Legal Business Blogs

International Women’s Day 2022: May Tai, managing partner, HSF Asia and Kathryn Sanger, Hong Kong

May Tai – a ranked individual for international arbitration

Which woman most inspired you in your career and why?

Sonya Leydecker and Paula Hodges QC were two leading women in the litigation and arbitration practice when I started my career as a junior lawyer. Paula was one of the first QCs specialising in arbitration and the President of the LCIA Court; Sonya was the Head of the Dispute Resolution of Herbert Smith Freehills and then became our first female CEO. They are both giants in the industry and both spent a lot of their personal and professional time mentoring, sponsoring and coaching me. Whenever I come across a tricky issue, I still think about how Sonya and Paula would deal with that issue if they were in my shoes and so even though they are not around so much anymore, I still get strength and inspiration from them.

What advice would you give to aspiring lawyers?

Think about your career, where you want to go with it, how you want to get there and who is going to help you along the way. If you don’t have a plan, you are part of someone else’s plan.

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

I was promoted to the partnership in 2010 and I believe the commercial legal market (from London to China) has changed tremendously in the last decade. The debate is so much more nuanced and sophisticated these days. The leaders in law firms are genuinely focused on this and not just paying lip service. What needs to happen now is that we all need to stay vigilant. Even as we introduce one initiative (e.g. shared parental leave for both parents), we need to look at the next five projects that we can undertake to make sure that the pipeline of talented women stay strong. There is no quick fix to this.