8 March, 2018 Peru

Latin American firms celebrate International Women’s Day


From social media initiatives to female-led talks, firms across the region are celebrating International Women’s Day, but a growing number of senior lawyers say the way to combat gender inequality is to change perceptions about men’s role in the legal workplace and not just women’s.

Latin American firms celebrate International Women’s Day Lawyers from various firms gather at Demarest’s Demulheres event on International Women’s Day
While 8 March is dedicated to the global women’s rights movement, efforts to combat gender inequality are not limited to one day of the year, nor to the role of women alone. Increasingly, firms believe the solution may be to give men more flexibility in the workplace so they can take a bigger role in family life. BLP (Costa Rica)‘s managing partner Luis Castro notes the importance of male lawyers taking family responsibility. “A father is a key part in a child’s life,” says Castro, noting the absence of paternity leave rights in Costa Rica. “We encourage our lawyers who are fathers to take as long as they need when they have children,” he says. Castro adds that the period of leave varies depending on the individual, with some fathers taking a few weeks, while others take several months. Flexi-time and remote working rights have also been extended to male lawyers.

Other firms are encouraging male partners to break gender moulds as well. Estudio Echecopar member firm of Baker McKenzie International has increased its paternity leave to 10 days, compared to the national legal allowance of three. “We are trying to show that the only way women can progress in their careers is if men take responsibility for what was traditionally women’s work,” says M&A partner Ines Baca.

Brazilian firms are also implementing more flexible working conditions for men as well as women. Trench, Rossi e Watanabe Advogados launched its Be Agile policy last month. It encourages flexi-time and home office provisions for all lawyers and staff. Before the programme was launched, managing partner Simone Musa says many lawyers felt asking for flexi-time would hurt their chances of promotion. This has changed. “All current and future partners no longer feel afraid to ask for these provisions because we have made them policy, which makes things much more transparent for men and women, parents and future parents,” says Musa.

Still, female-targeted initiatives remain the main tools for combating inequality. Philippi Prietocarrizosa Ferrero DU & Uría (Peru) has an unusually generous maternity cover for Latin America. It grants mothers three months full pay for working half-time in addition to the three months full pay they are entitled to by law.

Mentorship programmes are another tool used to combat inequality. Trench Rossi has implemented its Leadership Investing in Future Talent (LIFT) programme, which is a global initiative organised by Trench Rossi and Baker McKenzie to provide a mentorship platform led by senior female lawyers for female non-equity partners. Its objective is to boost young women lawyers’ chances of promotions. “We must stand up and make sure female lawyers get enough attention to progress,” says Musa. “Men tend to be more aggressive when it comes to getting promotions; our LIFT programme facilitates equal recognition.”

Estudio Echecopar launched a similar mentoring programme this month. It pairs partners who are mothers with younger lawyers who are, or are planning to become, mothers. There are currently five mentors and five mentees in the programme. Baca says the initiative challenges the belief that having children jeopardises your career chances.

iqueiras e an o t programme
Siqueira’s “We Can Do It” programme
Changing perceptions of women in the workplace is not limited to the legal sphere. On the eve of International Women’s Day, Brazil’s TozziniFreire Advogados held a seminar for women in family businesses. Nearly all family businesses across the region are dominated by men, while women are often limited to the traditional role of mother or housewife. Moira Huggard-Caine, head of the firm’s Women’s Task Force, spoke at the seminar, which was co-organised by consultancy company Hoft. Her speech addressed how women can take on more senior roles in family businesses and how the topic of gender inequality can be tackled. Elsewhere in Brazil, Siqueira Castro Advogados launched its “We Can Do It” programme on 14 February, which focuses on female empowerment. It is in association with the Maria Clara Institute, an NGO providing shelter for female victims of domestic violence. The firm donates supplies which help encourage victims to become aware of their rights. Machado Meyer Advogados is also holding an event to discuss women’s empowerment and the firm’s gender policies.

Today, many firms will use social media to promote gender equality. Trench Rossi will be posting videos of lawyers talking about their female role models – from former First Lady Michelle Obama, to the late Princess Diana. TozziniFreire’s social media channels will feature lawyers speaking about what it means to be a woman, as well as pragmatic tips on how they maintain a work-life balance. In Central America, BLP will upload videos on their intranet about women who inspire them professionally.

areys rancisca orti
Carey’s Francisca Corti
Carey is sending an internal communication to its employees that recognises and commemorates its female employees, in a bid to underscore its commitment to women and raise awareness of their role in the firm. Partner Francisca Corti is participating in a forum organised by the Universidad Católica Law School.

emarests emulheres celebrating nternational omens ay
Demarest’s Demulheres celebrating International Women’s Day
Other conferences are being held today. Demarest Advogados ‘ gender equality programme, Demulheres, will be hosting two panels for female lawyers and trainees from different firms in which seven female professionals will share the experiences and challenges they face as women. Among them are labour judge Mylene Pereira Ramos and police commissioner of the judicial police department of the capital Maria Cecília Dias. The firm will also host a discussion entitled “Feminism – what does it mean for professional women?” Estudio Echecopar is holding two events for all its lawyers and staff, with guest speakers Patricia Ruiz Bravo from Peru’s Pontifex Catholic University and Sandra Ricardo from consultancy company CENTRUM. Both will talk about gender equality and the importance of diversity. “We want to get people thinking