Skip to main content

International Women’s Day 2023 – Perspectives from four women in law


To celebrate International Women’s Day, we invited women from across our firm to share their experiences of working as a woman in the legal profession.

Faye Simpson joined Harrison Drury as a trainee in September 2021 and is an executive administrator within our commercial property team.

Lucy Parkhouse graduated with first class honours in law in 2022 and joined us on completion of her LPC and MSc. She supports our property litigation team as a paralegal.

Kerry Southworth joined the corporate team in 2015 after graduating with a first-class degree in law and achieving a distinction in the Legal Practice Course from the University of Central Lancashire.

Starting out as a paralegal and then trainee, Rhian Sale is now an associate solicitor working in our commercial property team.

Pictured above left to right: Rhian Sale, Lucy Parkhouse, Kerry Southworth and Faye Simpson

Where have you found support during particularly challenging times?

Lucy: I don’t think it’s a weakness to take a few moments to yourself when times get tough. My family, friends and partner all provide me a breath of fresh air when my work life becomes intense. I make a conscious effort to draw a line between my personal time and work.

Rhian: My parents, twin brother and husband are always on hand to provide support in times of need, as are my colleagues and line manager. I am extremely lucky to have such a caring support network around me, who spur me on to achieve my goals, whether personal or professional.

What piece of advice has stayed with you?

Faye: Don’t try and fix something that isn’t broken. I am a firm believer in not overcomplicating things. Also, I think it is important to recognise at the early stages of your career what works for you and where you aim to be.

Lucy: Never be afraid to ask for help. I finished my university studies on a Friday and started at Harrison Drury the following Monday so to say I was a blank slate would be an understatement. For the first few months I was doing work I had never done before, which can be very daunting. It’s always best to reach out and ask for help when it’s needed.

Kerry: There is no such thing as a silly question. There may be times when you are advised to find the answer yourself, but the person opposite you in the office may have the answer. And have a work life balance – especially in an age of working from home, it is vital for mental wellbeing that we can, at times, switch off from work.

Who is your role model and why?

Faye: Angelina Jolie always inspires me. She’s known for being an actress and director, but alongside this, she’s a staunch supporter of human rights and has been named a ‘Goodwill Ambassador’ by the UNHCR. Her leadership, willingness, and her ability on and off screen will always encourage me to be confident and show my strengths.

Kerry: Maggie Aderin-Pocock, the British space scientist and science educator. I was first introduced to Maggie through my fascination of space. My admiration for her has since grown, not because she is a woman in male dominated field, or because she is a black woman, but because she is so passionate about what she does.

What is you proudest achievement, personal or career-wise?

Kerry: Aside from qualifying as a solicitor, my proudest achievements involve helping or supporting people. This includes raising money and awareness for the Foxton Centre by ‘sleeping out’ and leading a team effort at Tough Mudder, fundraising for the brain charities. I also spearheaded Harrison Drury’s commemoration of the 100-year anniversary of women able to qualify as solicitors.

Rhian: I am proud of qualifying as a solicitor and the one achievement that stands out is earning the trust of my colleagues, clients, and local business community, because of the no-nonsense pragmatic advice and support I provide.

What do you think is the most defining moment for women in law?

Faye: December 18, 1922, was a crucial date for women in law. It was when Carrie Morrison became the first female solicitor in England and Wales. I think this will be a popular opinion for being the most defining moment for all women practicing within the legal profession. Currently over 60 per cent of newly qualified solicitors are female.

Kerry: Probably the fact that just over 103 years ago, women were only just permitted to qualify into the law. As a solicitor, I have read countless pieces of legislation, but the shortest law in 100 years in the country is the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919, which was brought about by social change following the first world war and paved the way for women to qualify for the first time.

Rhian: I agree with both Faye and Kerry. The many defining moments for women in law all come down to the same basic principle, being treated as equals, from the passing of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 which allowed women to qualify and practice in law, to the appointment of the first female law firm partner and judge.

The message for IWD 2023 is #EmbraceEquity. What does this mean for you?

Faye: For me it means feeling included and having a sense of belonging. Equality is everyone’s goal, and equity is the means to get there. Everyone requires different things to be successful in life, and this is what we want to embrace it. Equality is giving everyone a shoe, however equity is giving everyone a shoe that fits.

Kerry: The key word that has followed suffrage and women’s rights movements across the country is equality. To reach equality is to treat everyone the same, regardless of gender, sex, race, disability, or religion. However, before we get to equality, we need to ensure people representing those across the spectrum are included. Equity is diversity and inclusion, giving everyone a seat at the table. Only with equity can we stand a chance at reaching equality.

Rhian: No two people are the same and each person has different needs and requires different support and resource. Treating people the same without consideration of each individuals’ specific needs, creates exclusion. To achieve equality, you need equity. Simply providing women with equal rights is not enough, if existing inequalities are to be tackled, equity is the key.

Why is it important to have women in senior positions in law?

Kerry: Women make up such a large portion of the country. This isn’t about having a quota or a set number of women, but it’s about recognising that everyone comes to the table with a different set of life experiences and skills. To have the table dominated by one side of the coin means that the law is missing out on untapped talent at the highest level.

Rhian: Nearly 50 per cent of qualified solicitors since 1993 have been female, yet partner and director levels are mainly still male dominated. For innovation and progression within law firms, diversity is key. It allows for a better reflection of society, which in turn enables firms to be better placed to service their clients – but also for better employee engagement and retention.

What is your advice to women entering the legal profession or starting a business?

Lucy: Stick to your guns and have your own back. The legal profession can be competitive – you must know your own worth and be confident in what you bring to the table. No one can sell yourself better than you can. It always pays to be kind. You will find it gets you a lot further with your colleagues, clients – and even the other side!

Kerry: If you are thinking of starting a business, in two very simple words, do it! There is never going to be a right time, and you don’t want to spend your skills and energy waiting. Life is too short, sometimes we must just take a leap of faith.

Rhian: My three helpful tips for women entering the legal profession are: make sure you establish strong relationships with both colleagues and clients; never doubt your ability, nor measure yourself against others, and do things in your own way and at your own pace.

Questions & Answers

Leave a Comment

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Manage your privacy

How we handle your personal data

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) gives you more control over how companies like ours use your personal information and makes it quicker and easier for you to check and update the information we hold about you.

As part of our service to you, we will continue to collect, use, store and share your data safely and securely. This doesn’t require any action on your part.

For more detailed information view our Privacy Hub