Susanna McGibbon, Treasury Solicitor and Permanent Secretary at the Government Legal Department shares her thoughts on International Women's Day.
What's the best piece of advice you've had about being a woman at the Bar?
The advice I would give to women at the Bar is to be yourself; be prepared to flex and work hard but don’t compromise on your personal values in an attempt to “fit in”.
Who has been your biggest professional supporter through your journey at the Bar?
I've been lucky to have the support and encouragement of many senior colleagues over the years, including the late Dame Juliet Wheldon who first planted the seed that I should aim high, and more recently Sir Jonathan Jones from whom I have learnt a lot. But I would like to thank Anthony Inglese CB, who as well as giving moral support and wise advice over many years, facilitated two significant opportunities – my move to MoD legal advisers as a junior lawyer in 1998 and then much later my first legal director post at DTI.
What is your greatest professional achievement?
I suppose this is obvious – my recent appointment as Treasury Solicitor – only the second woman to hold the office. Such a privilege and responsibility.
How can people play their part in challenging bias around women at the Bar, and why is it so important?
I think we need to question assumptions, for example, that the system can't flex to accommodate different working patterns or that the age old way of doing things is the best or only way of doing things. We should also listen to the experience of both men and women whose relationships are far more equal in terms of domestic and professional responsibilities than, say, those of our parents.
It is important because we want the Bar, and our consumers – public and private clients, to get the benefit of the widest range of talent the country has to offer – and we should reflect the society we serve.
What’s the single biggest change you want to see for women at the Bar?
For gender to be irrelevant in pupillage/tenancy/recruitment decisions.