We recently caught up with Sarah Ross-Smith, partner at Ashurst to discuss her views on achieving your career goals, what it’s like to be a female partner and her favourite binge tv recommendations.
Ashurst has recently been awarded the Workplace Gender Equality Agency's Employer Choice for Gender Equality. How have you been supported in the workplace as a woman lawyer?
I think like many lawyers (and not just women lawyers) I have benefitted from flexible working arrangements – whether that be part-time or working from home as my personal needs have required. Often women need that as primary caregivers to children or parents but increasingly we are seeing that male lawyers are accessing that as well which is great. I think the more men work flexibly, the more that challenges the stereotypes of what it is to be a "typical" lawyer, I am thinking now of some of my male colleagues who are very successful and who provide real role models for both male and female lawyers to see that there is more to life than being in the office. That life outside the office matters, that family matters!
What is one thing you see preventing women from achieving their career goals today, and how might we start to fix it?
I often look at my younger female colleagues and think – do you know how good you are? Men are often very eager to tell you of their accomplishments, but women can be quite reticent and almost shy in sharing their successes. Sometimes that holds them back and I would really urge young women to look at what they have achieved and ask if they are valuing themselves. Because that reluctance could mean you don't get a promotion or a raise when you deserve it.
People say that the view from the top can be isolating. Do you find it lonely as a female partner? Please describe your support team.
I am really fortunate in that four of our six partners in the Canberra office are women so I don't feel lonely at all as a female partner. In a broader sense, we have a terrific group of female counsel, senior associates and lawyers who started the Canberra Office's Women's Network to really make sure that gender issues were being addressed and we are joined by our male colleagues in a lot of the work that we do. At a national and global level our Managing Partner, Paul Jenkins (who himself is a Male Champion of Change) instituted a group of female and male partners who are part of Ashurst's Committed to Change program which meets via phone to share ideas about promoting gender equality.
What's your favourite binge-worthy TV show at the moment?
The OA Part 2 – but I am concerned that it is going to be way too long until Part 3 comes around. So I am waiting for Terrace House – the Japanese reality TV show which is utterly addictive. Think Big Brother, with housemates who enter the house with life "goals" and leave when they feel their time is "up". No humiliating "public votes you off" process. And hilarious Japanese commentators who often help explain the cultural context for non-Japanese viewers….Next season should be out in mere days.