Jane Edwarde

Partner of our Real Estate group tells us about what Break the Bias means to her and the challenges faced by women

What does Break the Bias mean to you?

For me, it means making changes to our decision making instincts. Bias is unconscious and pervasive. As human beings, we make incredibly quick judgments and we often need to do so. Instinct, learned experience and bias all play a part in that. Breaking the Bias means taking the time to try to re-educate and re-set to allow us all to make better and fairer judgments, or at least to learn to question those judgments before decisions are made or views are expressed.

Are there, for example, any specific forms of bias that you have worked/are working to break or in respect of which you think further work needs to be done to break them?

Every day I hear language which is at best ill-judged and at worst offensive. But most of it is genuinely unintended. Maybe it is male colleagues or clients debating whether the office uniform is suits and ties or chinos and shirts. Maybe it is an assumption that domestic diary management and childcare is something women have to manage, whether they work or not. Or an assumption that the chair of the meeting will be a chairman. I think we need to call out these comments. Also, I’d say to women – make sure you chair meetings and wear what you like!

How can allies help to break the bias (or any specific form of bias)?

Develop an antennae for biases and unintended comments and make sure you challenge them. This can be done in a light-hearted way but the point is made. Also, check yourself before making a decision or a comment and ask whether it is going to be fair and appreciated.

Who inspires you?

My late father, any great actor, the Obamas, teachers I remember from my senior school days.

What have you done since the start of the pandemic to help drive diversity and inclusion – either in a professional or personal way?

I have become a D&I partner at the firm and I am really keen to help achieve more than our stated D&I targets. I would like to drive real change and momentum within the whole of the firm.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing women?

The desire to have children and the desire to have a career. It seems so obvious that the two need to be compatible, but society does not fully support that yet.

What one piece of advice would you give a woman entering the legal sector?

If you don’t ask, you might not get. Be clear with yourself and with others what you want to achieve. And be kind to yourself.

Who was/is your mentor – and why?

I have really enjoyed my sessions recently with a professional coach. It has been invaluable to discuss my priorities and challenges with a thoughtful and experienced coach.

Who would you say is a role model, either in the firm or outside it?

I am so pleased that Deborah is going to be our new managing partner, working closely with Jill as COO. That’s great news for the firm.

What do you think has been the most positive step forward for gender equality over the last few years?

Shared parental leave.

Open question – do you have any comments/thoughts you’d like to add?

Just to encourage everyone to think about our own biases. We all have biases but we do not need to act on them and we can retrain them.