm, Ms Ellis added.

“At The Workplace, diversity, inclusion and progress are close to our hearts. As employment lawyers, we know how complex the laws are and how difficult they can be to navigate.  Knowing how to spot the issues and ask the right questions is, in our experience, the key to a healthy workplace,” she said.  

“We are incredibly proud to be part of the DFS Sydney career support education program, which empowers women not just with knowledge of their rights, but also with a renewed sense of confidence in their own ability and potential.”

And in terms of what else the legal profession can be doing in this space, Ms Ellis emphasised that no step is too small.

“Impacting change in what seems like a small corner of the world will no doubt have a positive flow-on effects to the ‘bigger picture’. Every little bit counts,” she said.

“We acknowledge the legal profession has a long way to go in terms of reaching equity for all, and our focus is on breaking down the barriers that prevent so many from joining and staying in our profession.”