Women in the Legal Profession: Inspirations and Reflections for Future Female Lawyers.

Inspirational Stories of Successful Women in the Legal Profession

In honour of International Women's Day, we wanted to hear from the women professionals out there winning in their respective careers in the legal industry. We contacted four brilliant women in the legal profession, each a beacon of success and an inspiration for female lawyers everywhere, to reflect and share their stories and perspectives.

In this article, four accomplished female lawyers reflect on their careers, sharing advice they would give to their younger selves and discussing the changes they would make to the legal industry. As we celebrate the achievements of women in the legal profession, we hope their stories can inspire both female lawyers and legal counsels, providing insights for future generations of women in the legal profession. Read on as we explore their stories and celebrate the profound impact of women leadership within the legal sphere.

Shalinee Fernandez

Senior Legal Counsel Global Operations, Ansell


1. What advice would you give to your younger self?

To possess more confidence, be less intimidated, but bearing in mind that certain traits can only come along with age. To be courageous enough to ask more questions if in doubt, without being insecure that this would make me look less intelligent. And most importantly to never second guess myself even in the company of certain managers who may out of their own challenges, knowingly or unknowingly have made me feel less worthy of the role I was in. To always know my worth and not to derive this from external factors. The world is our oyster and not to be afraid to step out into the world nor be bound by any geographical restrictions.

2. If you were in charge for 1 day and could make any changes you wanted to in the legal industry and its approach to gender equity, what would it be?

I have always been a merits vs gender person. This means regardless of my gender I would like to be chosen for my merits and values. So, this would be the change I would hope to see. To remove any stereotypical notions that women in the legal profession are labelled with- such as being too emotional, micromanaging, unable to balance family life versus work life and for the legal industry to accept us for what we bring to the table as an individual. Ultimately I would like for us to break the female leadership glass ceiling which are cultural challenges women face when their careers stagnate at middle-management roles, preventing us from attaining higher leadership or executive positions.

Natalie Salunke

General Counsel, Zilch


1. What advice would you give to your younger self?

I would tell her that it’s not necessarily going to be an easy ride in the legal industry for a female legal professional, but that isn’t always a bad thing. Having said that, I thought that there was going to be more of an equal footing for both men and women in the legal profession and the world at large. However, there are still misconceptions on how women assert themselves in the workplace. For instance, when a woman is assertive, she is often seen as aggressive, while if she is more in touch with her feminine side, she is perceived as passive. Despite the progress that has been made, gender equality and equity is still far from being achieved in the legal profession, and indeed, in the world of work in general.

Despite these challenges, I see this as an opportunity for women to rise to the occasion and make a change in the legal industry. To do so, it is crucial that women who possess the drive, ambition, and desire to make a difference take action. This is definitely something that drives me and everything that I do - whether it's at work, whether it's for people that I mentor or teach, whether it's the people in my team. It's a challenging journey, yet we need to play an active part in this change movement.

2. If you were in charge for 1 day and could make any changes you wanted to in the legal industry and its approach to gender equity, what would it be?

If I had the power to do so I would wave a magic wand to make it more acceptable for parents to be there for their children or dependent without the fear that it will count against them in their career in the legal industry. I believe that a lot of the reason why there is still a disparity between genders is because the profession still holds onto traditional roles for families, where men are seen as the breadwinners and women are responsible for raising children.

But the truth is, when you speak to a lot of men, they actually want to be there for their families just as much as their female counterparts. By making it more acceptable for men to take longer parental leave or time off to care for their children, it becomes more normal and less of a gender-specific issue. This would create more parity and less pressure on men to fit into the stereotype, while also allowing women to ask their male counterparts for support without feeling judged.

Flexible working hours are also important in achieving gender equity. We should allow men and women to leave the office at a time that allows them to pick up their children and continue working from home. We've embraced hybrid work on a day-to-day basis, but not on an hour-by-hour basis. We need to introduce that flexibility to allow people to pick up their kids from school without any stigma or judgement attached to it.

We need to level the playing field by embracing changes that would make a material difference. It's time to change our hearts and minds and let go of the antiquated view of traditional gender roles in the family unit. It's not a modern approach to the way the world operates.

Patricia Hui

General Counsel & Governance Professional


1. What advice would you give to your younger self?

There are so many!  Here are a few more important ones:

  • Things are never going to be perfect in ways you expect them to be, but everything is just going to fall into place.  Always be grateful, even in difficult times 
  • Don’t take things / other people’s views and opinions personal and learn to let go
  • Diversify your skillset especially soft skills 
  • Make more connections with people of diverse backgrounds, professions and culture
  • Take time to identify your values, understand the things that give your life purpose and meaning and prioritise them

2. If you were in charge for 1 day and could make any changes you wanted to in the legal industry and its approach to gender equity, what would it be?

Every governing or decision-making body in the legal industry would have to meet a minimum percentage criterion for female professionals’ representation. Nowadays, we still equate wisdom with experience and leadership qualities with financial success.  Female professionals’ representation would not only propel real gender equity, inclusion and diversity, but also provide unique transformational outlooks and diverse perspectives, increased collaboration and benefits of female leadership values to the industry.  Also there should be more professional mentorship, support, and development for female legal professionals in early career stages to ignite and live their potential.

Solange Semedo

Managing Legal Counsel (Americas), Paysend


1. What advice would you give to your younger self?

Just do your very best, that will more than suffice. Watch out for the snakes in the field who conceal themselves and show true colours incrementally. Always stay true to your values and integrity. Always be kind. Fail fast my girl, resilience is the key.

2. If you were in charge for 1 day and could make any changes you wanted to in the legal industry and its approach to gender equity, what would it be?

In my legal career to date, the only gender issues I encountered were the male pale and stale club (very little can be done in these circles as you can’t teach an old dog new tricks). However, we can ensure the upcoming generations don’t take that approach (case in point, a family member of mine recently said in front of my 14 year old daughter “women have too many rights these days” erm...ok...not going to see that man for a long time....).

But to date in my life, by far the biggest issue has been women against women. I was a speaker at “Women Top 50”, a conference in Dubai last year on this very topic: ‘Women and the glass ceiling’. Women, in particular, who are given opportunities and use them to bring down other women and ensure they climb up the ladder in the process. It’s a big world with room for every single ambitious woman to succeed in - bringing down other women may bring success but eventually karma catches up.

So if I were to be given one day to make a real difference, I would make it compulsory for every lawyer to be assessed for their character - characters can make or break teams, they can be the success or demise of a legal team. We want women and men lawyers that empower others to do their best. People get to Partner/GC/Board level when someone takes a chance on them.

So, let’s promote the fact that there’s room for all to succeed. Men - keep the doors open for those who don’t look like you or who speak a little differently to you, and women - stop competing in an underhanded and manipulative way as it shows zero leadership skills and immaturity, and you won’t get to the top like that (or if you do, you won’t be there for long).

Out with the toxic, in with the brilliant team oriented, company goal oriented, client and staff oriented, kind, fun, fantastic lawyers out there - the quirkier the better I say!

Satinder Sohal