My journey as a female Legal Executive Women realizing their leadership strengths Quarter 4 2021

By KEDIBONE MOLEFI; LEGAL DIRECTOR SOUTH, EAST AFRICA AT JAPAN TOBACCO INTERNATIONAL (JTI), Published in Advertorial

Now is an exciting time to be an in-house Legal Counsel of a Multinational Corporation. Solving problems across different jurisdictions that are differently legislated is incredibly stimulating. Our profession is evolving, and it's increasingly becoming evident that lawyers have evolved into enablers of the overall business strategy and have mastered their business acumen; despite having previously been perceived as the naysayers of the organization.

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Legal professionals are playing a vital role in the decision-making process and their valuable input has begun to carry more weight in the boardroom. I truly believe that women can (and should) start pursuing and aspiring for roles as members of Executive Boards and to a large extent this has shaped my own career in major ways throughout the years. Having received some of the best training throughout my early career from some of the Top Partners in Commercial Departments, I was able to be exposed to the possibilities that I could one day aspire for.

However, my experience as a University of Johannesburg Law Lecturer, MNS Attorneys Associate, Heineken Legal Director and ultimately taking on the role of Legal Director SEA at JTI, has highlighted a flaw within the Legal Profession; namely that the progression line is not conducive to women in terms of what they want to become and the support required to reach some of their ambitions. This pertinent issue is often overlooked and if an organization does not take the required effort to address it, often leads to women leaving the organization. This reiterates and highlights the importance of initiatives on diversity and inclusion.

As a practicing attorney, I continuously realized how difficult it was for female attorneys to navigate the industry and that corporates struggled with assessing professionals based on the quality of their output, and not the hours that they put in. Additionally, securing clients that bring in consistent revenue, making a name for yourself as a female attorney and finding female role models from whom one could create a point of reference for one's career ambitions was a challenge. Work-life balance is another task that many women face together with trying to make their voices heard. All of these challenges, as daunting as they may seem, are an opportunity for one to realize their strength, decide on a vision that they have for themselves and embark on a journey of excellence.

Mentorship plays an essential role in ensuring that you achieve your career ambitions. I believe we owe it to the younger generation to help them grow and thrive in business, by giving them early advice on how to navigate their industries. For the young women already making their way through their careers: find yourself a role model who resonates with you and always remember– knowledge is crucial. Finding an individual who will share their knowledge willingly and empower you will propel you into relentlessly pursuing your goals. As Oprah Winfrey often says – "A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself".