Female leadership programmes within law firms need to “walk the talk” and actually increase women’s representation at the top of the legal profession, the chief executive of soft drinks business Nicols plc has told lawyers.
Marnie Millard, whose company’s best-known product is Vimto, was speaking at an event organised by Women in the Law UK, the Manchester-based lobbying, networking and support organisation.
She said that, while many law firms have women’s leadership programmes, most of these have yet to bear fruit in the upper echelons of the profession.
“I hate to say it, but all these programmes are not yet leading to significant changes at the top,” she told the audience of solicitors and barristers.
She said businesses and law firms should not simply permit flexible working but that senior management should also lead by example.
“I prefer to get into the office early in the morning but, as long as the day-to-day business issues allow, I will leave before 5pm so that everyone can see me going and feel they have permission to do the same,” she said.
Ms Millard was joined by three other female entrepreneurs from the North West: Jennie Johnson of day nursery group Kids Allowed, Rebecca McCann of haircare innovator Pro Blo Group and Emma Elston of waste container refurbishment business UK Container Maintenance.
Ms Johnson said one of the most valuable lessons she was currently learning was to be more discerning about which additional commitments filled her diary and learning she could sometimes say ‘no’.
Alongside this was carving out time each week for herself and her own wellbeing.
Ms McCann, meanwhile, urged the audience to take time to “enjoy the small successes” that occur while working toward long-term goals.
Ms Elston emphasised the importance of determination, but also of taking time out to “have a meeting with your mind”, and of having fun at work.
Sally Penni, barrister at law and founder and chair of Women in the Law UK, said: “Ultimately the legal profession is a business, so it was really useful to hear the stories of women who have overcome all kinds of hurdles to achieve massive commercial success.”
In September, Women in the Law UK will officially launch in London.