I have always been a confident and driven person, but there was an experience several years ago, which caused me to momentarily question myself. I was going through a divorce just as I was about to undertake the most challenging period in my professional life: entering the process to becoming a partner. At the time, I questioned whether I should embark on it and if I did, how would I make it to the end? I had worked so hard to get to where I was, though. I told myself there’s no way I could give up. I pushed through and was elated to make partner in 2019.
My parents really helped me during that period. I am the daughter of a white father and black mother. My father has always been my champion; cheering for me from the sidelines and working hard to make sure I had a strong sense of self. And although my mum comes across as reserved, she taught me to be resilient and strive for my own goals even if they were different to the things my friends were interested in. She moved to the UK from Jamaica when she was eight and came face-to-face with the ‘no blacks, no dogs, no Irish’ signs in doorways. She was often the “only one”, in school and in her workplaces. It was really tough. In the 70s, she and some of her cousins and school friends who had also come to the UK from Jamaica co-founded a women’s group called Club Lioness. They started the organisation to build and strengthen their community.
With no external support, they undertook charitable activities benefitting pensioners, supplementing the education of school kids and other groups struggling at the margins of society. Over time, their togetherness meant that their children and now grandchildren have grown up surrounded by a coterie of ‘aunts’, ‘uncles’ and ‘cousins’, who have modelled behaviours that have instilled values of determination, drive and concern for others.
I also grew up in an affirming Jamaican household, which was disciplined, but also loud, full of passion, music and love! Practicing law, there were often situations – such as meetings with clients - where I found myself to be the only non-white person in the room or the only non-privately educated person. In these moments, I at times feel like an “outsider”, but the confidence instilled by my family and the women of Club Lioness propels me to succeed and remain focused on my goals.
I am encouraged to see that times are changing and it’s wonderful to watch the next generation. More and more, young people are not accepting the status-quo - they are demanding equity. I believe that part of my job now is to help them in that pursuit, and to help young women feel empowered to reach their fullest potential, just as my parents, family and Club Lioness did for me.