In light of the Gender Equality Forum 2017, we interviewed Mary Jackson, Chief Officer, Professional Resources at Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP, and asked the following questions on Gender Equality, Women’s Empowerment, and more.
Why is Gender Equality important to you / Blakes?
A focus on gender equality is important in order for any business to recruit, retain and promote its best talent. We know that our clients benefit when we bring diverse perspectives and insights to the table, and we know that our corporate culture is more engaging, open and innovative because we embrace diversity in all its forms. I think gender equality, like diversity, is an important part of any good corporate social responsibility policy – it’s the right thing to do and we all benefit from it.
Are you optimistic that we will have achieved gender equality by 2030?
I would wish nothing more than to get there by 2030, but I think gender equality will take us longer to achieve. Within my own lifetime, I have witnessed uneven progress, and recent developments in the world have made me realize how fragile the gains that women have made are. I think we need to be vigilant to protect and enhance women’s rights. While we may suffer setbacks, I also believe that there is hope for continued progress, as women and men from different cultures around the world work together and engage in discussions that challenge the normative frameworks that support gender inequality.
What will it take to achieve gender equality by 2030? Why is it so difficult to achieve gender equality?
I think achieving gender equality is a slow process because the roots of gender inequality are ingrained in most cultures and belief systems. Changing that takes time. It is difficult to even agree on what constitutes a meaningful measure of equality. What I do hope is that more progress will be made and that progress will be shown to be consistent with more positive outcomes in all aspects of life for all people within the community.
Over the last five years, the representation of women on our Executive Committee has increased to more than 30 per cent.
What actions and achievements related to advancing gender equality are you most proud of?
I am proud of contributing to and being part of a firm that continues to focus on the issue of gender equality. Over the last five years, the representation of women on our Executive Committee has increased to more than 30 per cent. I am very involved in the partnership admission process, and we have seen an increase in the percentage of women who enter the partnership. I have also worked with women professionals before and after parental leaves to help them pursue successful careers in a very demanding profession while maintaining their commitments to themselves and their families. I have worked with others to enhance our commitment to the training and development of women lawyers – whether that be in a program focused on developing women’s business development skills or broader training on networking and presentations. I have been happy to see that more men are engaging in the issue of retaining and developing women within the profession of law.
Coming up with a plan to fast-track gender equality and implement it may take an effort, but it’s not just the right thing to do, it also makes sense on a business level
Do you have any advice for other business leaders who don’t know where and how to start?
My advice for any organization would be to start by looking at the gender inequities in their company and determining which ones could be dealt with more easily. Dialogue is key. Starting the discussion on gender equality so that everyone is included and engaged can be a challenge, but it is a valuable investment. Coming up with a plan to fast-track gender equality and implement it may take an effort, but it’s not just the right thing to do, it also makes sense on a business level.