Legal Business Blogs

Women deal stars: perspectives – Penelope Warne, CMS

‘Compared to ten years ago, in some ways it’s easier for women and in some it’s more difficult. It is easier because there is a lot of support for gender equality and initiatives to support women. For example, the 30% Club to support them particularly at senior level and at board positions.

Attitudes have changed, we have a lot of policies now around helping many women but also men who want to work in a more agile fashion. This helps women have their career and also a family – but they are also popular with men.

Culture is key. If you set a culture that encourages agile working and communicate it clearly within the firm that does make a difference.

What makes things more difficult compared to ten years ago is that everything moves at a much faster pace. There is more complexity in deals, a global aspect and a lot of pressure. This puts a lot more pressure on men and women.

We have a work allocation system in our firm which means lawyers don’t get overloaded or under-loaded, so everyone is busy but not in an impossible situation.

We have unconscious bias training, very enhanced maternity and paternity leave – not only in terms of pay but also in not having any clawback if someone decides not to return after maternity leave. Thirty per cent of the board are women and 30% of the partners are women. This creates a momentum of its own and a more balanced environment in the firm.

Some of the deals are still very male-dominated because some other institutions have not progressed as quickly as we have. Sometimes the cultural environment has not been put at the top of the agenda in the way we have.

Ultimately it comes down to having supportive teams at the firm. It makes it a lot easier for women to be able to drive forward their careers.

My experience of very successful women is they all have strong relationships with their clients. They work the same hours as men but in a more agile and flexible way. If your internal culture allows that to happen that makes all the difference.’

Penelope Warne is senior partner of CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang and cited in ‘Alphas’ Legal Business’ current cover feature on the City’s outstanding women lawyers (£)

Interview by Marco Cillario.