“Abogadas MX’s mission is to get more women into leadership positions”

María Teresa Paillés, president of the board of directors of Abogadas MX, tells us about the objectives of the association, the evolution of the role of women in the legal profession in Mexico and the main challenges for female lawyers today.

Posted Tuesday, March 8th 2022
“Abogadas MX’s mission is to get more women into leadership positions”

María Teresa Paillés

Leaders League: When and how was Abogadas MX born and what are its main objectives?

María Teresa Paillés: Abogadas MX was born almost eight years ago, in 2014, when a group of female lawyers got together, convinced that more women in leadership positions translates to more growth for organizations and the country. We came together because we saw first-hand the unfortunate reality of a male-dominated legal sector. We started with a small mentoring group to support young women in the profession who were starting out in their careers. Today we are a well-coordinated  organization that has generated several initiatives with the objective of promoting best practices in diversity and inclusion so that companies, law firms and organizations can attract, develop and retain female talent.

 

What did it mean for you to assume the presidency of the board of directors?

Assuming the presidency of the board of directors is an honor that I took on with great sense of duty because it represents the commitment of what I have been working on throughout my life: to support women so that they can develop in inclusive environments. It is also a great challenge, due to the times we are living in, however, I will work to preserve what has been achieved over the years and of course I will seek to improve, strengthen and grow the organization.

 

How did the pandemic impact you and what lessons did it teach?

For Abogadas MX, as with many organizations,   the pandemic brought change and a need to adapt , however, it also generated an extraordinary opportunity for development and growth; as a result of the pandemic we were able to get closer to our affiliates and strategic allies, technology allowed us to create new ways to support lawyers in different parts of the country.

One of the main lessons learned is that we must be prepared for change and have the ability to adapt. It has been very important for us to take care of female lawyers who find themselves in a situation where they are forced to take on the lion’s share of domestic responsibilities.  . We have been very careful to give our network a platform that truly helps them take care of their mental health. Pandemic-related  stress has led to new challenges for women, and it is our role as an association to understand and help both these lawyers and the legal sector to face them.

We have not nearly achieved a level of representation that corresponds to the female talent that exists within the legal sector

How is the role of women in the legal profession changing in Mexico?

There are currently more women than men graduating from law school. Fortunately, we live in an era where women are not afraid to assert their rights in different public and private spaces. Even so, and referring specifically to managerial positions, we have not nearly achieved a level of representation that corresponds to the female talent that exists within the legal sector. Although there are already inclusivity policies within the organizations that hire lawyers, we must continue to push for the  same opportunities for all. Abogadas MXremains firm in its mission to bring about change and get more women into management positions and help them stay there once they do. .

 

What are the main things standing in the way of this?

The main challenges women in the legal industry currently face are unconscious biases and gender stereotypes, which constitute invisible but very powerful barriers to   accessing  and thriving in certain spaces, positions and sectors of the economy; also, cultural considerations, the lack of an adequate work-life balance, corporate culture, the lack of a well-thought-out career plan, and absence of  a support network. In addition, there is the spectre of gender violence, which continues to afflict many women in their social, work and family lives. There are many challenges, but we will continue working to ensure that more women reach decision-making positions and live in dignity and without violence or discrimination.

 

What are the Association's main projects for this year?

For 2022, our aim is to influence a greater number of female lawyers, maintaining and growing our mentoring program; making permanent our scholarship program, focused on law students in public universities. We will also work to strengthen our chapters in Monterrey and Puebla and seek the expansion of our presence in other parts of the country. We will continue working on the Minimum Standards for Diversity and Inclusion in Law Firms project , which is based on the Women Empowerment Principles(WEPs) of the UN. We will seek to expand the labor exchange and networking sessions that allow members of our association to get hired and development opportunities for other women.