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International Women’s Day 2023 – 5 stories of developing female legal talent

To celebrate International Women’s Day this week, we spoke with five female team members about their views on building female talent, and being their best selves.

We spoke with Liz Bottrill, Executive Partner in our Manchester office, Emma Digby, Executive Partner in our Leeds office, and Emma Storey (Solicitor Apprentice), Ruth Jenkins-Robertsson (Trainee Solicitor) and Tyla Malloy (Senior Social Housing Conveyancer) to hear their thoughts on their personal growth and development in the workplace.

As we recognise the 111th anniversary of International Women’s Day, which this year calls for us all to fully #EmbraceEquity, we wanted to shine a spotlight on how important supportive colleagues, an adaptable route to progression and a truly flexible working environment are to the development of female talent and developing a truly equitable society.

Here’s what our team members had to say…

1. Create a safe space to explore the possible

“I joined Ward Hadaway during the first lockdown in 2020, working from home from day one. I’m hugely social and thrive off connections with people so this massively affected me. The support I received from colleagues at all levels and across all offices during this time was so important to me, they showed genuine care and reinforced that I was in a safe environment to explore the person and lawyer I wanted to become as a female. Open discussion is enabled and encouraged. The firm is taking huge leaps forward when it comes to gender equality.

“My appointment to Executive Partner was a complete and utter wild card! I hadn’t been educated in a red brick university, I spoke with a Yorkshire accent, and I can assure you it’s very rare I wear a grey suit! Our Managing Partner could have gone with what he knew. Instead, he wanted change, and he wanted me to be one of the faces, and voices, of that change. That is real progression.”

Emma Digby, Executive Partner of Ward Hadaway’s Leeds office

2. Create a range of pathways to success

“Ward Hadaway is thoroughly invested in my career just as much as I am, which makes me even more hungry and determined to succeed. When I told my manager that I wanted to qualify as a solicitor, the response from Ward Hadaway was  really positive, enrolling me into the SQE2 course and granting me two dedicated study days per week. They developed a working structure so that I can continue in my current role, which I thoroughly enjoy, whilst studying towards my solicitor qualification.

“I also have a nominated HR representative who I can speak to at any time to ensure that I’m able to meet the requirements of my role alongside my studies without feeling overwhelmed. I’m incredibly grateful for this, and to my manager, who continuously checks in with me to see how I am managing and putting measures in place if not. What is striking is the strong sense of appreciation from senior leadership executives for each employee.  In their words and actions, you can see they are genuinely passionate about seeing women excel and progress, and put in place processes to ensure this happens.”

Tyla Malloy, Senior Social Housing Conveyancer

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3.Look for talent everywhere (not just the tried and tested places!)

“I initially joined the firm’s post room team as an admin assistant straight from school . Now, six years later, I am part of the firm’s Solicitor Apprenticeship programme and have just began the final semester of my degree.  In September 2023, as part of my apprenticeship I will start my training contract and SQE modules – something I could never have envisaged when I first walked through the door! Throughout my apprenticeship I have had a working structure that’s enabled me to effectively manage my studies alongside working full time.

“I love how I’m currently working with a diverse range of female law professionals who were once in my position and have now progressed throughout the firm. As a female employee , I know that I’m thoroughly valued and respected. I admire the way I have been empowered and helped to develop self-worth and confidence in myself and the work I do.”

Emma Storey, Solicitor Apprentice

4. Be the change you want to see in the world

“When I applied for a training contract at Ward Hadaway, I was quite an unlikely candidate. I was a career changer having previously been an opera singer, and I was pregnant. Since my first interview, however, the senior leadership team has been invested in me as an individual and my career aspirations. During my legal studies prior to the training contract I gave birth to two children and the firm enabled me to complete the studies by readily agreeing to an extension of the usual one year to two, to make it more manageable.

“The flexibility I am given in terms of where I work, and my hours, has empowered me to lead a successful, busy career a working woman and mother . The firm’s supportive environment has welcomed me to a legal career where otherwise women in a situation like mine may have slipped through the net.”

Ruth Jenkins-Robertsson, Trainee Solicitor

And finally, some words from Liz Bottrill, Executive Partner of Ward Hadaway’s Manchester office:

5. Offer a safe space to fail

“My personal growth here has been extremely well supported by more senior individuals across the team. Working together we have set measurable and achievable goals to ensure I continue to progress throughout my career. However, it is more than just a comprehensive appraisal scheme, regular feedback and a recognition of a good work/life balance. We offer so much more than that. The team here in Manchester helps nurture, inspire and motivate each other to be the best version of yourself. The firm offers a safe place to fail, and to learn. It’s ok if you make mistakes or you experience a challenging phase in your career. The firm is there with you every step of the way to help you overcome challenges, learn from mistakes and excel.”


Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

This page may contain links that direct you to third party websites. We have no control over and are not responsible for the content, use by you or availability of those third party websites, for any products or services you buy through those sites or for the treatment of any personal information you provide to the third party.

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