First Black Dean, University of Cape Town School of Law
First Female Dean, Albany School of Law, USA
My earliest encounters with strong women were the Dominican nuns, my high school teachers. After my mother died at the age of 33, when I was 13, the nuns were the earliest influences in my life, who provided the educational foundations for my chosen career in the law. Growing up as ‘Coloured” in apartheid South Africa infused my lifelong commitment to racial and gender equality. I am greatly privileged to be actively engaged in the education of the next generation of legal professionals. In addition to teaching and mentoring students, and producing a body of scholarship, I have had the opportunity to serve as the first female dean at Albany Law School and the first Black dean at the University of Cape Town Law School.
What has allowed me to survive and thrive has been the love and support of a global network of scholars and social justice advocates. Nobody succeeds in the world without the encouragement, guidance and support of a range of people, known and unknown. It really does take a village. Therefore the guiding principle in our professional lives should be kindness, humility, interconnectedness and generosity. And always retain your sense of humor – the ability to laugh with other people – and at yourself. Leadership positions for women involve great challenges but also a range of opportunities. Leadership has taught me the 7 Rs: resilience (you need loads of it), respect (for yourself – and others), reputation (the most important thing you have, work hard to preserve it) rejuvenation (from time to time, you owe it to yourself) rejoice (your accomplishments and others, be grateful for the privileges in your life), relationships (key to your success and wellbeing); resistance (equip yourself to effectively fight sexism, racism, xenophobia, and other prejudices. As a woman, you will need it!).