22 March 2016, Written by Paris Faint


QUEENSLAND has improved its stance on gender equality in the past few years, with more women being promoted to senior management positions both within firms and legal organisations, according to the Women Lawyers Association of Queensland (WLAQ).

"The Supreme Court reports show there has been an increase of female barristers appearing in both civil and criminal matters in the Court of Appeal," says WLAQ vice-president Cassandra Heilbronn.

"We've also got a great relationship with the Queensland Law Society and the Queensland Bar Association, both of which are overseen by male presidents who have elected female deputy and vice presidents."

Heilbronn's comments come on the heels of a successful Annual Inter-Professional Networking Evening for 2016, attended by a number of Brisbane's industry leaders at the College of Law Queensland.

Dr Kirsten Ferguson (pictured), independent non-executive director for the ABC and Queensland Theatre Company, addressed the sold-out crowd with the International Women's Day theme 'pledge for parity' at the heart of her keynote presentation.

During the address Dr Ferguson spoke about her own journey to the boardrooms of various listed and private Australian countries, stressing the importance of acting as a role model and building confidence in the next generation.

"Our journey in becoming more skilled, more aware of who we are and understanding how we role model to others never ends," says Dr Ferguson.

Heilbronn says the event was among the most successful Annual Networking nights the organisation has run to date.

Guests were given the opportunity to engage on the topic of equality within each tier of the legal workplace, and the steps all genders can take to reach it.

"One of the key things we discussed on the night is that the legal profession needs to understand equality is not just about women's issues, they are issues that affect everyone," says Heilbronn.

"Unless we have an understanding from our male counterparts, especially those at senior positions and in management level, we're not going to be able to effect any dramatic change at the lower levels of the profession."

Heartened by gender equality advances in Queensland, Heilbronn believes that, as the stigma around gender equality diminishes, every person has the ability to be an influential champion of change.

"If you said the words 'women's issues' or 'feminism' 40 years ago, people would likely run in the other direction," she says.

"But now we've got men at the forefront, willing to help and willing to say that they want women in the workforce, they want women to progress and they want women sitting beside them in the boardroom."

Author: Paris Faint





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