Julie Mills says that it’s difficult to boil down into a single statement why women are sometimes not taken seriously in corporate environments.
“In my experience, it is often the result of a combination of personality, seniority, confidence in your own abilities, and sometimes also a lack of diversity,” she says.
The expertise counsel and head of workplace learning at Ashurst says that many women, including herself at times, wait for permission or an invitation to participate, whether that be in meetings or when it is time to nominate one’s self for a project. When those don’t come, women then don’t get the opportunity to fully participate, which only perpetuates the cycle.
“This then feeds into a broader perception as perhaps not being recognised as someone with something to contribute, and so attention turns elsewhere,” she says.
But Mills says that diversity of all kinds is increasing in workplaces.
“People are far more attuned to the importance of considering all voices, not only the loudest,” she says.
Her advice to fellow women lawyers is to showcase what they bring to the table.
“To borrow a cliché that is well worn for good reason – don’t hide your light under a bushel,” she says. “Know your area of expertise and be open about sharing it and profiling it in a way that constructively contributes to the environment you are in.”
Mills will be discussing a bevy of issues, including how to overcome unconscious bias and indirect discrimination, breaking through the boys’ club network, and developing a client base as part of a panel at the upcoming Women in Law Summit at The Westin Sydney on 7 August. Registrations are still open for the event, with discounts available for larger groups.
“This gives women an opportunity to share experiences openly and widely, and to form new connections with other women in similar positions. It is a forum to gather ideas and insights, in a way that may not typically be available at other industry focussed events,” she says.