Our series to commemorate International Women’s Day (IWD) concludes today with the views of Clare Belcher, Head of Legal, Global Business Development & EMEIA Region Travelex Limited about the importance of IWD, inspiring change and their experiences as a woman in the profession.
Clare Belcher, Head of Legal, Global Business Development & EMEIA Region Travelex Limited
It is International Women’s Day on 8th March – do you think it is important for the legal profession to celebrate IWD?
Absolutely! Women now make up over 63% of law students and trainees, as well as around half of the total number of solicitors on the Law Society roll. We should celebrate IWD by highlighting our progress and achievements as well as using the occasion to bring women lawyers together and be inspired by each other. We should also recognise the many male lawyers (as well as our husbands, partners and friends) who have supported women in whom they have seen the potential to succeed.
The theme for this year’s IWD is inspiring change, how do you go about inspiring change through your work Head of Legal at Travelex?
By trying to be a positive role model for others and being honest about the challenges of playing a senior legal and business leadership role with balancing family and personal life. It is disappointing when people think it’s not possible to achieve and make career changing decisions before even giving it a go or thinking creatively about how to make it work. With the right attitude from both employee and employer and appropriate support mechanisms in place it can be done!
What have been the most significant developments/changes for women pursuing a legal career since you started out?
The introduction of shared maternity leave between women and men and more demand from both men and women wanting to work flexibly. The more different types of working arrangements become acceptable at all levels of the profession the easier it will be for women (and men) to succeed on their own terms and be judged by their contribution and outputs not their inputs or hours spent in the office.
The legal profession is still lagging behind other professions in its practical application of flexible working practices. Just recently I was speaking to a HR manager at a City law firm who told me that her firm encouraged women to have nannies rather than nursery childcare so they didn’t have to leave the office to do ‘early pick ups’ and that job shares ‘could never work’ in a transactional work environment. As a lawyer who works for a global organisation supporting the business across 26 countries and is often involved in complex transactional work working four days a week and sometimes from home, I disagree. We need a profession wide change in culture to embrace flexible working and those businesses that are able to adapt will be the most successful in attracting and retaining the best talent in the future.
Which female in the legal profession do you most admire and why?
Sandie Okoro, Global General Counsel at Barings, who I heard speak at an IWD event early in my in-house career. I asked her how she managed to juggle her high profile leadership role, two children and extensive charity commitments she simply replied: “It’s all equally important to me so I just get on with it and accept that some weeks are more successfully balanced than others, there is no magic formula.”
I also take a huge amount of inspiration from my peers in the legal profession, both private practice and in-house, who were also part of the 2014 FT Part Time Power List in association with the Timewise Foundation.