Jennifer Nice

Associate from our Financing 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, Bias means when people make assessments of other people based on arbitrary factors that rely on potentially false assumptions about an individual. Breaking the Bias means working to consciously set aside assumptions or stereotypes and respect each person as an individual with autonomy.

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?

As a woman, I have, throughout my life, encountered people making assumptions about my interests and abilities. Such biases can present themselves as a mere an offhand comment from a friend, but can also manifest as a holding back: a lack of encouragement or active discouragement from pursuing things that, if I were a different gender, would not be questioned. On a macro level, biases can be damaging and lead to systemic problems, for example: worse health outcomes for minority groups because of assumptions made about their symptoms; a lack of diversity in high-paying jobs because people may have been discouraged (or not encouraged) to participate; or a perpetuation of harmful stereotypes that make people feel unhappy in trying to fulfil.

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

Develop self-awareness of implicit and explicit biases and challenge them within yourself. This will involve informing yourself of what harmful stereotypes or biases look like for different groups, which is an ongoing process. Expand your media sources and social circles to include a wider diversity of points of view. Call out stereotyping or assumptions by others.  Overall, take people as you find them and listen to where they are coming from.

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

During the pandemic, and with the increased coverage in the news of the Black Lives Matter movement and allegations of anti-Semitism within the Labour party, I have been educating myself on what bias looks like to the Black and Jewish communities, in particular, by reading literature written by members of those communities. I am an active member of the Gender Equality Network and am involved in a number of formal and informal mentoring programmes. I try to attend whatever D&I training is available, including implicit bias exercises.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing women?

Poverty, lack of control over reproductive rights and gender-based violence.

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

The best way to effect change is from the inside.

Who was/is your mentor – and why?

It would be unfair to pick just one: I have been very lucky to receive support and guidance from partners in my group and through the firm’s mentoring programmes and to be able to have frank and honest conversations with them.

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

The normalisation of men taking longer parental leave and more and more women being represented at an executive level and being role models to juniors.