Lucy Marks talks to Catherine Haslam, Partner at DWF about the changes that the Covid-19 Pandemic has brought to working life. Catherine has been named in the 2016 EliteľLeading Lawyers list.
Statistics show that women have been disproportionally affected by the pandemic whether that be by being more likely to have been made redundant / on furlough or taking the lead with home-schooling whilst juggling work, whilst other statistics show that increased working from home and flexibility will allow for positive steps forward for Women in work.
Now as we start making steps to move out of lockdown and towards ‘normality’, what do you think the lasting effects from the pandemic will be for Women in Law?
I think it will depend to a large extent on what individual businesses do in the wake of the pandemic, and how individual people have been impacted by the pandemic in the first place. For some it will be positive and for others it will be negative. I don't think that there's a general rule which will apply across the board, but my impression is that there's a strong focus now within most law firms on trying to achieve gender equality and supporting women, so I hope that will help to ensure that the lasting effects are not negative.
Legal 500 -
No-nonsense and straight-talking with a firm grasp of the telecoms sector, a very good understanding of property law and telecoms issues and a great eye for details.
Reflecting on the last 12 months, what have been the biggest challenges for you personally and what are the positives you would like to keep and take forward?
There have been a number of challenges, but the biggest challenge has been trying to maintain a work/life balance, and finding and maintaining a clear line between work and home life. The sector I work in (telecoms) has been a key sector since the start of lockdown, so we've been busier than ever, and I have found myself having to spend more and more time working, and as a result my leisure time or 'me time' has suffered.
The positives for me have been getting to see more of my family as I am at home every day, and we always make sure that no matter how busy things are with work we always take time to have lunch and dinner together. I've also been able to spend time going for walks in my local area (I try to do at least one per day for 30 minutes), and that is a novelty for me. Despite living in West Didsbury for almost 25 years, I haven't really had time to discover the local area as I have spent most of my time in the city centre working. It's been great to support local cafes and shops.
What piece of advice do you wish you could go back and give to yourself at the beginning of 2020?
I wish I had spent more time in January and February seeing my friends and family before lockdown happened, as I haven't seen many of them for over a year now. You don't realise what you've got until it is taken away from you.
As many firms are revaluating working environments, flexible working policies and benefits packages to ensure they’re relevant post-pandemic. What things do you feel make the biggest impact for Women in the workplace?
The ability to work from home on a more regular basis will be a real positive for lots of women, especially those with young children and caring responsibilities. With more men working from home too, that will hopefully start to level the playing field; previously there was a perception that working from home or working flexibly was largely requested by women, and I think some women were nervous that asking for flexible working might make the businesses they worked for question their commitment to the job. Hopefully now that myth will be dispelled, and everyone will start to see the benefits of flexible working, and in turn that will help businesses to attract and retain a more diverse mix of people.
What is the thing you are most looking forward to doing once we’re finally in the ‘new normal’?
Going out dancing with friends! My husband is a DJ so I have spent most of my time since moving to Manchester immersed in the vibrant nightlife, and it's the one thing I miss more than anything.