Collaboration over competition will help Yorkshire's female lawyers thrive: Carly Gulliver

Everyone has heard of the 'Old Boys Club' – a phrase coined for a male network of business and social connections. Ever heard of another 'Old … Club' like this? Didn't think so.

The notion of an 'Old Boys Club' may seem old fashioned, but studies have shown that peer networks can still influence career progression and are one of many contributing factors to women being under-represented in leadership roles.

So how about we lose the idea of "clubs" and embrace networks which focus on inclusivity and collaboration?

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The overarching theme of this year's International Women's Day (IWD) was to 'Embrace Equity'. While equality means giving everyone the same resources and opportunities, embracing equity means recognising that everyone has different circumstances and needs the correct resources and opportunities to be successful, not just the same ones as everyone else.

Caly Gulliver shares her expert insight. Picture: John GaronCaly Gulliver shares her expert insight. Picture: John Garon
Caly Gulliver shares her expert insight. Picture: John Garon

It's an important difference, and one that can play a huge role in relation a stated missions of this year's IWD: 'To forge inclusive work cultures where women's careers thrive and their achievements are celebrated."

I'm a partner in one of the biggest law firms in Yorkshire, one with an international footprint that provides boundless career opportunities. So why does IWD still matter so much to me, my peers and other successful businesswomen?

The legal profession was traditionally a bastion of maleness. That has changed, and is still changing, for the better – certainly within our business but also across the wider business world. However, there is a way to go before workplaces can genuinely be seen as equitable and we have a responsibility to work together to continue to drive the change required.

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I'm a founding member of Addleshaw Goddard's women's network, The Vine, which aims to build a sustainable community that thrives on equity and collaboration, and is a driver for change within the firm. We also encourage our younger members to expand their networks so they can benefit from the experience, relationships and support available beyond AG.

I see a real sense of momentum in professional services in Yorkshire that I don't think we've seen before regarding females in leadership positions, and indeed leadership that is more diverse and inclusive overall. There is a collective voice that wasn't always there.

That's why we held an event to mark this year's IWD – entitled 'Collaboration not Competition'. And rather than keep our legal 'competitors' at arms' length, we assembled successful female lawyers from other firms to promote the idea of working together.

Around 100 delegates heard from a group including; Jodie Hill, CEO and founder of Thrive, Amy Pierechod, Partner at Gordons; Kristel Graham, GC at Kloeckner Metals UK; Shazma Astle, Client Liaison Manager at Healthy You Ltd and MindYourself App and my fellow colleagues, Yazmin Elliott, trainee solicitor, and partners Harriet Territt and Pervinder Kaur, Head of Addleshaw Goddard's Leeds office.

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It's great to work and collaborate with female leaders in Yorkshire who can influence change. When I embarked on my professional career, there were fewer female role models in leadership. Today things are changing; take my colleague Pervinder as an example of someone making a real difference.

We don't need to compete for scarce roles, but rather work collectively to help each other rise. Collaboration can unlock the door for the next generation of leaders to rush through. Collaboration can ensure that everyone has equity in the workplace and can see their careers thrive.

Carly Gulliver is a partner at Addleshaw Goddard