International Women’s Day

International Women's Day

International Women’s Day offers a perfect opportunity to showcase some of the women at Stokes Partners by finding out more about their lives, the changes they have witnessed whilst working in the sector and what they enjoy most about providing our clients with expert advice.

International Women’s Day is a United Nations recognised event celebrated annually on 8th March. It’s a celebration of the historical, cultural, and political achievements of women.

Although, recognition should be given to the legal profession for its effort in trying to be more gender-neutral a survey conducted by the Law Society in 2019 found that 52% of women asked, responded that unconscious bias was the main barrier to a woman’s progression in law. There is clearly still work to be done.

At Stokes Partners we pride ourselves on supporting all of our staff to accommodate their personal commitments:

  • 70% of our partners are female
  • We offer flexible working hours and leave requests that work around school term times
  • We have an extensive maternity policy
  • Our career progression is wholly gender neutral

All of the female team members at Stokes Partners have great stories to share; here are just a few of them!

Elisabeth

Elisabeth is our compliance and client care Solicitor, notable moments within her career include practising in Singapore and being a former managing partner. Elisabeth is also currently a board member of the Legal Ombudsman and has previously been a Member of the Law Society’s Professional Standards and Ethics Committee.
What motivates you?
My motivation comes from within. I feel that I was lucky to be given the opportunity to go to university (especially as in my day, it was paid for) and have always felt that I need to strive to be the best that I can – I enjoy a challenge.
What’s your favourite thing about your role?
I really do believe in providing excellent client service and a large part of my role helps the firm to deliver this.
Have you noticed a shift throughout your career in relation to how women are treated within the workplace?
I think there is a better understanding of the need to have career paths which do not necessarily involve very long working hours and part time work is now more common. However, there is still a long way to go for many firms. For instance, the expectation in terms of chargeable hours for junior lawyers at large firms in London is unrealistic.

Colleen

Colleen is originally from South Africa and has worked as a Legal Secretary in South Africa and in London as well as Somerset. She has been part of our Family Team for just under seven years.
What are your interests or hobbies outside of work?
I love playing badminton, baking, cooking, running, crochet, Toastmasters, sightseeing and travel.
What’s one thing you would tell your younger self or wish you had known at the start of your career?
Reach for the dream and do not let anyone stand in my way. Of course, experience has shown me that I am never too old – I can still study, I can still achieve.
In your opinion and experience would you say you have had to work harder because of your gender?
Not so much as secretaries and assistants tend to be more female than male. Having said that it is great to see many more men in the workplace in support roles. They bring a different aspect to the role and it is good to see if we can learn what to or what not to do from their execution of their roles.
Do you feel supported as a woman within your role?
I think that Stokes has one of the best policies in regard to maternity etc. I’m not sure if it is because the firm is smaller, but Stokes tend to be incredibly accommodating with allowance of office hours, family, and the like. I do feel supported in my role especially as flexibility is very important and provides much peace of mind.

Daniela

Daniela is a Solicitor in the Residential Property team, joining the firm in September 2021. She studied Law at the University of Winchester and qualified as a solicitor in September 2020.
What would you say has been a particular surreal or notable moment within your career?
Attending my admission ceremony, a year after I qualified as a solicitor, where I met the President of the Law Society. The imposter syndrome finally lifted and I finally felt that I was actually a solicitor.
In your opinion and experience would you say you have had to work harder because of your gender?
I haven’t directly felt bias at any of the firms I have worked at but I have felt the unconscious pressure to be near perfect in order to be able to progress, whilst my male colleagues seem far more relaxed.
What are your interests or hobbies outside of work?
Going to the gym, spending time with my family and friends, travelling and reading.

Clare

Clare has worked in numerous roles as a legal secretary throughout her career. Notable examples include assisting the Coroner for East Berkshire, where her role involved assisting Coroners officers, pathologists, and mortuary assistants with administrative tasks. Clare has also worked in Private Client, Commercial Property and Litigation before starting at Stokes seven years ago, where she now supports our Litigation team.
In your opinion and experience do you feel as if the legal sector is becoming more open towards fairer gender and gender-neutral policies?
Yes, when I first started as a legal secretary in 1986 with a fairly small legal practice, all the fee earners were men and there was no part time working for anyone. Maternity leave was six months!

In 2022, there are so very many more female fee earners in all sorts of roles ranging from paralegals to directors/partners. The flexibility in working hours today is something I could only have dreamed of in the 1990s and, of course, we are now entering the realm of working from home – a real novelty, which is only possible these days because of the advances made in IT over the last few years.
What’s your favourite thing about your role?
The different aspects of legal work generally – it covers such a wide range of matters/areas; it’s always interesting. Also, regular hours – no funny start, finish times or shift work.
What are your interests or hobbies outside of work?
I enjoy the theatre, running, walking (especially on Exmoor), eating out and doing sudoku/wordsearches/crosswords etc. I also like to read (when I have time) mainly murder mysteries and psychological thrillers.

Suzanne

Before joining Stokes last year as a part time receptionist and cleaner, Suzanne has worked as an Area Manager supporting fifteen NatWest Branches in various Southwest areas to help deliver a range of Key Performance Indicators before deciding to leave to start her family.
What motivates you?
My motivation comes from the employer wanting to support their staff through clear direction, coaching and support, I believe with one of those any employee will give 100% and want to support the business in anyway they can.
Have you noticed a shift throughout your career in relation to how women are treated within the workplace?
In my experience I haven’t seen a shift because women were always treated equally within the bank, I think some of this comes from the mindset of the individual and their drive to be what they want to be regardless of gender.
Do you feel supported as a woman within your role?
I currently feel supported with regards to working part time, I think where there is a workplace with female line managers, they are always aware of the needs and challenges that being a working mum can bring.