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Breaking down gender barriers still an issue

Breaking down gender barriers still an issue

The newly elected convenor of the Victorian Women Lawyers (VWL) Association will be encouraging law firms to promote women to senior positions.Clayton Utz tax lawyer Patricia Athanasiadis was…

The newly elected convenor of the Victorian Women Lawyers (VWL) Association will be encouraging law firms to promote women to senior positions.

Clayton Utz tax lawyer Patricia Athanasiadis was elected unopposed as the VWL's convenor on its Executive Committee. She told Lawyers Weekly that the profession still has a long way to go in promoting women to leadership positions.

"There are still so many barriers for women in the legal profession," she said. "I think it is really important that organisations like [the VWL] band together and actually share their skills and share their stories so that we can move forward."

Athanasiadis has been a member of the VWL for two years. She said that mentoring young lawyers would be a priority area for the organisation next year.

"When looking at recent studies such as the Law Society of NSW report on the advancement of women in the profession, it notes that networking and mentoring are the key factors for achieving success in the legal profession," she said.

In Victoria, while around 60 per cent of law graduates are women, the vast majority of senior bench and law firm partner position are held by men. Athanasiadis said the VWL would be looking to work in consultation with law firms to highlight the benefits of flexible work arrangements to encourage the retention and promotion of females.

"We have developed a 'Do you Manage' workshop with Diversity Partners (a diversity and cultural consultancy firm), which is a customised flexible work practices workshop for law firm partners," she said. "It is aimed at demonstrating the business value of flexible work practices and developing inclusive leadership behaviours and practices to support flexibility and provide a practical framework and experience in negotiating flexible arrangements."

When asked by Lawyers Weekly whether she has suffered any discrimination or harassment at Clayton Utz, Athanasiadis, who started at the firm in April, said that she hadn't.

In late November, Bridgette Styles settled a sexual harassment case against the firm in which she was seeking $200,000 in damages.

The VWL this week confirmed that retired High Court judge Michael Kirby will be speaking on the topic of equality before the law in the context of equality of marriage for all Australians at the Dame Roma Mitchell Memorial Address on 2 March.

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