| Women in Business Law
Energy and natural resources: Women in energy: Closing the gender gap
Fiona HobbsLinklaters LLPLondon
Fiona is a leading energy and infrastructure specialist, and head of Linklaters' client sector programme.
As a successful female lawyer in the energy and natural resources sector, it has taken a lot of stamina and resilience to succeed. It has been particularly difficult while juggling the demands of a young family, but I don't think it's any more demanding than any other transactional practice. Of course, even more of our clients are men. However, that is the only real difference and it can sometimes be easier to be an adviser than a principal in that context. In fact, it can be a positive advantage to stand out from the crowd, provided of course that you can cope with the sometimes rather masculine environment! I have also had the opportunity to travel extensively, which brings its own challenges from a multi-tasking perspective.
The legal profession frequently berates itself for the lack of progress in achieving gender diversity, so it is good to see Euromoney's Legal Media Group Women in Business Law Awards celebrating just how well many women are now doing within the profession. There is, of course, still a long way to go before we achieve the sort of representation that I and others would like to see, particularly within the magic circle firms and not only at partner level, but in senior and management roles too. But I do see things changing. This year, 27% of Linklaters' new partners were women - all of them across our transactional practices - a noticeable increase from when I made a partner in 1996.
With the number of women entering the profession continuing to increase, firms are aware of just how important it is that we retain the growing number of talented female lawyers within our organisations. Linklaters has an active gender network, which organises initiatives and pushes for change as part of the firm's Gender Action Plan. Activities have ranged from a female-focused seminar series and opportunities to hear from inspirational female leaders, such as Lady Justice Hallett and Helena Morrissey, through to the development of a new career management module designed to encourage junior female lawyers to take responsibility for their future careers. To illustrate the importance of gender diversity to the firm, we have also included it as a key measure when assessing the success of our strategic vision.
I have always felt truly fortunate that Linklaters is a meritocracy and a firm where I have never experienced bias. I now sit on the firm's executive committee with overall responsibility for our strategic approach to clients. We also have several women who act as representatives on our governing board, and ten women holding senior leadership positions in the firm worldwide. It is only now that my female peers are recognising that they have the opportunity to reach senior management roles within their own firms. Of course, some of us have no desire to take that path, but for those who do, or those who may not have even thought about it, I believe that effective mentoring, sponsorship and training are key. Linklaters is now running a number of initiatives for female lawyers at various key stages of their careers, including a training programme for experienced female partners who aspire to take on non-executive director roles.
Senior women need to be prepared to participate actively and enthusiastically in bringing the next generation of women through, and also act as role models to other women in the industry. I have benefited enormously from the advice and encouragement of many Linklaters partners during my career, but it would have been great to have received advice early on from female partners who had already succeeded. Sadly, they really did not exist when I was a young lawyer.
It is vital that all the female lawyers who are celebrated by, or shortlisted for, awards such as Euromoney's Legal Media Group Women in Business Law Awards do step into these roles and act as the role models that they are. It will not change the structural barriers that continue to exist for women who want to have it all, but it should help those who want to try to understand the decisions and compromises that they will need to make along the way.