Learning with the legal sector – Law Society of Scotland’s Equality Network Event

JRS Knowhow and the Scottish Women’s Rights Centre attended the Law Society of Scotland’s Equality Network in November to share our plans for our newest project learning with the legal sector. On a rather grey day, we were joined online by 20 different people from across Scotland to talk about addressing sexual harassment and gender-based violence in workplaces. We heard that the colour forest green, amongst others like yellow and pink was a colour people associated with feeling calm and relaxed.

What we talked about

We introduced the project and our plans to train 120 people by March 2024. We shared the reasons why we created the project, to create a more positive working environment and improve gender equality across the sector in Scotland. And we spoke about how we want to work holistically across the legal sector, not just with solicitors or advocates, but also with paralegals, operational staff, administrators and everyone who works with the legal sector in an ancillary role like advocacy workers and interpreters.

Next up, the SWRC spoke about their legal and outreach services to self-identifying women who experience gender based violence. They spoke about their existing training for lawyers in Scotland including domestic abuse and trauma-informed practice, and coercive control and a trauma-informed approach. The SWRC also outlined some learnings from their ROSA project, including the rise of online sexual harassment and how many people didn’t have the legal language to articulate or identify that they had experienced sexual harassment. And recapped employers’ obligations under the Health and Safety 1974 and Equalities Act 2010 to provide safe working environments and take efforts to prevent harassment.

Finally, Close the Gap shared learnings from their Equally Safe at Work accreditation programme. They have been working closely with the public sector and now with the third sector to advance gender equality and tackle violence against women. They noted that many accreditations don’t link up gender equality with violence against women and girls, and how this is problematic. They shared that they had found it was useful to have people working in HR and also investigations within their expert advisory and testing teams, to hear from their experiences about what was useful and also challenges like trickly cases.

Factors that are critical for success:

  1. Leadership commitment, from both leaders and senior members of staff to prioritise, and progress the work and address gender inequality
  2. Resource allocation, including budgets but also staff time to work on this topic, not just having one staff member but mainstreaming it across the organisations, seeing ownership of the task wider than EDI or GBV leads
  3. Understanding the link between gender equality and violence against women, to really start to address the causes within an organisation

Good practice:

  • Addressing the causes of gender inequality– this could include looking at occupational segregation data, addressing everyday sexism, flexible working
  • Working with line managers
  • Offering different options of support– like flexible working, employee assistance programme, risk management
  • Having clear reporting procedures– making sure that they are communicated to all staff, having multiple options for reporting via line managers and wider options
  • Having a supportive workplace culture– that takes GBV seriously and signifies that that behaviour is unacceptable

What we heard

We asked about people’s ideas for the projects and for feedback on what they would like to see in the project.

Some findings included:

  • People learn in different ways, but there was interest particularly in videos and webinars, interactive case studies and discussing themes with peers. Unsurprisingly for lawyers, we also heard that reading and summarising was a desired way of digitally learning
  • Motivations to complete learning about sexual harassment and gender based violence were discussed and the most popular was interest in the topic and providing a more positive legal sector to work in, ahead of mandatory training imperatives like health and safety
  • Topics and themes that people wanted to see within any training included, the definition of sexual harassment, language to use, practical case studies, positive frameworks of how to respond, and how to deal with third party harassment from clients. There were also specific requests like recruitment practice
  • People wanted everyone to be trained, but specifically identified audiences included line managers, senior managers, supervisors, and certain sectors like academics, the judiciary, and regulatory organisations

How to get involved

  • Get in touch with us if you want to chat more about the project
  • We are actively seeking pilot organisations and people who would like to test out training
  • Let us know below how long you want to spend on elearning typically
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