Deeply committed to its joint mission of advancing gender diversity in the legal profession, AIWF and the International Bar Association (IBA) hosted a third successful seminar as part of the Women Business Lawyers Initiative on 19 September 2017 in London at the Bankside offices of AIWF Global Partner Boodle Hatfield. The focus of this initiative is to empower Arab women lawyers around the world, build skills and awareness of global standards and encourage young Arab women to aspire to positions of leadership in legal practice both in the MENA region and in international commercial practice.
The inaugural event was held in Amman in September 2015 in partnership with the Arab Women’s Legal Network, and a second seminar was hosted in Beirut in March 2016, in partnership with the Beirut Bar Association. At each of these events, the IBA and AIWF have joined forces to deliver a high-impact agenda for discussion, bringing together influential, talented, and deeply engaged speakers and delegates from the Arab world and internationally to explore highly topical challenges ranging from law firm talent management and networking in culturally conservative environments, to anti-corruption and international commercial arbitration. In September 2017, a third and highly successful one-day seminar event was held in the heart of the City of London, hosted by AIWF Global Partner, Boodle Hatfield, and titled Advancing gender equality in law and the professions.
It is a well-known global phenomenon that despite unprecedented numbers of women entering and graduating from law school, women are still underrepresented in leadership positions across all sectors of the professions and in both the Western world and the MENA region. The programme for the IBA / AIWF Women Business Lawyers Initiative was therefore designed to explore and share best practices that support the advancement of gender equality in law and the professions.
The London event this past September highlighted AIWF’s unique ability to bring together aspiring and established women leaders, to network, learn from each other, consider new perspectives, and make valuable new business contacts. AIWF and the IBA brought senior Arab women lawyers and General Counsels for leading multinational inhouse teams across the MENA region, together with some of the UK’s most distinguished women in law, among them Dame Fiona Woolf, internationally renowned energy lawyer with CMS Cameron McKenna and the 686th Lord Mayor of London in 2013-2014 (only the second woman to hold the role since 1189), and Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, a member of the House of Lords and one of the UK’s most senior human rights barristers.
The discussions that took place at the IBA / AIWF seminar were powerful, insightful and encouraged women lawyers at all levels, in practice and inhouse, as well as law students and PhD students, to drive change forward through an exchange of strategies, initiatives, advice and reflections, to help advance gender diversity, inclusion and a level playing field in law and the professions for the benefit of society.
The day was moderated by Alison Hook, Co-Founder of Hook Tangaza, and the four panel sessions featured distinguished panellists addressing current and dynamic topics for discussion, including:
Panel 1: Breaking down barriers to entry and career progression for women in law and the professions
Panel 2: Creating women- and family-friendly working cultures in law and the professions
Panel 3: Bringing gender equality into the business and human rights agenda
Panel 4: Reflections and advice for aspiring women lawyers and professionals
The seminar was opened by Sara Maccallum, Senior Partner Boodle Hatfield; Jane Ellis, Director, Legal Policy & Research Unit (LPRU), International Bar Association; and Rania Rizk, Senior Vice President & General Counsel AMENA, PepsiCo and Acting Chairman of the Arab International Women’s Forum.
Opening session remarks were followed by Dame Fiona Woolf’s inspirational Morning Keynote. Panellists for the first panel, Breaking down barriers to entry and career progression for women in law and the professions, included Najwa Attiga, General Counsel at Emirates Investment Authority and co-founder, Women Lawyers Group Middle East; Jane Ellis, Director, LPRU, IBA; Tony Hyams-Parish, Employment Partner, DMH Stallard LLP and co-Chair of the IBA’s Discrimination and Equality Committee; Jane Pearce, Managing Director, Vistra; and Amanda Pinto QC of 33 Chancery Lane and Chair of the International Committee of the Bar Council of England and Wales, Trustee of the Slynn Foundation and UK representative on the Council of the International Criminal Bar 2008-2017.
The second panel, Creating women-and family-friendly working cultures in law and the professions, featured Sarah Ellington, Legal Director, DLA Piper; Dr Mona Hamade, Programmes and Development Director, Unity for Global Development; Shaima Jillood, Partner, Boodle Hatfield; Neelim Sultan, Barrister, 1MCB Chambers and Chair of the IBA’s Human Rights Law Committee; and Camila Reed, Co-Founder of Global Voice UK. The seminar programme included an Arabian-themed networking luncheon followed by an Afternoon Keynote by Baroness Helena Kennedy QC. Panel 3, Bringing gender equality into the business and human rights agenda, featured Debbie Barbour, Partner, DLA Piper, Abu Dhabi; Rae Lindsay, Partner, Clifford Chance and Vice-Chair of the IBA’s Corporate Social Responsibility Committee; Andrea Shemberg, Co-Chair of the Global Business Initiative on Human Rights; Helen Sullivan, Global Social Investment Manager, Shell; and Yasmin Waljee OBE, International Pro Bono Director, Hogan Lovells.
The final panel session of the day delivered Reflections on advancing gender diversity in law and the professions. Panel speakers included Heba Al Emara, UK Head of Relations EMEA, Vistra; Reem Al Jumaily, Associate, Boodle Hatfield; Gabrielle Patrick, Vice Chair of the IBA’s Leisure Industries Section and The Blockchain Lawyer; Rania Rizk, Senior Vice President & General Counsel AMENA, PepsiCo and Acting Chairman, Arab International Women’s Forum; Wafa Tarnowska, Gender Equality & Corporate Social Responsibility Consultant, writer and former Corporate Responsibility Manager, DLA Piper and IPF; and Julie Wynne, Partner, Froriep, co-founder of the Women’s Business Society and Member of the Innovation Steering Group of the Geneva Bar Association. Closing remarks were delivered by Salpy Kouyoumjian, Partner, Boodle Hatfield.
AIWF’s partnership with the International Bar Association follows on from over a decade of advocacy to promote empowerment and enhanced opportunities for women not only in the legal profession but in public life, in parliament, in the judiciary and at the highest levels of the legislature in the Arab world. AIWF extends its warmest thanks and appreciation to AIWF Global Partner Boodle Hatfield, which is well known for its commitment to diversity as a six-time winner of the Euromoney Best National Firm for Women in Business Law. AIWF is proud to have the support of Boodle Hatfield and looks forward to continuing to work closely with its team of Senior Partners and leading women lawyers to further shared aims of empowering and supporting women in law and the professions in the MENA region and internationally.