History is the missing link in women in law debate

History is the missing link in women in law debate

Woman at City of London law firm 1982

Dana Denis-Smith founder of the First 100 Years project and CEO of Obelisk Support talks about the creation of the First 100 Years project and how it aims to inspire future generations of women through a digital museum reflecting the history of women in law. 

 

I founded the First 100 Years project in 2014 because I believe that history will hold the key to how the future will shape up for women in the legal profession. That once they understand how it all began, fewer than 100 years ago, they will use the pioneering work of the first women lawyers to lift those last barriers left in the way of their access and progress in the profession and claim this century as their own.

It is easy to dismiss the role of history in the age of technology. Why look to the past if you want to change the future? To me, the answer is simple - we need to learn from men in how they, generation after generation, strengthened the foundation on which they built their careers. Cast your mind to the profession’s buildings - grand portraits hang in the halls – from the Law Society to the Inns of Court – and coherently chart the history of men in the legal profession over hundreds of years. They tell of imposing, confident, impressive individuals that have been some of the country’s leading names in law. Not so for women – however confident, achieving, impressive and successful their story, it is seldom written in canvas and oil as few of them have risen to the top. It is high time that this should change.

The First 100 Years journey began with an image from 1982 – that of one woman surrounded by a group of 50 or so male partners at a party marking the 100th anniversary of one of

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