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Great-granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst helps Irwin Mitchell mark 100 Years of Women in Law

The women’s rights activist and writer Dr Helen Pankhurst CBE addressed a special event hosted by the Birmingham office of Irwin Mitchell, as part of the firm’s activities marking 100 Years of Women in Law.

Entitled ‘The Challenges of Gender Diversity in the Workplace’, the event was been organised by IM Powered, the firm’s internal diversity group, focused on gender and career issues, making Dr Pankhurst the perfect speaker.

As the granddaughter of Sylvia and great-granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst (key figures in the suffragette movement), Dr Pankhurst has continued to build on their legacy, with her 2018 book, ‘Deeds Not Words, the Story of Women’s Rights, Then and Now.’

The discussion covered gender diversity, reflecting on the last 100 years since women were granted the vote and admitted to practice law, on what has improved and what remains to be done. The gender pay gap is not expected to disappear until 2069 and Dr Pankhurst reflected on this and other topics forming part of the wider equality debate.

The event was chaired by Suzie Branch-Haddow, Director of Greater Birmingham Professional Services Academy and Business Development Director at BMet.  As someone who has spent years supporting the city’s future generations through mentoring and advising students and graduates, Suzie was a fitting chair for an event aimed at addressing the remaining challenges to gender diversity in the workplace.

Helen Dyke, Senior Associate in the Birmingham Employment team and member of IM Powered said: “It was fantastic to be welcoming an iconic figure like Dr Pankhurst to speak, while Suzie has done a great deal locally here in Birmingham. The event was both informative and thought provoking, encouraging guests to challenge preconceptions and continue to push for equality. Irwin Mitchell has made significant headway, posting the 7th lowest gender pay gap out of 109 law firms in 2018 but we know there is more to do, not just in the legal sector, but the wider world in which we all live and work.”

The event in Birmingham is the latest in a series of Irwin Mitchell initiatives marking 100 years of women in law. The Sheffield office was chosen to live stream the Fiona Woolf lecture on 12 September; while the Manchester office hosts its own event on 4 December to support the next generation of female leaders in law and encourage their career progression – all under the watchful gaze of Emmeline Pankhurst’s statue.

Earlier this year, IM Powered developed a timeline on the progression of women at the firm since 1912, revealing a firm now boasting one of the most diverse and inclusive workforces in the legal sector. Women now make up 30% of the executive board, 44% of partners and 62% of associates, while the firm’s female lawyers continue to be recognised for their skills.

In Birmingham, Chrissie Wolfe was named Solicitor of the Year at the Birmingham Law Society Awards in March 2019; has also been shortlisted for the 2019 Junior Lawyer of the Year Award and is a finalist in the ‘Downtown In Business’ City of Birmingham Business Awards, where she is appropriately a finalist in the 2019 Woman of the Year Award.