On 5 March, we were delighted to hold our inaugural International Women’s Day event, focused on ‘Leaders of the Future’ and hosted by Taylor Wessing. Totum has worked hard to promote equal opportunities for women in law. We were particularly proud of our stats last year showing that we placed an equal number of men and women in senior business services roles in the legal profession. 

We know, however, that while more women are embarking on successful careers it can remain challenging for female talent to rise to the most senior levels – and to hold on to those roles beyond having children. That is why it was so important to us to hold an event that focused on future leadership and equal opportunities for all at more senior levels of the legal profession.

Our speaker highlights

 

We were delighted to secure several speakers for the event, including Darren Mitchell, Global Deputy COO at Hogan Lovells; Alison Bilgin, COO at Wiggin and Yasmin Sheikh, inclusion advocate and founder of Diverse Matters.

Darren opened the event, bringing with him plenty of experience from management consulting and  of the legal sector. This included his role at Clifford Chance where he ended up as Director of Strategy before joining Hogan Lovells as COO of Continental Europe before being promoted to Deputy Global COO.

He reminded everyone of how important it is for men to play their part in International Women’s Day – it can be so easy for these kinds of events to become women-only affairs, when, as Darren said, we all have a shared responsibility to make our workplaces more inclusive and diverse.

Our next speaker Alison had a varied background covering IT and training, and project management before moving into general management. When she joined Osborne Clarke in 2015 as a Business Manager, it was a new role, but the depth and breadth of previous roles supported her and she describes it as a great career time, albeit one in which she was challenged and pushed beyond her comfort zone. After nearly six years she decided to move on and with the support of Totum was offered the COO role at Wiggin.

We were also delighted to have Yasmin Sheikh speaking. She had a successful career for 10 years working as a lawyer. But her life completely changed when in March 2008 at only 29, she had a suspected spinal stroke and needed a wheelchair for the rest of her life.

After 18 months of recovery and rehabilitation, she returned to work but ultimately became so passionate about diversity and inclusion, that she left law to set up specialist training consultancy Diverse Matters, which helps organisations approach disability and diversity with confidence.

She opened her presentation by saying that we all have challenges in life and work. But the key to success, she suggested, is to focus on what you can do and not what you can’t – a point supported by both Darren and Alison. With that she shared her four As:

  1. Articulate – Think about ‘self-talk’ – how do we talk to ourselves? We have 12,000-60,000 thoughts per day. 90% are same as the day before and 80% of those are negative thoughts. Our thoughts affect our behaviour, our results and our actions.
  2. Attitude – Emotions should be used as a feedback mechanism. If you are bored, you know you should be doing ‘something’; if you are guilty, it is because you have broken your morals. You should look at how to reframe the situation and find positives in each.
  3. Adversaries – Sometimes the person you are in dispute with can be the person that makes you take action. Think about how you can utilise this person/situation to make a positive change.
  4. Authenticity – Conforming is tiring. If you aren’t authentic it can lead to an implosion or explosion. Be true to yourself and find ways that work for you.

Career guidance

Our speakers provided lots of career tips, including:

  1. Focus on strengths – Focus on what you are good at. Your weaknesses will be someone else’s strengths.
  2. Take time to pause and reflect – What motivates and challenges you, and what are you willing and able to give to a job? Ultimately, we are more than just our work and that’s ok.
  3. Seek out and take opportunities as they arise – And remember that a sideways move can sometimes be as good as a linear one.
  4. Use your voice – If you are invited to a meeting, you have been invited for a reason and you have a valid perspective. So speak up!
  5. Use a career coach – to support you as a leader and help you recognise what you bring as a leader.
  6. Build trusted relationships – Law is all about relationships. Prove your competency and become the ‘go to’ person.
  7. It’s not all about you! – Recognise your place, use your network and think about everything in the broader sense.

We were delighted with how the evening unfolded and are hugely grateful for the positive feedback and ideas provided for the next event. ‘Inspirational’ and ‘engaging’ were reiterated several times by attendees, which is a huge credit to our speaker panel to whom we send our particularly huge thanks.

It was a privilege to bring together so many people who are genuinely concerned with furthering opportunities for women at a senior level in law, and more generally improving diversity and inclusivity in the legal profession.

We look forward to seeing you all at the next event!

 

 

 

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