Tell us about your journey to becoming a partner
I have been in the same law firm for about 22 years. I joined when it was still a young firm, headed by three partners. Two of the partners later undertook roles outside this firm, this made me become an interim partner. I had to work with the senior partner and another colleague to push the firm forward while performing major roles like income generation, client acquisition & retention, and lawyers training & development. A daunting task, I must say but I had the support of an amazing senior partner who pushed me throughout the journey.
What would you say is the biggest gender-based challenge in your current position as a law firm partner?
We must acknowledge that men have become more aware of their responsibility to take on the burden of care, i.e., family & children but, largely, the burden remains with women; even with career development, we’re saddled with the responsibility of taking care of our kids whilst pursuing our career objectives.
- Cultural perceptions: This still affects women; I noticed the standards bar seemed raised so high - that you needed to be up top to reach that height - or set so low that it seemed you’re simply jumping across. Honestly, this doesn’t give women enough motivation.
- Self-doubts: Overcoming self-doubt is equally important when claiming opportunities, as our male counterparts tend to grab them faster while we're still having second thoughts as to whether we are the right fit for the role or not.
- Mistakes: I observed that we women don’t have much turn-around time for making mistakes. We sometimes exaggerate our responses, unlike the males. With time, we should learn not to worry ourselves over it as it’s just a phase.
How do you balance your work and life responsibilities?
There’s no perfect balance as I struggled in the beginning. I believed that asking for help was a sign of weakness or that I couldn’t do it. But as I progressed in my career, I made sure I built leverage along the line. I advise women to build leverage by being competent, consistent and visible so when it’s time to rally support for you as a woman it’ll be easier. With this newfound skill, I could ask for help while building team members' capacity to step in when necessary.
Knowing what you know now what advice would you offer young women who aspire to reach a position like yours in the future?
- Leverage: You have to be able to put in the work. Life’s a journey. Just because we don’t look like what we’ve been through doesn’t mean we didn’t start from somewhere.
- Trust the process: Rome wasn’t built in a day. Appreciate that everyone you aspire to be like has endured a journey, and it’s important to submit yourself to mentoring so you can learn from their experiences.
- Embrace your femininity: Often it can help you create a special bond with people. You don’t need to lose your feminine self or be more masculine in your approach to issues
What are your long-term plans for your legal career and beyond?
I want to pursue 3 things & I want to achieve them given more
- Writing - I have a blog currently where I talk about my experiences from being a pupil to being an associate partner. I also write about successful people's challenges as it isn’t a rosy ride.
- Mentoring - I’ll love to mentor younger men and women so I can impact some of my experiences while helping them grow and progress in their respective careers
- Shining - I advise younger people not to be afraid to shine. This is important to motivate people looking up to you; it can’t be achieved if you’re stuck in your comfort zone. I intend to shine going forward.
This blog was adapted from an interview with Isabel Boaten, Managing Partner, AB & David Ghana hosted by The Institute for African Women in Law interview. Watch the full video interview here