When I recently attended the second ever women lawyers conference at the Law Society’s august building in Chancery Lane, in the heart of legal London, I was asked to “deal with” the press. This consisted of one telephone interview with a local radio station. (Others to whom I offered the benefit of my comments did not seem interested.)
The local radio presenter, however, quite pugnaciously asked a question which has since come up on several occasions in conversation with other lawyers: Why have a women lawyers conference? Isn’t all that sort of thing outdated? In the cramped quarters of the telephone box at the Law Society, I defended “our” patch. Of course it was ne- cessary to have a women’s conference. Women had been treated as second class citizens in the law ever since I could remember. Where are the women in high office? There was still not a single female Law Lord, and only one Lady Justice (who had to be addressed as Lord Justice when first appointed). Why were only four women made QCs this Easter? There were 64 males selected for silk.
“Look,” I opined from the sweaty confine of my telephone booth. (It was a boiling hot day and the heating system in the Law Society building was still switched on to full.) “We women have to stick together. We are sick of seeing mediocre and even downright incompetent men in the corridors of power. Sure, exceptional women have got to the top. Look at Maggie Thatcher and Barbara Mills, the present director of public prosecutions; but why can’t we have some average women in top positions? Why do we have to abandon our babies, toddlers and vulnerable school children to nannies, minders and boarding schools in order to avoid losing our fragile footholds on the ladder of success? It just isn’t fair. And look at the huge waste of talent and training of women of my generation who never got their feet on the bottom rung at all.”
Having thus defended our patch, I resumed my seat in the body of the splendid hall, and between wondering whether the pillars were real or fake marble, I attempted to concentrate on the well-meaning but mainly self-congratulatory speakers on the platform.
The local radio guy must have been a David Frost in the making, because he set me on a course of re-assessment, re-adjustment and eventually…