We have been working as legal advisers in the real estate and construction industries for nearly two decades and, despite the substantial inroads that women have made during this time, they are still male-dominated sectors.

Ruby Dalal and Pauline Page

Ruby Dalal and Pauline Page

Strengths and contributions come in different forms

Not everyone shares the desire to become an equity partner, but we all play a vital role in the success of our firm. It is important that we recognise the diversity of strengths, aspirations and interests of our employees, and in turn the fact that contributions to the success of our practice naturally come in a variety of forms.

While many law firms have alternative career paths for their employees, having clear definitions and parameters for each role, attributing status and enhancing remuneration appropriately are key to retaining talented staff and providing for longevity to their careers. Similarly, employees can really benefit from an appraisal and remuneration system that promotes collaboration and collegiality.

We would encourage anyone seeking an alternative career path to have an open and honest conversation with their employer to try and find a path that works for them both, for mutual success and happiness.

Agile and flexible working

Agile, flexible or hybrid work arrangements have made balancing our careers with enjoying a healthy family life possible, especially because we both have young families. While the pandemic has forced many organisations into allowing remote working, our firm embraced the concept of flexible working long before the start of the pandemic.

We see many of our colleagues benefiting from such work arrangements, especially the autonomy to make the right decisions about managing and executing our professional roles and responsibilities.

Nothing should override quality and integrity of service, and training for progression and succession remains one of the priorities. The  principle at the core of our firm that cannot be compromised is balancing the flexibility and support desired by our employees, while maintaining excellent client service.

Many organisations can do better to help support women – and men – who are striving to achieve a better work/life balance or raise a family.

Role models

The persuasive power of having strong female leading figures in an organisation cannot be underestimated. At Withers, 45% of our partners, including our chairperson, are women and we have been led by a female CEO since 2002. Clearly, leading female role models are not in short supply and neither are inspiring and supportive male colleagues.

This high female representation in the partnership, or the fact that the two most senior roles are carried out by women, was never used as a selling point, or even directly mentioned, when we were potential recruits to the firm. The spotlight is on the calibre of the firm’s leaders rather than their gender, and this endorses the authenticity of the firm’s commitment to gender equality.

This is something the wider property industry needs to get much better at, to increase the number of females in senior roles.

Networking

We would encourage women who are keen to move up through the ranks to start growing their external and internal network from the start of their career. It is key to find like-minded people and supportive individuals in your organisation and the wider industry who will grow with you and support you along your journey.

Try to find your unique selling point and maximise this in your networking activities, both internally and externally, to stand out from the crowd. This goes hand in hand with always delivering excellent client service, which will quickly grow your reputation in the market.

Awareness

We are fortunate to have a very broad client base and the diversity of work for our clients not only makes our jobs interesting and meaningful, but also reminds us that success is a diverse concept, embracing many important values that we hold dear, such as gender equality and diversity.

As female partners from a non-Caucasian background, promoting gender equality and diversity are not just exercises to publish figures on our firm’s website, but rather a mission resulting from leadership vision and genuine team efforts for which we are grateful.

Pauline Page is construction partner and Ruby Dalal is commercial property partner at law firm Withers