AMANDLA! WOMEN TO WATCH EDITION
Brenda Mutale Chanda
Partner, AB & David, Zambia.
Why did you decide to study law?
My decision to study law was made a day before my course registration at the University. I had gone to university with the goal of studying economics but I talked myself out of it after hearing about so many of my seniors in high school who had not made the grade in math in the first year to qualify to the school of economics. Studying law amplified the sense of justice that I believe I have always had. Being the oldest child in my family, I always had the responsibility to guide and direct my siblings and my opinion mattered a lot to them. I had to be careful that I was fair and impartial in my dealings with them to earn their respect.
What is your proudest professional moment thus far?
Leading and transforming our firm, AB & David, from a traditional law practice to a modern business law firm. This was done by becoming part of a Pan African network of firms. Proud to be part of a firm that continues to grow, transform and innovate.
Looking back, what is one decision/action you would have done differently?
Now that I am older and wiser, I realise that not everyone will understand my actions or agree with me and I am perfectly at peace with that.
Share some major professional challenges you have faced, or continue to face as a woman in law.
I believe that the challenges that women face in the work place are really a reflection of the challenges faced in the wider society. It is difficult for a woman's voice to be heard because, unfortunately, most people proceed from a premise that women have limitations in what they can offer. I find that women have to work harder to have a place at the table, and even when they have earned their place they constantly have to fight to maintain it. I believe that the best way to overcome these challenges is to recognise first that they exist and that they are not unique to me. As a woman you must remain true to your values and who you are at the core but also be willing to demand to be treated equitably and fairly.
The other challenge is constantly feeling that you are neglecting your family when you are always under pressure to meet deadlines. My view is that as a woman you should feel confident about taking a career break to attend to yourself and your family. I had to take a short break to gather myself after having 3 children within a short period. Some people will look at it as a weakness because they do not understand your stress but then you don't owe the world an explanation for your actions.
As a woman who is also a mother, I recognise that sometimes I have to prioritise work and be willing to get help from family and friends in order to meet career goals and deliver a good service to my clients.
What are some practical strategies for survival in the legal profession?
The best strategy in my view is to constantly improve your skills and be so good at what you do so that you cannot be ignored. I also believe that as a woman you constantly have to sharpen your leadership skills so that you are able to lead with confidence. I have also realised that you do not need to change who you are in order to succeed as a leader. You need to draw on your authentic self in order to influence and lead others. You must always strive to earn the respect of the people you are leading by giving them a voice and space to express who they are without feeling judged.