We are marking this year’s International Women’s Day by celebrating the strong calibre of Jefferies’ female workforce. This not only forms part of our own commitment to ensure a diverse and inclusive workplace, but also extends to our support of other businesses and organisations that may need support to comply with gender equality practices.
As part of our commemoration of the day, we share the experiences of 5 of our women partners of the firm. Read on for some of their personal stories and observations of what being a woman in a modern law firm means to them…
Stella Young – Partner (Head of Family Law)
“It’s great that we have 5 female partners here but also great to be working with a strong mixed team. Like most women of my age, gender stereotyping has been prevalent, and before I came to Jefferies, I experienced unequal pay, unwanted attention and remarks, and unequal opportunity also.
I went to a local comprehensive school. The male careers advisor’s reaction to me when I said I wanted to be a lawyer was unhelpful and he gave no encouragement or advice and said it was pointless to even consider this. I know many other female lawyers who have had similar experiences including a hugely successful female QC/Judge who was advised at school to consider hairdressing. I think having someone tell you to lower your expectations is a great motivator…”
Find out more about Stella Young.
Katrina Holland– Partner (Head of Commercial)
“I have been lucky in life to have extremely supportive parents who have always encouraged and inspired me. Throughout my life they have actively facilitated anything I wanted to do. I was never treated any differently from my brothers as a result of being female, nor grew up with an expectation that this should be the case.
Joining Jefferies has been an extension to this. I joined in 2002 as a trainee working with Alan Gershlick (who was then senior partner) as my mentor. I had the good fortune to work in a very close-knit team during my training contract. The firm was run as a ‘family’ and I have always been made to feel at home here.
In short, while I have had to work hard on a personal level to achieve my career goals my path has been pretty smooth, and I have never (whether in my personal life or work life) experienced any real hardship or prejudice through my gender.
Occasionally, I have had to deal with people who may not like the fact they have to deal with a woman on a professional level. However, this has been few and far between, and fortunately I am in a position where I can disregard such views without any real impact on me.
I am lucky enough to be able to work with a mixed team of partners who all have very different personalities and qualities, and the Jefferies family continues!
I appreciate my fairly ‘charmed’ path through professional life so far is because of those women who came before and who have fought for equality, and I will be raising a glass to them on International Women’s Day. Cheers ladies!”
Find out more about Katrina Holland.
Sarah Mitchell – Managing Partner (Personal Injury & Clinical Negligence Law)
“I have been qualified now for 25 years – and over that period I have seen significant changes in how women are perceived in the Law and in Business generally. I was lucky enough to go to an all-girls secondary school where no ceiling was placed on our ambitions. With a history degree – and no interest in teaching – I stumbled into a legal career without any real idea of what being a lawyer involved.
In my early career being a young female lawyer involved accepting ‘normal’ behaviour, which today, is seen as unacceptable – but at the time was part of everyday working life. I remember in an early interview being asked if I would object to men changing, on a daily basis, in the open plan office into work gear and in front of me. These weren’t men I wanted to see in their boxers! Where I did see successful women around me then it seemed they often had to play the ‘men’s game’ and be aggressive and ‘one of the lads’ to fit in.
I am incredibly proud to be one of 5 female Partners at Jefferies. We all work with respect for our colleagues and opposing Parties and reject the idea that shouting the loudest gets the best result for the client. What works is intelligence, practical application and compassion – which are gender neutral skills. There is still a way to go for real equality in the legal profession – and across the work place generally. Please let’s see women supporting each other in a constructive way. We don’t have to tread on each other on the way up.”
Find out more about Sarah Mitchell.
Amelia Hayes – Partner (Property Specialist)
“I decided at the age of 10 I wanted to be a lawyer (after I realised quite quickly that being a pathologist meant dealing with dead bodies on a daily basis). I remember my classroom teacher telling my parents that I had high expectations of myself and I should be prepared for disappointment!
I went to an all-girls grammar school where pupils were taught to work hard and aim high which we did. I don’t actually recall many men on my course at my university when I studied Law. There may have been, but the females were certainty stronger characters and personalities dominating the classes.
I joined Jefferies in 2004 to commence my training contract and have been here now for almost 15 years. In that time, the dynamics of male and female partners and fee earners have changed considerably. Having 5 female partners and a majority of female fee earners in 2020 indicates not only the changing times, but also that women are equal to men and are able to do the same job as them.
I have experienced a few occasions with male clients that would not accept legal advice I gave them and went to check it with a man! Or firms who found it difficult having a female as the lead opposition in a transaction. But those are few and far between, and what matters most to a client is the knowledge and advice you can provide irrespective of gender.
As a mother, I want my daughter to know that she can realise her dreams and be whatever she wants to be, as with the right support and working environment can be achieved. I feel proud working for Jefferies who helped me to realise my dreams.”
Find out more about Amelia Hayes.
Anne-Marie Rainsford – (Partner – Children Matters Specialist)
“A well-known legal quote from Aristotle says, ‘the law is reason free from passion’. Whilst that is true, it is my belief that the passion driving many women to forge their way in this world only adds to their incredible journeys and achievements. It is an honour for me to take part in sharing my own experiences as a woman on International Women’s Day.
I have been lucky enough to be born into a world already doing its best (not always succeeding, but at least trying) to move away from the patriarchal society and showing glimmers of success at encouraging and ‘allowing’ women to be thought of as more than the typical Stepford wife.
I grew up with a huge amount of female family members. I went to an all-girls’ secondary school and sixth form. To me, the idea that I might not be able to achieve my dream because I was female didn’t cross my mind or enter my thoughts until much later. Due to my background, I have always understood and had great faith in the notion that my own hard work would get me to where I wanted to be and I believe that through following that path I have been able to not only reach my dream of being a Solicitor, a dream that I have held since I was 14, but of becoming a Partner in a successful, forward thinking and innovative firm of solicitors.
My own sector of the profession appears female dominated, certainly in my geographical area; so, I have not had as many negative experiences as some of my colleagues have shared. There have, though, been times when I have felt patronised and undermined – for example, on one occasion being asked to ‘bring the coffees’ during a particular conference on a case involving myself and 3 male lawyers.
I have had the great advantage of fantastic parents and grandparents who have taught me to hold myself with dignity and pride in such situations and when entering the Court room, so I made sure that I adhered to what has become perhaps Michelle Obama’s most well-known advice: ‘when they go low, we go high’.
I believe discrimination hits all areas of work, life and against all types of people. The humiliation and anxiety that this can cause is significant. We all need to work harder to ensure that this type of harmful behaviour is eradicated from our society.
I do not minimise the work that has been done by women before me; both well-known women such as Emeline Pankhurst, and those that fly under the radar, working hard to cobble their way through hard times but do their best ensure that it is easier for the next woman who walks through that door.
On this day, I am proud to work with people and for a firm that take pride in, and pay great attention to, diversity and equality within our firm and in respect of the people we work with for. I am proud to be part of a Partnership of 3 men and 5 women, which gives an example to other businesses and our society that roles do not need to be defined by gender but by attainment and hard work. I look forward to continuing on a journey of doing my best to support the values that we remember on International Women’s Day and to support the truth that women can and should be considered equal to men.”
Find out more about Anne-Marie Rainsford.
Our services for gender equality
Jefferies are proud to support International Women’s Day. With our partners proud to work in our team, we are committed to diversity and top employment in our practice. We hope our own internal employment practices reflect how other organisations will operate.
Need help in making your workplace more inclusive? We play a part in helping businesses and organisations ensure they are complying with rules of balancing gender equality, including equal opportunities, equal pay and maternity leave. For a confidential discussion about equal rights for your female employees, or any other employment law matter, please contact Victoria Scott on 01702 332 311 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.