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Celebrating International Women’s Month with African women changing the face of the legal profession – September 2014

Celebrating International Women’s Month with African women changing the face of the legal profession – September 2014

“In Angola, the presence of women in all fields in legal professions is quite important and at a constant increase. At present, the Secretary of State of the Ministry of Justice is a woman and the former Minister of Justice was a woman. In the Judicial system there are many women, although men are still dominant. Nevertheless we, Angolan women, are very proud of our achievements. In the Constitutional Court, 7 of 10 judges are women. In the Supreme Court a third of the judges are women. In the Provincial and Municipal Courts women judges represent more than one third of the totality of the judges. As for attorneys, we have women at all levels of this body, including at the highest level were women are deputies of the General Attorney. Although I am not in a position to refer any to factual figure regarding gender distribution among lawyers, it is my belief that around 40% of Angolan lawyers are women. A great deal of women are the heads of the legal departments of the Ministries in Angola and other public services and in the private sector the situation is similar. In law school the presence of female students is increasing annually and I would not be surprised if in the very near future the gender distribution among students would be equal.  In some very specific areas of the legal profession such as notaries, real estate and civil status offices women are in majority even in the highest functions.  Women are the majority of lawyers within the Avocats FBLstructure and distributed as follows:

  • Partners: 5 women to 4 men;
  • Associates: 10 women to 4 men;
  • Trainees: 4 women to 3 men.”

Olivia Timothy, a Human Resources Manager at our South African Lex African memberAvocats Werksmans, says that, “Women in the South African legal industry have worked hard to prove themselves over the years. Werksmans, is a “top” law firm in South Africa that gives many women the opportunity to grow professionally and personally.  Our workplace comprises of 67% of women. The women at our firm certainly have a voice.  They have strong leadership traits and they inspire us to become the “best” in our career paths.”

Zimbabwean Lex African member, Scanlen & Holderness:

 “At Scanlen & Holderness in Zimbabwe, three of the ten partners are female (Nellie TiyagoDoreen Gapare and Riana Moss) and seven of the thirteen associates are female. Most of Scanlen’s female lawyers are members of the Professional Women, Executives and Business Women’s Forum (PROWEB); the purpose of which is to provide an enabling forum for professional and business women to make significant and lasting contributions to the development of Zimbabwe. In addition, two of them (Doreen Gapare and Phillipa Phillips) are board members of the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA) being an organisation for women’s issues and professional development. Although being a female partner requires excellence and competiveness with their male counterparts, generally, the challenges faced in Zimbabwe are not due to gender issues (with a few exceptions which could be mentioned).  Landmark cases have however been won both in the courtroom and the boardroom by Scanlen’s tenacious female lawyers who have certainly steered their careers strongly in spite of their gender or any would-be gender related challenges.”

Seyram Dzikunu, an associate at our Ghanaian Lex African member, Bentsi-Enchill, Letsa & Ankomah says, “I believe that young female lawyers need to be given more opportunity by clients and senior lawyers to achieve their potential in the legal field. Being a young female lawyer in the natural resources and the energy sector, which is male dominated and involves huge financial commitments, clients and regulators sometimes have the misconception/stereotype that a young lady is not smart enough to deliver their needs. Clients and society generally need to realize that  just like other young  people around the world who are performing and producing exceptional results in their fields of endeavour, young female lawyers are as intelligent as their older counter parts to deliver great results.”

Published 3 September 2014

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