Legal Business Blogs

International Women’s Day 2022: Kathryn Sanger, Leading Individual, Hong Kong – International Arbitration

Which woman most inspired you in your career and why?

There are a number of people who inspired me, or at least supported me, along the way. My mum was sick for most of my younger life and not around much so I have always sought out female role models. Mums of best friends, my mum’s sister, Aunty Kathryn (and my name’s sake), female professors, fellow lawyers, a whole cohort of strong women from law school who still keep me going. If I had to choose one woman, however, it would be my godmother (Joy). She was my dad’s drama tutor at college, there (almost literally) when I was born 8 weeks early, and a huge influence on me as I grew up. I started to stay with her regularly from when I was 8. She was one of the first women to study at Cambridge, fiercely intelligent, independent (she never married), and loyal to her friends, family and goddaughter. She showed me how hard work and a good mind can save you, how to be confident at Oxford and, as I started my career, that it didn’t matter that I came from a single parent, working class background, that people remember you for what you do, and how you behave towards others. That we should embrace difficult work, and study hard, but also have fun. That the relationships you build in early life will carry you through and sustain you in later life. How to be kind to all. She is 100 this year, I have not seen her for over 2 years, and yet she still inspires me every day (and she still writes to me and keeps me going). I am hoping very much to be able to travel and see her this summer. Luckily I saw lots of her in 2019. It’s been way too long! Writing this remind me how long…

What advice would you give to aspiring female lawyers?

Get the credit you deserve. This is particularly important when there is a public opportunity to get your name out there, but the advice applies at every level. For example, if you contribute towards an article, ask (nicely) for your name to be on the byline, or at least referenced. I think women in particular think that hard work, and being a good team player is enough. It’s not. Men take credit much more easily. That looks like confidence. It’s easy to feel like you are being pushy or aggressive as a women – and that’s a trap we all need to avoid. I am still trying to practice what I preach.

This year’s IWD theme is ‘BreakTheBias’ on gender inequality, discrimination and stereotypes – how biased is the HK commercial legal market these days and what is the change that most needs to happen?

I am lucky, in that I think I have had great opportunities. And joining the HSF arb team in HK as a partner in 2016 was such a huge gift. Justin D’Agostino and his management team are a delight to work with. If, however, I could name one change we need, it would be more senior, female lawyers and mentorsj. People who’ve made it to the top not by acting like a man, but by behaving like a successful woman. Who care about their work, but also their team, and their family, who lead by example, who love to roll up their sleeves and work all weekend with their team on an exciting case, but who call time out when it’s movie night with their kids, or date night, or just time to walk the dog. These people will nurture the younger women – and men – around them, and help to bring forward the next generation.