Tuesday, March 8, 2022 – The British Virgin Islands’ Attorney General Honourable Dawn Smith speaks out against bias and encourages persons to live by the ‘Golden Rule’ in front of an audience of barristers in the United Kingdom.
“I do not know that we can ever have a bias-free world. We make judgements; it is sometimes the difference between life and death, injury or being whole, but if we live by the golden rule, if we resolve to treat those who look different, speak different, pray different, live different, in the same way that we ourselves would want to be treated, we would not take all or whatever we wanted simply because we can,” stated Attorney General Honourable Smith who presented virtually at the ‘Afternoon Tea’ event.
The event ‘Afternoon Tea’ was hosted in observance of International Women’s Day by the International Advisory and Dispute Resolution Unit (IADRU) of 3 Verulam Buildings (3VB), one of the UK’s principal sets of barristers’ chambers with over 80 members specializing in a wide range of commercial law.
During the event, AG Smith shared significant career lessons where she was faced with bias and gave insight on what one’s actions would be if they did not focus on how others would perceive them.
She stated, “How will we treat each other if we thought that the other person was just like us? We all know the answer to that question. In life, we establish artificial boundaries, we put up artificial barriers, some people assume authority that they do not have, ignore their own rules of fair play and then enforce their wrongs as right by their might. Often in my work, I’ll hear snippets like, ‘You are just a small Territory or its only government or that is the process,’ the implication being, that wrong is right because they who feel mighty are doing it to you…that other people can decide the limits of your aspirations because of your innate characteristics and in my case, that they can manipulate how your job can be done.”
Honourable Smith then explained that those situations are commonly experienced by women, disadvantaged people, one’s environment or a smaller political entity that is vulnerable to the might of a larger one.
Honourable Smith then recognised that women leadership was something she viewed as being the norm stating, “When I started my legal studies, 75 percent of my intake class were women; our local bar and bench are mostly women; our longest serving and very progressive chief justice is a women; in my chambers now 80 percent of counsel and 92 percent of all staff are women; in my community many of our church leaders, society leaders, and business people are women. This seems so normal to me that I was actually struck when some years ago, a male presenter from London expressed his surprise at the predominance of women of an audience of Financial Services professionals.”
However, she stated that bias is exhibited by both women and men and outlined the harm that it can cause, such as encouraging violence and intimidation against women and girls; the disproportion of salary earnings among women and men; the disparity for women’s assets; and the amplified preference for a male’s voice to promote action versus a female’s voice in corporate settings.
She even highlighted that the Virgin Islands is no stranger to bias, even with its strong legal system with many outspoken people; that there are issues to resolve as most jurisdictions in the world pertaining to reporting, investigation, prosecution, enforcement, resourcing, and education.
Honourable Smith culminated her address by encouraging attendees to consider the golden rule in other contexts of their lives and careers by taking what was needed while leaving for others, for tomorrow and for renewal, which would then lead to a more sustainable future and a better world.
Honourable Smith’s guest presentation was coordinated by the International Advisory and Dispute Resolution Unit (IADRU) of 3 Verulam Buildings (3VB) with assistance from BVI Finance.
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