The issue of gender progression in the legal profession has always been a hot topic, with the noticeable lack of women in senior roles never far from the headlines. While women have seen advances in the workplace over the last forty years, the glass ceiling is yet to be shattered.
In our series we ask prominent female role models about their careers in law.
GCG: Why did you become a lawyer?
MGS: As a child, I always looked for equity and I did not like injustices. I was always an empathic person and I was clear that the legal profession was my way
GCG: What was your initial reaction when you were chosen for your current leadership position?
MGS: I felt a great satisfaction, especially because it is an industry lead in majority by men. I consider this new position as a great opportunity, as it is an industry full of challenges and I feel very prepared to face them.
GCG: What are the most significant personal and / or professional decisions you had to make to achieve this position?
MGS: The most important decision was to bet on change, open up to new opportunities, go for more responsibility. When you bet on growth, you must be sure of the decision, because the changes generate consequences in professional life, but also personally, in my case I had the unconditional support of my family and it really helped make the decision to change jobs and take on new responsibilities.
GCG: What are the biggest issues that new female lawyers face? And moving forward, what are the biggest issues they face a few years down the line?
MGS: I believe the biggest challenge that women have today is to continue to demonstrate and prove that they have the same capability as men to fill leadership positions, and although there is a great advance in recent years, there is still a way to go. In my case, I am the first woman in the leadership team, which proves that there are still spaces to fill.
I believe that the challenge for the future is to get women to have the same contracting conditions as men, which are generally more advantageous and that must change.
GCG: What are some patterns you have noticed over the years about women at work, and what could they be doing better to advance their careers?
MGS: I believe that the most relevant patterns are perseverance, discipline, commitment and ethics. The best way to advance in our careers is to demonstrate results, position yourself before others, and defend their decisions. Try not to show weakness, and always be open to feedback.
GCG: Does the gender gap widen the more senior a female lawyer becomes?
MGS: It can happen, especially because with the more senior positions, there is more of a generational gap and that often generates that the older generations do not accept this new role of women.
GCG: In your opinion, will there ever come a day when men and women will truly be equal?
MGS: I believe that yes, it is a matter of time and adaptation to change.
GCG: Do you have a female legal role model?
MGS: My role model is my mother, although she was not a lawyer, she was the one who gave me the most important tools that one needs to achieve the goals, she taught me the values that today are part of my person (integrity, honesty, ethics, respect) and the meaning of work and perseverance.
GCG: Is there an interesting fact most people would not know about you?
MGS: I like to have fun when I work, sometimes we are under a lot of pressure, but I always try to keep the good mood and a good work environment.
GCG: What advice do you wish you could give your younger self, just starting out in the legal field?
MGS: I believe that the key is patience and perseverance. There will be stumbling blocks along the way, but if a person has clear objectives, she must continue and persevere until she reaches them.
Maria Gabriela Saadi is Head of Legal and Compliance Latam at Hilti.