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Special Guest Post from Stephanie Milione - Convenor of Victorian Women Lawyers (VWL)

The Later Law Students Network is pleased to announce that Ms Stephanie Milionewill be a special guest at the Network’s Careers Night on 21 September 2016. In preparation for this special night, Ms Milione has agreed to do a special post on our blog to motivate our members to get involved in VWL!

This year is Victorian Women Lawyers’ 20th anniversary. Incidentally, the year VWL was founded, 1996, is also the year the first woman, Rosemary Balmford, was appointed to the Supreme Court. We have happily come a long way since then, however, women judges still only represent about 25% of judges at the Supreme Court which is about the same as the average amount of female partners at national law firms. These facts demonstrate the continued need for VWL to advocate for the advancement of women in the legal profession.

VWL is a volunteer run organisation with eight committees that conduct project work and hold important events that provide professional development opportunities for our members and examine important social justice issues that affect women’s legal and human rights.

Some of the topics VWL has examined in 2016 include the gender pay gap and its relationship to pay transparency, family violence and the Royal Commission recommendations, how to provide culturally sensitive legal advice, and gender and sexuality in the legal profession, to name a few. We continue to run our annual Mentoring Program and the Warren Moot competition.

This year VWL has focused on broadening our membership through various events held in regional Victoria as well as events looking at topics that are important to women from different cultural backgrounds and female identifying members of the LGBTIQ community. As Convenor, I feel that it is important that we represent and include women lawyers in our organisation from all races, sexual orientation, socio-economic backgrounds and geographic locations.

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is Pledge for Parity. Recent Workplace Gender Equality Agency data puts the gender pay gap at 34.3% for full time employees in the legal industry. We have seen that pay gap plateau and widen, rather than continue to narrow over time. The barriers that remain are more subtle and nuanced. Issues like unconscious bias, expectations of women to be primary carers, the cultural and social factors that make men feel that they can’t take up flexible work arrangements are just a few of the many reasons for continued gender inequality. Many studies, including the NARS report, have highlighted the lack of pay transparency as a significant contributing factor to the gender pay gap. In 2016 VWL has commenced a project aimed at advocating for pay transparency in Victorian law firms. We have endorsed the Fair Work Amendment (Gender Pay Gap) Bill currently being examined by the Senate Committee for Education and Employment Legislation. We support the purpose of the Bill to void and make unenforceable any clause that seeks to restrict an employee’s ability to discuss their remuneration.

VWL does not want to wait another 20 years to get to 50% representation of women at all levels of the legal profession. The status quo is not going to get us to 50-50 representation and equal pay. I encourage you as members of the LLSN to join VWL as a member and get involved in one of our committee members so that you can connect with fellow women lawyers and have a wonderful opportunity for professional development through your involvement.

Stephanie Milione

Victorian Women Lawyers (VWL) Convenor

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