AMANDLA! WOMEN TO WATCH EDITION
Public Sector Operations Lawyer, African Development Bank, Ivory Coast.
Why did you decide to study law?
I still have memories of when I turned 12, and motions of musing over admirable professions. My father is a lawyer and I recall comparisons often drawn of us two. Many considered we share similar traits: a passion for delving into books; poring over and finding solutions to issues; engaging in debates on a wealth of subjects leading to logical conclusions. By my latter high school years I became resolute about reading law, qualifying as a barrister and eventually using my legal and oratory skills in an international setting. Thankfully this fell within God’s plans for me - I have done just that.
What is your proudest professional moment thus far?
I have been blessed with obtaining experiences on high value transactions / projects that have impacted many African economies. That said, my proudest moment was when as sole counsel on the drafting team, we submitted a policy paper on the AfDB’s third sovereign lending instrument, and received the Board’s approval.
Looking back, what is one decision/action you would have done differently?
In all humility, I believe every experience garnered, no matter how detrimental or negative has contributed towards propelling me to my current stage. Undoubtedly, there have been moments where I wished I could have done things differently, however those I believe serve as lessons for the next.
Share some major professional challenges you have faced, or continue to face as a woman in law.
Earlier in my career, walking into a room of delegates for negotiations on a transaction I would often be the only female or one of a few. I grappled with plagues of self-doubt switching into “I don’t belong at the table” mode. In board rooms with male- dominated transaction teams, rather than targeting a seat at the table as would my male colleagues, I veered towards back seats, wearing the “I am not worthy” look. An enthusiastic read of “Lean in” by Sheryl Sandberg (COO, Facebook) proved revolutionary. Sheryl exposes the phenomenon of how as women we unintentionally hold ourselves instead of leaning in. This light bulb moment switched me to “I belong at the table” mode, with no remorse!
Juggling wife and mother of two boys (in formative years) with a hectic work cum travel schedule as an in- house operations lawyer, has been challenging, to put it mildly.
What are some practical strategies for survival in the legal profession?
Do not feel pressured to mute your accomplishments and points of view to please others especially when you are the only female within a male- dominated team. Invest your time in the work and be confident in your abilities, your voice during those negotiations, meetings and discussions is just as important as those of your male colleagues.
Don't be petrified to obtain help or lean on a more experienced colleague especially after researching a subject matter and you remain unsure of findings. Cultivating the habit of discussing with more experienced colleagues especially when you're still debuting your career will only advance your knowledge, and potentially save you from incurring the wrath of a nasty client who wakes up to the realization of having been wrongfully advised.