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As part of International Women’s Day, the Global Law Summit offered 13 high-achieving GDL and BPTC students the opportunity to be individually mentored by leading female lawyers. Holly Woodhouse was paired with Rosemary Martin, Vodafone’s UK General Counsel and Company Secretary and the winner of the 2013 Women in the City Award.
Despite recent advancements in terms of equality, the Bar in particular is noticeably male dominated at higher end of the career ladder. As an aspiring female lawyer, the lack of women to look up to makes it hard to visualise, and subsequently manifest, comparable career longevity. Both men and women need to “see” female success in order to further the presence of women in the profession.
Rosemary Martin has had a diverse and dynamic career. It was a privilege to be paired with such an inspirational female lawyer. Her insight into the difference women can make on a Board was particularly candid; if a Board has one woman, she is likely to behave like a man, if there are two women, the difference is generally felt between them rather than on the Board as a whole - at least three women are needed to make a positive, tangible impact. I believe such an analysis extends to all areas of the legal profession.
The discussion subsequently moved onto quotas, something I rather reluctantly believe are necessary in order to overcome the unconscious bias of those selecting candidates for senior positions. I was also interested to hear how motherhood strengthened Rosemary’s resolve to achieve in the workplace. This runs contrary to common belief and more women need to hear such sentiments it in order to counter the artificial, “motherhood – career” dichotomy.
Rosemary Martin said: “This is the age for women in the workplace.” As a mentor, she helped me realise this, for which I am grateful. I came away from the mentoring scheme feeling confident in my capabilities and positive about the role of women in the legal profession. Consequentially, I intend to be bold, be visible and advance the presence of women at the Bar by example. I hope there will be more opportunities for under-represented aspiring lawyers to participate in such schemes. In the meantime, whatever opportunities come their way, aspiring female lawyers should say “yes” and make their presence heard.
Holly Woodhouse is a BPTC student at BPP Law School.