Interview with: Kresna Panggabean and Benny Bernarto, TNB & Partners

Kresna Panggabean
Benny Bernarto

GC: What do you see as the main points that differentiate TNB & Partners from your competitors?

Kresna Panggabean (KP): We are one of the few international firms operating a disputes practice in Indonesia. Most international businesses know that Indonesian courts can be notoriously challenging to navigate and that the legal market for dispute resolution is dominated by local players. While we are happy to provide clients with a full service offering, we do not focus on matters in the local courts. Instead, we focus on cross-border corporate disputes where we can plug into the strength of the Norton Rose Fulbright network to add value.

Benny Bernarto (BB): Norton Rose Fulbright has been an established presence in Indonesia for nearly 30 years from its Australian connection and has, through various forms of associations and incorporations, acquired longstanding expertise in the Indonesian market. While the core strength of our practice in Indonesia has been handling corporate and banking and finance transactions, over the last three years we have been putting a lot of effort into building our dispute resolutions offering, working hard to increase the capacity of the firm to serve clients on a broader range of matters.

We (Kresna and I) are corporate lawyers by background, which helps a lot in understanding the nature of corporate disputes. In my experience, there are not many disputes lawyers in the Indonesian market who have a strong corporate background or understand complex, cross-border corporate transactions. We have knowledge of how international companies operate and can follow what our partners across Norton Rose Fulbright have seen in other jurisdictions and bring that expertise to bear on matters in Indonesia.

As a rule, clients want to work with the same firm or lawyers. If a dispute arises in connection with an M&A they want to stay with the same firm. Likewise, clients who deal with Norton Rose Fulbright offices outside Indonesia want to keep the same firm if they end up facing a dispute elsewhere. Because these clients are based outside Indonesia they are often unfamiliar with the very unique market dynamics

GC: What are some of the trends facing the dispute resolution landscape in Indonesia?

BB: Business is becoming more disputatious and client demand for dispute resolution services is increasing. This will certainly continue. As the global market becomes more sophisticated we will naturally see more disputes. Market sophistication leads to disagreement and dispute, new regulations lead to disputes, and cross-border trade is almost inevitably going to be followed by cross-border disputes.

KP: Indonesia is an incredibly disputatious market. In the last couple of years, we have received an increasing number of enquiries from clients facing disputes, so it is important for us to have a strong disputes offering. There are really two main sources of these disputes. We are seeing more disputes related to M&A or joint ventures, but we are also seeing an increase in things like anti-bribery and corruption investigations. That means disputes are evolving and a disputes lawyer can no longer focus only on the sorts of matters which end up in court. We have worked hard to help clients when things go wrong by specialising both in the fast-moving nature of cross-border investigations, which are typically being driven from the US, while also integrating our disputes offering more closely with the corporate practice.

GC: What are some of the issues international clients need to be aware of when it comes to facing a dispute with an Indonesian counterparty?

KP: My first advice would be to settle disputes before they go to court or arbitration wherever possible. Of course, this is not always possible, but it is certainly worth exploring any avenues that can lead one away from a dispute to reach a mutually agreeable solution.

Mediation and other forms of ADR are recognised here but are neither common nor effective, and it can be a challenge to get an Indonesian party to consider settling. However, we work closely with our clients to explore all options and examine the likely costs of each course of action.

BB: Most disputes are driven by business teams. The commercial view is that if you can’t get what you want you go to court and try to win. We like to remind them that in order to do that they will need to spend time and money. Clients understand that disputes are expensive, but they rarely appreciate how time consuming and expensive they can be.

There can be a tendency for business to see things like employment-related matters as “not real disputes”, but even these can become very expensive if they are not handled properly. There is a temptation to think, “it’s just an employee, let’s go to court”, but the costs and timelines can spiral unpredictably.

Similarly, we advise businesses to be proactive when it comes to investigations as the processes can be quite unpredictable. For example, we were instructed by an oil and gas contractor based in the US to conduct an investigation into suspected bribery involving several of its employees. We teamed up with our colleagues in Singapore to interview their staffs and establish a case for termination. However, we quickly discovered that the alleged practices were not confined only to those employees facing investigation but were in fact prevalent across most of the sales division. What started as a relatively contained FCPA compliance investigation became a systemic problem for the business involved.

KP: The next most important consideration is to determine whether you are going for litigation or arbitration. Our position is generally to push for arbitration, particularly when advising entities based outside Indonesia, as it is less complex and has a more certain timeframe. It is also safer – arbitral awards can be enforced in Indonesia while court judgements generally cannot be enforced.

In terms of selecting a seat we recommend that our clients based outside of Indonesia push to have their disputes settled at the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) or Indonesia’s arbitration centre – Badan Arbitrase Nasional Indonesia (BANI). Both have a good list of arbitrators, including many who are internationally recognised, but it is often preferable for international businesses to seek a neutral jurisdiction.

In Conversation: Rupert Skellett, General Counsel, Beggars Group

GC: Tell us about your pathway into law?

Rupert Skellett (RS): I initially read English Literature at University and ended up working in book publishing for Penguin. But, I decided that wasn’t for me, and I felt that I needed some kind of “skill” that would make me employable: I was great at analysing and reading literature, but, not really much else. So, I completed a law degree at City University of London and then went to bar school and then a commercial set of chambers. When my pupillage finished, I didn’t fancy going to the bar, so I managed to get a job in Simkins, in their music department. I was there for a year or so.

Then, I went to work for a sole practitioner- James Rubenstein- who worked from his flat in West Hampstead, which was a bit weird, but it was great because it was very hands on sort-of- training: I’d sit about two yards away from him in his office. His clients included a few record labels, one of which was Domino, and another was Beggars. I ended up doing a lot of Beggars’ work. So when Martin Mills, the owner of Beggars, decided he wanted an in-house person, I’d already been doing the job for a couple of years and essentially, I was the natural choice. I will have been at Beggars for 20 years in January.

GC: Tell us about your work day, what items fall under the realm of legal at Beggars Group?

RS: Well for me, the priority of the work is to find new recording artists to sign. That is basically the goal, the one thing we all strive for. What we try and do is sign independent, alternative music and that’s generally UK or US based. Although, that is slightly changing in recent years. The idea is: that we don’t find acts which we think are going to sell loads and loads, instead we sign acts because we like them; we think they’re interesting; and we think that people should hear them. That’s the most exciting part because you go to see an act play live, and then hopefully you negotiate with them and sign them. So, that’s obviously a big part of the job: negotiating the terms of the deal and drafting the recording agreement. A lot of my work, apart from negotiation, is drafting in-house, probably more so than private practice. It’s a specialism, certainly for a music in-house role.

GC: What’s involved in the negotiation stage?

RS: You’ll often be in competition with a bunch of other labels, the artist’s lawyer will be representing the artist and then they will be representing various terms they have in other offers from other labels to you. Then, you have to decide whether you want to match them or not. There are things we can offer that other labels can’t: we very much pride ourselves on being a global company and that means we’re able to offer a really good deal to artists, because none of the revenue we receive goes through an inter-company royalty matrix—which other major labels operate. This is our distinct advantage.

We also sign far fewer acts than other major labels in order to really concentrate on each act. The way we’re set up is that we have our own people on the ground in every major record market in the world–who only work on our releases. We can bring a real focus to pushing, promoting and marketing our artists, much more so than other major labels. If you sign to a major label in the UK, you don’t really have much assurance, that you as an artist, are going to get any priority when your record is released in the US: you basically have to try and persuade your UK label to convince your US label to get behind you. Whereas, with us, it’s much more top-down. The company is run from New York and London, what we sign is prioritised throughout the world.

GC: You’ve been working for Beggars Group for around 20 years now, how has the music industry changed in those years?

RS:  The industry has changed massively in the last twenty years. For a long time, it was in the doldrums. For the first 15 years of this century, the global record industry kept on going down and down, to the point where it basically became half of what it was in the heyday years of the 90’s, with CD’s and the rest of it. The problem was piracy. Piracy was a huge problem which came with the internet. There were attempts in the early 2000’s to license various services and they didn’t really get off the ground. So, for a long time we were fighting piracy and tech companies who didn’t value rights in the same way that we do- so that was a real problem. But, since 2015, the global record industry started to grow again and that’s down to the streaming services—Spotify initially, then Apple Music and Deezer, for example.

GC: Tell me more about these streaming services, how have they changed the market?

RS: Spotify specifically– because it provides a free service and has basically removed any need for anyone to pirate any music. There’s no real excuse to pirate and it’s a lot more convenient. Still, there’s a certain amount of technological knowhow that you need to pirate music. However, things the music industry has been doing, in terms of blocking pirate sites, has helped. Trying to get search engine companies to cooperate with that, is quite tough. So, that’s what I was saying about trying to persuade tech companies to play nice with rights. That’s been a major challenge, but there are signs that is improving. But, it’s down to those efforts in the industry and also the availability of companies like Spotify, who have a great service—you basically have all of the world’s music at your fingertips, in a nice, easy way to find music.

GC: You mentioned piracy a past challenge to the music industry, what are the current challenges that you face today as a GC?

RS: What’s really interesting about today, is that when I was a teenager and in my early twenties, I was really into dance and house music. And, you couldn’t get it anywhere—it was really hard—there were a few record shops in London—a handful outside of London, there were barely any radio stations—and that was really exciting. But, now you have the exact polar opposite problem, you don’t have scarcity, you have too much content—so much content. Every day, hundreds of thousands of tracks are uploaded on Spotify.

GC: That must be quite difficult for you when you’re searching for talent, there’s so much content out there, where do you begin?

RS: This concerns going down the path of monitoring data. That’s obviously quite easy to do now, because there’s so much data out there and so many data collecting systems. Other record labels quickly initiate their flagging systems for anything that looks as if it’s doing quite well and they just sign whatever is on that data system. Whereas, we still definitely operate on the basis of seeing the artist play live, meeting them, getting a feel for their vision and obviously whether we love their music or not. So, the massive challenge is, even if you do sign the artist, how do you get that artist content above the tidal wave of other content that’s out there? That’s something that we’re really good at, because we are quite niche, and we have this global army of fans who promote an artist’s music. That is the real challenge now: the enormous amounts of content generated, which is down to cheaper recording processes and distribution. I mean, anyone can upload content, get a distribution partner and then have your music up on Spotify.

GC: Has social media had an impact on the growth of an artist?

RS: Social media is very important to an artist’s career now. But, you can experience a problem where you’re massive on social media but that doesn’t translate into consumption or sales of recorded music. So, you need to be careful that you tie them all together properly. There’s a lot of “well, why you can’t do this?” promotion, and it’s a constant battle between “promotion” and rights exploitation, and getting paid for rights exploitation. If you’re exploiting rights, you need to pay for them, because that’s our business and that’s what we thrive on.

GC: You spoke earlier of royalties and licenses. What’s the role that you play in the acquisition of a song?

RS: We have a publishing company, but we, the record company, handle the recordings—this is a separate copyright to the song itself. So, our music publishing company handles rights and acquires rights to songs. They sign song writers to exclusive song writing agreements. I’m involved in that side of things: the signing of song writers, in much of the same way as the record side; helping negotiate terms with the publishing company and then drafting the agreements. But, in terms of licensing songs, for instance, if someone were to use one of the songs in a TV program, or in a computer game, then we have a global licensing department who handles those things.

GC: You said that you work with alternative music, so you have a couple of clients from the UK grime scene, who have in the past, been faced with criminal allegations, how do you deal with that? What are the ramifications when clients face criminal proceedings?

RS: We’re as supportive as possible, where we can be. Mostly this is an issue for the manager and the artist lawyer, not us as the label.  But I do remember that with Giggs, when we were about to sign him in 2006, the Metropolitan Police phoned us up and told us not to sign him. But, we went ahead anyway, because, we thought it was wrong to deny him of the chance of generating a professional career as a recording artist. Yes, people might make mistakes, but you have to give them a chance to change, it didn’t make any sense for us to say: “you’re going to be punished for the rest of your life for something you did when you were younger.”

GC: If you could give yourself one piece of advice at the start of your career, after you qualified with your law degree, what would that be?

RS: Be careful what you wish for.

In Conversation: Dan Webster, Group General Counsel, Harrods

GC: Tell me about your pathway into law?

Dan Webster (DW): I studied law at the London School of Economics and went to law school in Chester. I got a training contract at what is now CMS Cameron McKenna. I qualified in litigation, stayed a couple of years at CMS and then then moved to SNR Dentons. I stayed there for a few years and then decided I wanted a change. To my surprise, an opportunity came up to be an in-house litigator at Harrods where the then owner was famously very litigious. Once at Harrods, I quickly realised that I was meant to be an in-house lawyer, and over time, I’ve evolved into a commercial, corporate, employment, IP all-rounder.

GC: Could you tell me a little about that change from private practice to in-house law? How did you find that transition?

DW: I was brought in initially as an in-house litigator. It quickly became apparent that there was a demand for more general in-house work and perhaps less than a full time job available for litigation work. So, I was very happy to broaden my skillset, I wasn’t someone who wanted to stay specialised. I was very happy to become more like a legal equivalent of a GP—if I can make a comparison to the medical profession. The fact that you can kind of turn your mind to most legal tasks, I found that very interesting, and I really enjoyed the variety. Therefore, I really embraced the opportunity to try and be an all-rounder within an in-house practice, as opposed to a specialist litigator.

GC: What does your role as an ‘all-rounder’ at Harrods entail?

DW: I oversee the legal function for the entire Harrods group. This includes commercial, corporate, IP, marketing and consumer work. I look after all the company secretarial work for the group too. I’m also data protection officer, which is probably quite unusual for a GC. I oversee all the GDPR related work. I’m also responsible for the trade mark and domain name portfolio.

GC: Tell me a little about your team and how they assist in the aforementioned work?

DW: I’ve got five lawyers, a contract manager and a paralegal (who we are currently recruiting). In addition to that, I’ve got responsibility for the data protection team, which is currently two professionals. I try to lead by example: by working hard and by having high standards. I tend not to micromanage and let talent flourish. I always seek to be approachable and supportive and to make work enjoyable for my team.

GC: What is a typical working day like for you?

I’m not sure that there is a typical working day, but this is one of the great things about being an in-house lawyer—it’s not repetitive and it’s unpredictable. You learn to expect the unexpected. You might come into work with a list of tasks you’d like to get done that day, but it’s highly unlikely that you’ll actually get through that list without the phone ringing repeatedly with queries and urgent tasks you’ve not anticipated. So, a lack of predictability is something which is a reality of being an in-house lawyer—but also one of the best things about being an in-house lawyer.

GC: How has your role as a GC changed throughout your time in the industry?

DW: I think the volume of work to be done has grown. There’s much more multitasking to do and perhaps a wider appreciation of the GC role and the legal function.

As I mentioned earlier, the legal department at Harrods absorbed the previous company secretary department and I’ve been appointed data protection officer. So, the GC role from my perspective, has become broader and more compliance focused. Even aside of my role as data protection officer, the legal work relating to data protection and data security has become a much bigger consideration during my period as a GC.

As I said, the Harrods business has grown, and so has the volume of legal work. There’s also been a shift towards keeping more of the work in-house and towards upskilling, rather than outsourcing. As a result, the legal team which I manage, has grown and all of us have had to become more versatile and more efficient.

I’ve noticed that during my period as a GC here, the legal department is increasingly seen as more of a general value-add, rather than just a legal function. We often take on more of a general role in the business projects we work on, rather than being limited simply to providing legal advice.

Being a GC is hard work and I don’t think it’s the easy option, when compared to private practice, if it ever was.

GC: Tell me about how you’re planning to use technology in your field?

DW: Another thing that’s sort of changed, is that we now have more of a focus on technology. Indeed, at Harrods, we’re currently trialling a contract management tool. It’s very early stages, but one of the contracts which we use repeatedly is a concession contract: we have many, many companies that operate concessions—effectively shop-in-shops— in Harrods, and it’s a complicated commercial arrangement. We have a fairly long concession contract. So, we are trialling technology which allows us to populate a precedent concession contract based on various different options, depending on the specific commercial deal you’ve struck on with a concession. The idea is that it will save us a lot of time and provide greater efficiency. But, as I’ve said, it’s quite a complicated agreement to do through a contract management tool. We are in the early stages, so it would be much too early to say whether it is a success or not.

GC: Could you tell me a little more about the work you do concerning trade marking?

DW: Well, Harrods has around 700 trademarks throughout the world. We need to protect our brand which obviously is very valuable. It’s one of the most famous brands out there and definitely one of the most famous retail brands in the world. The trademark acts as a deterrent to other organisations using our brand without our permission. It also means that if someone does try and use our brand without our permission, we’re able to enforce our trademark to stop this infringement.

GC: You spoke about your role within data protection, tell me about this?

DW: Companies the size of Harrods are required to appoint a data protection officer, and I took on that role for Harrods. I was appointed in the period before GDPR came into force. Therefore, I was involved in helping to manage the GDPR compliance project along with a data protection team. I am now responsible for the ongoing GDPR compliant operation of the Harrods organisation—assisted by the data protection team and plenty of other people within the Harrods organisation.

GC: Going off the back of that, is compliance a challenge for you and your team?

DW: I’ve talked about the company secretarial role and those challenges, but, we’ve got additional regulation in other areas as well. We have annual reporting obligations required by the Modern Slavery Act, and since 2019, we’ve got governance reporting obligations courtesy of the Companies (Miscellaneous Reporting) Regulations 2018. We’re also helping to prepare Harrods for the imminent introduction of IR35 which will impact on private companies who instruct consultants. As GC, I also attend the annual audit committee meeting and work closely with our internal audit and anti-money laundering team. Overall, there’s quite a lot of compliance work involved in my role, and that of the wider legal team.

GC: What are the current challenges you face at Harrods at the moment?

DW: The business never sleeps, so it’s genuinely a constant challenge—but, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The work-life balance can be an issue, but it focusses you to be efficient in the way that you work.

As well as business as usual, there’s always one or more major project to work on. At the moment, we’ve got a store-wide refurbishment project; we’ve been collaborating with Farfetch.com in relation to the new Harrods.com website; and we have two new business we are trialling away from the store: H Café and H Beauty.

Two years ago, one of the projects concerned divesting ourselves of four non-retail subsidiaries. All of these deals were being worked on simultaneously and in fact all of them completed around Christmas 2017, which was a memorable juggling act.

GC: What is in the pipeline for Harrods?

DW: We’re nearing the last stages of the store refurbishment project, we’ve recently reopened our food halls and a state of the art new beauty room. We’re revamping our chocolate room very shortly. We’re re-platforming the Harrods.com website which will be launching early this year. We’re trialling an H Café concept in Henley, which is both a café and a click-and-collect location, with changing rooms upstairs. We’ll be opening two H Beauty shops this year, this is a very exciting new beauty concept and effectively a new brand which we’re building from scratch.

GC: What have been the high points whilst working at Harrods?

DW: I’ve been very luck to work here during a period of rapid change, which has bought Harrods success and growth. Throughout this period there’s been drive, ambition and innovation. I’ve been very fortunate to be in the organisation at this time. Some recent highlights include the projects I’ve mentioned earlier. But another high point is my current team—I’m very lucky to have such talented and dedicated colleagues.

GC: If you could go back in time, when you were starting off your career in law, what would you tell yourself?

DW: I’d say try and get an in-house secondment as a trainee or junior solicitor. This will give you an early insight into both sides of the legal profession: private practice and in-house. This will help you plot your career path and give you a valuable insight into how businesses really work.

In Conversation: Alex Scudamore, head of legal, Wimbledon – The All England Lawn Tennis Club (Championships) Limited

GC: Could you tell us about your pathway into law?

Alex Scudamore (AS): I read French and German at Bristol University, and then completed the law conversion course. Prior to starting that, I took the usual route of looking at different options in terms of what I might want to do. I ended up completing a vacation scheme at Macfarlanes LLP. Off the back of that, I was offered a training contract. I then completed the law conversion course and LPC. It was after this that my training and career at Macfarlanes started.

GC: How did you move in-house?

AS: I was in the commercial team at Macfarlanes. The department was broad in terms of the areas of law covered – anything from commercial contractual work, to IP, to brand protection and data protection. I was therefore geared up in a very commercial way. I was then sent on a secondment, initially to a card payment processing company – an industry I was not particularly familiar with. It started off as a three-month secondment, but ended up being nine months in total. It was semi-virtual, with half the time spent in their offices out in Cambridgeshire, and the other half of the time spent back at Macfarlanes. So my first taste of in-house life came when I was a year-and-a-half qualified. I then went back to Macfarlanes’ commercial department to carry on there. It was after this that an additional secondment opportunity came up at CSM, a sports marketing company. I enjoyed the opportunity so much that I ended up never going back to Macfarlanes. I ended up remaining at CSM for four and a half years.

GC: How did you come to be head of legal at the AELTC?

AS: I was very happy working in the sports marketing company. But, for me, the appeal of the AELTC was working for a rights holder, as a lawyer. When working for an agency, you’re unable to give external legal advice to your sporting clients – whether that be brands or players, you’re always at a slight distance. I was starting to think about my next move and the appeal of Wimbledon was obvious – it’s such a strong property, it’s such a strong brand, it’s established in the sporting world, and therefore an opportunity that I just couldn’t turn away.

I began as head of legal at the AELTC in September 2018. Before me, the AELTC never had a full-time in-house resource and instead used a combination of retained legal resource (via Kerman and Co.,) and other external firms. But the time was finally right to have that full-time, day-to-day legal resource, so I was brought in as the only full-time lawyer, as head of legal.

GC: What’s a typical working day for you?

AS: I would say no day is the same and the work is extremely broad. I mean, I certainly haven’t been bored since I’ve started working here, there’s been a steady workflow. There will usually be several major contracts on the go at any one time. These could be anything from a renewal with one of our key official suppliers, to queries that arise from broadcast arrangements, IP protection, ticketing issues and data protection. Recently, I’ve been doing a great deal of work on the grass court season that the AELTC has been investing in.

GC: Tell me about Wimbledon’s grass court strategy?

AS: We have invested in developing our grass court strategy. The aim of this is ultimately to provide world-class opportunities for junior players to compete on—and thrive on—grass, at all stages of their development. We’ve obviously got a Grand Slam event here, but there are many tournaments in Europe which form part of the women’s and men’s professional tours. These are very important, as we want to give players the best opportunity to play on grass. In that three-week gap between Roland-Garros, which is played on clay, and Wimbledon, which is played on grass, we have created a grass court series for the world’s top 150 players. We’ve announced a series of strategic investments to strengthen this season. We have also acquired sanctions to stage those tournaments. But, whether it’s been by way of acquiring sanctions or obtaining rights, in relation to the staging of the tournaments, we’re working with tournament delivery partners in the various territories to deliver these events.

GC: What’s legal’s role within the formation of contracts with your sponsors?

AS: If it’s a new official supplier (sponsor) deal, you will be brought into some of the earlier discussions, so around the heads of terms that might be agreed. You’re also brought in materially a little later on. We’re responsible for putting together our ‘official supplier’ agreement. We now have a standard form agreement that we will populate, often followed by some degree of negotiation. The agreement takes the form of your main body of legal terms and a schedule of rights setting out the rights that our official suppliers are getting. This is a standard structure in rights deals.

If you have a renewal of an existing agreement, then there may be certain items that would have been renegotiated commercially, so it would be our responsibility to work with the commercial team to negotiate these agreements.

Earlier on this year, we entered into a new partnership with OPPO – the Chinese mobile phone company. We haven’t worked with a Chinese partner before in the context of an official supplier arrangement, so this was an exciting new deal which also covers an entire new product category.

GC: How have you developed your skills during your time in the industry?

AS: As a lawyer, this is something that happens naturally – I have become much more strategic in a way which enables me to advise in a more commercial way. Having that ability to step away from the pure legal and really understand – to get under the skin of the business – greatly helps. Of course, you still must be that academic lawyer in many senses but I think, certainly in-house, you have a need to be both commercial and practical. You don’t want to be seen as the deal prohibitor in the organisation, you must be the enabler.

GC: Would you say that being a ‘business enabler’ is an advantage of working in-house?

AS: Yes, 100%. When you’re in private practice in a law firm, you have a variety of clients and, to a certain extent, you’re at an arm’s length from their day-to-day business. But, coming in-house, your ultimate main client is the business itself. You are there to protect – and have a credible working understanding of how the business works – whether that be financially or strategically. You also must be able to juggle the various different stakeholders within the business: from your senior board members – the executive board and here, at the AELTC, the committees, made up of members of the All England Club. You must balance those stakeholders within the business, but you must also be able to work with everybody – this includes those involved in the ‘on the ground’ delivery of The Championships. Though, for me, it’s the variety. There’s an awful lot that goes on to ultimately stage one of the best – well, we think The best – Grand Slam event in the world. As head of legal, you have a key role in making sure that you are doing everything in your power to protect the business.

GC: What sorts of challenges are you facing, or have you faced, working at Wimbledon?

AS: I think it’s getting to grips with the business – and that naturally does take time. You may have to deal with legal issues which you haven’t necessarily come against or had much exposure to before. Certainly for me at the AELTC, the area of broadcast has been a new area for me – from a pure commercial understanding, but also legally – so we’ve been working with external parties on that. It’s getting to grips with new areas – you definitely have to learn on the job. It’s not a case of looking things up in a book: reading a case isn’t necessarily going to help you, you’ve got to develop practical learning.

In my role, I would also say that it’s probably been juggling the number of different matters that require my attention legally. You also have to develop a deep understanding of broader issues in the tennis context, from a wider, global perspective. You need to grasp how the various other tennis organisations (like the professional tours for men and women, the WTA and ATP, for example) function and interact. This is very important for us as a Grand Slam event, so for me, the biggest challenge has been understanding how everything ultimately fits together.

I think as an organisation our biggest challenges are compliance related. We are delivering a major sporting event, with hundreds of thousands of people who visit the grounds, so one of our biggest challenges is security. Fortunately, we have great internal and external teams who focus on that. I think for me, it’s also certainly GDPR and data protection. We need to make sure that this continues to remain at the forefront of our focus as an organisation.

Also, there was an independent review into the sport of tennis from an integrity perspective. Since the Tennis Integrity Unit has been established, the AELTC has been actively involved in this to make sure we are upholding the highest levels of integrity in our Grand Slam event and, indeed, these new tournaments that we are now involved in.

GC: What have you enjoyed most during your time at the AELTC so far?

AS: The AELTC is growing at such a pace and we can’t afford to be complacent. We’ve acquired the Wimbledon Park Golf Club that is situated across Church Road from us – that ultimate expansion is very exciting. Further expanding our investment into the grass court tennis season has been a new thing for the AELTC – it’s been a new experience for me too. I’ve had to develop an understanding of how the ATP and WTA sanctions to stage tournaments work. Aside from some of the highlights mentioned, for me, it’s the ability to work with a range of people, and the exposure that I’ve been given within the organisation has been great. It’s pretty interesting for a lawyer here – you’re not kept siloed in your little box in an office tucked away, you are out there speaking to people. I’d like to think that I’ve become, or I am becoming, that trusted adviser within the organisation, which is what any in-house lawyer should strive to be.

GC: You mentioned the rights to stage such tournaments. Could you tell me a little more about these?

AS: It’s about making sure that the agreements we’ve got to stage these grass court events are robust enough to allow us to do what we want to do. We’ve had to juggle quite a few different parties – because on one hand, you must make sure that you’re acting in accordance with ATP or WTA rules (which govern how these tournaments must operate). Then, on the other hand, you’ve also got to manage the relationship with the entities that are delivering these tournaments on the ground. So, there has been some back-to-backing in these agreements: making sure that we’re not giving third-party rights in relation to the tournament, which we ourselves do not have. That has been quite important from a legal perspective because there’s a real balancing act around those protections.

GC: What’s in the pipeline for the AELTC?

AS: We’re continuing to invest in The Championships, which is the pinnacle of the sport of tennis. The investment in the grass court tennis season instils the love of the game in people and, ultimately, the ambition to play at Wimbledon at a young age. We also have the acquisition of the Wimbledon Park Golf Club – that was a very important moment for us in terms of our master plan for the future. We’re investing in our environmental sustainability too. Continually trying to improve and never becoming complacent is key for us.

GC: How important was mentorship for you, as you developed within your own legal career?

AS: I think it’s important to have a mentor, especially from an in-house perspective. This need not necessarily be a lawyer, but someone you can learn from in a career development perspective – someone who’s got experience of working in different organisations. Personally I don’t particularly like these female forums, because I think it actually highlights barriers which shouldn’t exist – and don’t exist sometimes.

Speaking honestly, I don’t think there are any barriers that exist for women getting into the in-house legal profession. I certainly haven’t encountered them. I think you get roles, in my experience, based on merit – and that’s the way it should be. I think one thing that I would say is that you do need to have an added confidence – I mean, certainly being in the sport sector, it has traditionally been a male-dominated industry. I think that you need to have the confidence to speak – if you’re in a boardroom with senior executives who are all men, you shouldn’t be put off by that, but certainly I haven’t seen any barriers from my side.

I think mentorship is a good thing. I think if you’re in a law firm, there is an obvious hierarchy, and naturally it is important to talk to those people who are further on in their careers about how they got there. I think this somewhat slightly changes in the in-house world. It’s helpful to have a network of other in-house lawyers to openly talk to about the challenges that you might be facing and how you go about progression – because the in-house career path is not as obvious as private practice, so to speak. I’m a lawyer for a rights holder; it is important to have a network of other lawyers in a similar position, because there’s naturally learning that you can take from other sporting rights holders.

GC: If you could go back to the start of your law career and give yourself some advice, what would that be?

AS: Stick at it. When you’re in private practice, the hours can be long (the hours are still long sometimes). I think that it can be a bit of a shock, initially. When I finished law school, I was in a corporate firm, doing pretty long hours. But, stick at it. Enjoy the learning.

I would also say have a think and take a step back when it comes to deciding what particular area of law you want to go in to. Don’t qualify into a particular department because of the people alone (although it naturally helps) – it needs to be an area that you’re truly interested in. Fortunately for me, it has been an area that I was interested in. But I’m not sure if I necessarily appreciated that back when I was choosing where I wanted to qualify. I knew I enjoyed being a commercial lawyer. But I don’t think that I appreciated how important that decision was at the time and how it would shape my career. Being a commercial lawyer has been absolutely brilliant because I’ve had the flexibility of starting off in private practice and then being able to go in-house, which has hugely suited me.

In Conversation: Ria Sanz, Executive Vice President, General Counsel, Compliance and Company Secretary, AngloGold Ashanti

GC: Could you tell me about your current role, and your journey to where you are now?

Ria Sanz (RS): I’m currently Executive Vice President, General Counsel, Compliance and Company Secretary for AngloGold Ashanti (AGA).  I’ve been at the company for almost nine years, but I’ve served as general counsel of publicly listed companies for 21 years, in range of industries including industrial gases, private healthcare, paper /pulp/chemical cellulose and more.

As head of sustainability at Sappi, a paper company, I became closely familiar with the importance of responsible and ethical business practices across a number of contexts. This role helped with my transition into the mining sector, given the diverse and extensive group of stakeholders in the industry.

I have a great legal team at AngloGold Ashanti. We work as a team to support the objectives of the business through close collaboration and involvement with our colleagues. We’ve built up a strong compliance function and programme which was implemented over the last five or six years. As a result, we’ve been successful in avoiding any significant compliance issues. This is important since we deal with governments at all levels, from presidents to mayors and other local government officials. It is critical to ensure that our people have a strong understanding of what is legally unacceptable behaviour. We are guided by our values and believe that, in order to maintain our social license to mine, we need to be a good corporate citizen and partner in the jurisdictions in which we operate.

GC: You’re on the Executive Committee and you occupy a very senior role within the business. Worldwide, that seems quite rare for legal personnel, although it’s becoming more common. Was that always the case since you joined, and is that a symptom of the industry you’re in or is that just the culture within the company?

RS: When I joined I was, I believe, the first group general counsel and member of the executive committee that reported directly to the CEO. As the general counsel, I believe you need a seat at the table so that you are well-informed, otherwise you are going to be fighting with one arm behind your back. We operate in complex environments with risks around litigation, class actions, disclosure and instances where just saying something without a comprehensive understanding could have significant legal implications. So yes, I would hope that it’s increasingly understood that the general counsel does need to be a member of the executive.

GC: When you took over the role, was there a period of adjustment and defining boundaries and relationships?

RS: Definitely, it’s normal for it to take time to get the right team in place, put in the work to ensure that the key legal matters are understood and establish one’s role and voice at the table. I’ve also been very lucky that I’ve had good support from the CEOs and members of the executive team.

GC: As far as the role itself goes, since it was a new role, were you able to define the role profile more than you would have otherwise?

RS: That’s one of the advantages when there isn’t a history of the role in place. Senior roles are, to a certain extent, also driven by personalities. People’s strengths differ, even in the same role, and businesses evolve, so I think it’s natural for roles and responsibilities to change over time.

Industries have changed significantly, too. For example, when I was with Sappi and I was asked to head up sustainability in 2007, it was not something that either shareholders or other stakeholders had such an interest in as they do now.

I believe that strong legal people need to be able to adapt in order to contribute towards the strategic objectives of the business.

GC: I imagine that influences the kind of people you hire to report to you directly. In South Africa, is there a good pool of in-house lawyers that can fulfil that role or is it a struggle to find the talent?

RS: Mining is a well-established industry in South Africa, so there is a good pool of talented people. We are also a global organisation and, as such, would look across the globe for talent.

I think more and more people find mining to be an interesting and dynamic field of work. I think younger people want to work for companies that have souls and an opportunity to make a difference.

GC: Speaking broadly about the mining sector, you touched on the fact that you have all of the issues and stakeholders that other industries have, and more. Was there an adjustment period?

RS: Yes, there was. This role has been by far the most challenging and interesting. You eat, drink and breathe the industry,  the company, and the role. It’s a 24/7 industry and, as such, requires a lot of dedication.

I think all of my experiences through the years placed me in quite a good position to take on this role. It was overwhelming to start with, but I had a great team of people that had been in the organisation for some time in addition to having a supportive CEO and executive team. A lot of these people are still in the organisation and I was fortunate to be welcomed and helped – so that made the transition easier.

GC: What do you think is the biggest challenge specific to the mining industry that the legal team faces?

RS: I think it’s the challenge of keeping up with a rapidly changing regulatory environment – and quickly having to understanding the impact that those changes will have on the business in the short, medium and long term.

GC: Is it difficult to keep your finger on the  pulse in many different regions?

RS: I think that mining has significant commonality across jurisdictions. The fact that governments expect a return on the resources is something that is common, communities look to us for employment and for CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) projects. The themes are very much aligned. It’s the implementation that can change from one jurisdiction to another – how you participate with communities; which projects would be most impactful; and how these initiatives are implemented. It is important to understand the jurisdiction and proactively manage the expectations of governments and other stakeholders.

GC: Do you have a team in every jurisdiction, or in some of them are you relying on external advisers locally?

RS: We have legal representation in each of the countries where we operate. The complement is determined by the needs and complexity of the country and the operation, and the types of interactions they are likely to have, i.e. some might interact more with the local regulators, while others with the national government officials together with the corporate team as well.

GC: In terms of the legal systems you’re operating in, I imagine there’s a spectrum, from very well-defined legal systems and regulations to jurisdiction where things aren’t quite as formal, or even stable. How do you grapple with that?

RS: I wouldn’t say that’s exactly true anymore, certainly not in the jurisdictions where we are. Large-scale mining and gold mining are at different stages in different countries. But many of the jurisdictions have had mining activities – whether it’s gold or another resource – for an extended period. More and more governments have well-resourced and experienced people that understand mining. This helps tremendously in our engagements with governments.

GC: Is it easy to keep policies consistent across the board in every jurisdiction that you’re operating in?

RS: If I’m looking at the compliance side – because we are also listed on the New York Stock Exchange and in Australia and Ghana, not just in South Africa –the need to make sure  we’re not in breach of any bribery, corruption or ethical issues, means we do apply policies across the group. It is key that those policies are developed in conversation with individuals in the group. This enables the practical application of the key principles and allows for operating consistency in a number of areas.

GC: I suppose that links to what you were saying before about the business having core values?

RS: That’s right. And also, the reality is that anything that happens in Ghana will impact on how people see you in Colombia. The importance of having a consistent set of operating values, no matter where we are and even if it is to a much higher standard than the local regulation dictates, is key.

GC: Do you set the vision for the legal team on a yearly basis or a multi-year basis? I imagine that the business environment changes quite quickly?

RS: We’ve recently had a re-look at our operation model across the organisation and have made some changes to our team’s structure. I believe this is something that needs to be revised periodically and requires regular attention, even if no changes are made.

GC: Looking ahead to the next five or even ten years, is there anything that you see coming round the corner that may impact the work that you do?

RS: I think there are going to be increased risks caused by external factors. There’s climate change – with increased rainfall,   higher temperatures and rapid population growth: we have to contemplate the impact this might have to our equipment and operating environment. Mining often has a large footprint, so are we going to need to be in dialogue with farmers and other industries for both access and ensuring the preservation of land and the environment.

Technology changes will be another area that I think will continue to gather momentum. We will need to consider the impacts to mining and our production, costs and employment model.

GC: I imagine that you have to keep an eye on the political situation globally, which obviously now is changing a lot?

RS: The political landscape is something we already look at carefully. We often need to make significant capital investment decisions with long-dated returns on capital that need to survive potential changes in the operating landscape.  For example, if a project has a six year payback period and every four years there is a presidential election that tends to come with significant changes in that jurisdiction, we have to consider the risk factors in making a decision on that project.

There are jurisdictions in which we operate now that I didn’t visit in my first five or six years at AngloGold Ashanti because they were politically stable. However, the second there’s change on the political front I visit.

GC: Is there any way that you can safe guard against that?

RS: I think, like always, you’ve got to look at the returns through a lens that considers risk and reward, like in any business. As a management team, it is our job to manage the risks to the best of our ability. We do our part to safeguard the business and its investors from this risk by maintaining a pulse on the political landscape, along with working to mitigate social, environmental and other risks through our approach. Our compliance and oversight measures help to ensure that this work is done.

GC: Is there anything else you wanted to talk about?

RS: I was talking yesterday with a colleague in another mining company, and she referred to mining being an old boys club. It’s still an old boys club and women still need to be better represented. Diversity in every sense is something that we, as an organisation, see as very important. Not only when it comes to our recruitment practices, but also in the law firms that we use. Encouraging our external advisers to also strive for diversity is, I think, another way we can push for change. That is one aspect we need to continue to work on.

GC: Have you found that law firms are increasingly using diversity as a selling point to you?

RS: It is one of the points that comes across in conversations with the law firms, particularly the topic of fair pay. Law firms, though, are realising that salary parity is something their clients find important. Hopefully they see it as the right thing to do and a key business imperative. It is something that I think we, as their clients, are well placed to influence.

 GC: Is it hard for you to assess how effective the law firms are in their diversity and inclusion pushes?

RS: It’s good to understand what programmes firms have in place. I think more and more of them do have initiatives and are progressing in the areas of inclusion and diversity.

But I do find myself also becoming more vocal. Where I see no diversity I’m now having conversations with senior partners and even driving the makeup of teams that work with us. I can have an impact through doing that. It’s also my responsibility to do it. I would expect my stakeholders to be impressing on me to have diversity in my team as well.

In Conversation: Othelia Langner, head of legal and compliance (Southern Africa and SSA), Medtronic

Othelia Langner is speaking in her personal capacity, and not on behalf of Medtronic.

GC: Can you tell me about your current role and your career journey leading to it?

Othelia Langner (OL): I’m currently responsible for legal and compliance for the Southern African and Sub-Saharan regions.

I followed the ‘standard’ route to qualify as an attorney in South Africa, and then I had the opportunity to join Simmons & Simmons in London. During my time there, I went on secondment to UBS and Renaissance Capital in Moscow, and that is what initially sparked the interest in an in-house environment. My boss in Moscow took up a position as general counsel at a private equity holding company in Almaty in Kazakhstan and he asked me to join him, so I spent some time working there, and I really enjoyed it – it was very, very interesting.

When I was considering my next career move, I was offered the opportunity to come back to South Africa and join the South African office of Fasken, which worked out well because at the time I felt I was just a little bit too junior to go in-house full time. And so I went back into private practice, doing a lot of corporate commercial work in the mining space in South Africa and the rest of the African region, with a little bit in Central Asia.

I spent the next six years or so with Fasken, went through the ranks and made partner. And then Medtronic’s legal counsel resigned and they needed someone on very short notice. I’d just come back from maternity leave and it just aligned. I initially joined on secondment and then never left.

GC: Do you ever miss private practice?

OL: No. I love being in-house. It’s a completely different way of practising law, but – depending on the day! – I love the diversity, the intensity of it. I know in-house lawyers always say this, but you really get to know the business. You don’t practice law in isolation. Actually, the ‘business’ part of it is probably 70% and the strictly legal part maybe 20%. I don’t know what the other 10% is – human nature most likely!

Certainly at Medtronic, it’s a very collegial atmosphere, and I get to  do very interesting work so no, I can’t imagine going back to private practice.

GC: It’s interesting that you dipped your toe into in-house at first, then went back to private practice, and then back in-house.

OL: I was relatively junior (four years PQE) when I was exposed the in-house world. And, actually, it really helped going back into private practice having been in-house. I think all lawyers should ideally do a stint in-house for six months or a year.

GC: In-house skills are never really emphasised throughout law school. Do you think that it takes a certain kind of person to successfully transition in-house, or do you think everyone has it in them, it’s just a case of the right experiences?

OL: Whilst I think all lawyers can benefit from an in-house experience, some personality types may be more suited than others to working in-house. You have lawyers that are very particular about doing things in a very particular way – they want to really interrogate issues – whereas often in the in-house environment you have to make the best decision you can with the information you’ve got, often very quickly in high-pressure situations. You really have to be quite comfortable with assuming responsibility and perhaps (but hopefully not!) making the wrong call. I think the expectation of lawyers in private practice is that they don’t get the luxury of getting it wrong, because they are paid for their time to get it right. And some people are more or less comfortable with that kind of uncertainty and responsibility. I definitely think you can train for it, or at the very least, you can become more comfortable with it.

GC: You mentioned you felt you were perhaps too junior when the opportunity first presented itself to go in-house. When you did join Medtronic, did you feel confident that you were ready, or was there an adjustment period? What was that like?

OL: When I joined Medtronic, I was comfortable that I had the necessary technical skill, but also the gravitas and confidence to really engage with people at a management level.

You really are expected to be a business partner and to advise the business on bringing ideas to fruition and a key component of this is to appropriately manage risk. And when talking about risk, one has to bear in mind that risk can be much broader than, for example, the legal and financial risk that might result from an indemnity clause. It can encompass business risk, reputational risk and the risk of a loss of an opportunity. It would be amazing if you could do everything without any risk but that is not not a reality. And to determine which risks are acceptable, tolerable, given what you’re trying to achieve – I think from that point of view I was very much ready. But it was still a very big adjustment. To go from being able to take the time to really interrogate things to the level of detail you are comfortable with in private practice, to being comfortable with moving quickly – but not negligently or without due consideration – it’s a different dynamic.

GC: You inherited the department at quite short notice. Was it the exact same role to that of your predecessor?

OL: The department existed, and I think we all bring our own approaches to things so we have certainly evolved (not least because of the increasing complexity of the legal and regulatory landscape).

GC: Has the team, or the structure of the team, changed since then?

OL: I wouldn’t say the structure of the team has changed, but I think what we’ve really had to focus on is: with increased demand, how do we deploy the resources we’ve got to effectively address the needs of the business?

In private practice, you’re a revenue generator, whilst in-house you are a cost centre and so, as the business grows, there is often increased pressure on the department but not necessarily additional resources available. Which means you’ve got to look at how you work with those resources.

GC: I imagine that would be a real opportunity for you to develop the management skills that might be a bit less of a focus in private practice, by learning on the job.

OL: I think in private practice, it’s a very different dynamic. It’s much more hierarchical – you’ve got your junior candidate attorneys, your junior and senior, so you manage through the hierarchy. In-house, you’ve got to manage your team, but everyone is kind of semi-autonomous. Stakeholder management is probably the bigger challenge in-house, because you’ve got your team, your local and regional business teams, the regulatory team, the finance team, the quality team, the list goes on, and in a matrix organisation it is important that the right people are kept in the loop.

GC: On the subject of internal stakeholders, is that an ongoing piece of work for you – managing the profile, not just of yourself but also the team as a whole within the business?

OL: Medtronic’s vision includes being recognised as a company of dedication, honesty, integrity, and service, so the legal and compliance function is very highly valued and there’s quite a high degree of visibility and respect. I’ve never found that I’ve had to struggle to be heard because I’ve been able to build close relationships with the businesses I support.

GC: Do you think that’s reflective of the industry, or do you think that comes down to culture of the management of the board?

OL: It is a tough one to answer. I think in highly regulated industries, the importance of legal counsel and compliance counsel is easy to see, because you need someone who can help you navigate that. You can do that with external counsel, but that also involves someone in the business taking responsibility for that process and I think it makes a lot of sense to have that skillset in-house.

So depending on what your business need or goal is, the legal counsel function may play different roles: is it principally to keep you out of trouble? Is it principally to manage contracts? To execute the deals? In my position, it’s a far broader range of risks that we need to consider and manage and so we really are asked to be partners to the business.

GC: Would you say that regulation is the most challenging part of your job?

OL: A criticism that is sometimes levelled at lawmakers is that there may not always be the level of certainty or clarity that industry would want, and so it’s really about trying to navigate that. One way of managing this is to try to understand what the intent is; what the regulators are trying to achieve, and then you try and align with what you consider to be substantial compliance with this intent (rather than looking for loopholes). It can be challenging, but it’s not insurmountable.

GC: Is it difficult to communicate to the internal stakeholders the fact that you can’t give certainties?

OL: I think the thing when communicating with stakeholders is you’ve just got to be clear about the risks that they may be assuming. So you have to form a view. They want to know: can we do this? Should we do this? You can say: ‘Well, having looked at this, this and this, there is a risk that someone can make this argument. If they did make the argument, this is what would happen. We think that this is likely or not likely to happen. Are you comfortable doing this if that could happen? If yes, then that’s a risk we are prepared to assume, so how do we mitigate that? Is there anything else we can do to stop that happening?’

The business may not always have the expertise or the legal knowledge to be able to consider all the possible different structures, so that’s where you really partner with them to understand where they want to get to and how best to achieve it in a legal and compliant manner.

GC: Obviously the industry is highly regulated, but does it change often – are you grappling with new pieces of regulation?

OL: I’d say in the last three years we’ve probably had the biggest changes to the medical device regulations in the history of the industry, not least the amendments to the Medicines Act, which created quite a lot of uncertainty in terms of how they should be interpreted and applied. And when we were afforded the opportunity to provide comments, we made sure we did.

GC: To the regulators?

OL: Yes. For two of the most challenging provisions, operation has been suspended, initially for a year and now for a further three years, while they work through the comments and prepare new drafts.

GC: Would you say that the relationship between companies like yours and the regulators is a positive one – do they take comments like yours on board?

OL: I believe in the value of constructive relationships so it is important to me that when engaging with regulators this is done in a productive way. When it comes to issues that impact the industry as a whole, SAMED also plays a valuable role in escalating matters to the regulator.

GC: As technology advances, I imagine the nature of the products your company is supplying can change quite drastically, and might suddenly involve aspects of, for example, data privacy and cybersecurity, that might not previously have been issues. Do you find the nature of your concerns or priorities shifts as the work that comes across your desk changes?

OL: Indeed, technological advances mean that we need to stay on top of an ever evolving legal landscape too and I have definitely seen an increased focus on matters relating to data privacy and security. So I have had to develop my understanding of these areas, because whilst you can certainly rely on expert advice, you need to know how to work with it on a day-to-day basis.

GC: It seems like it would be difficult, in this industry, to split up the business into jurisdictions based on geography, because of the differences between regulators and what’s allowed in certain countries. Is that the case?

OL: When grouping geographical regions there are usually certain similarities in terms of market dynamics. However, when it comes to specifics on a country level, that’s usually something that would need to be considered on a country-by-country basis. When you are responsible for multiple countries, depending on the nature of the query, you can’t make assumptions that because something is a certain way in one jurisdiction, it is going to be the same in another. You have to ask a lot of questions, and the support and guidance of external counsel in the relevant jurisdictions is key.

GC: Compared to Europe, where there are many countries that are fairly similar, here you have countries right next door to each other that are vastly, vastly different.

OL: And that’s when that comfort with a degree of uncertainty is really important, because in developing markets there may be a disconnect between what the law says and how it is applied on the ground and you need to be able to find a way to work with those dynamics.

GC: Do you ever look at other industries that interest you?

OL: I get to work on really interesting, really complex, really high-level, challenging transactions and, added to that, I get to work for an organisation whose mission – “to alleviate pain, restore health and extend life” – truly resonates with me, so that will be hard to beat!

GC: It must have that added level of satisfaction and motivation.

OL: Our mission was written by our founder, Earl Bakken, and all these years later, we still have the same mission; it still informs how we do business (and I actually have it on the wall in my office). I’m really proud that in my small way I get to contribute to making a difference to patients’ lives. I’m very lucky.

GC: Just lastly, is there anything that you see coming in the next five years, be it specific to your industry, or your job, that you think will affect your role going forward?

OL: I think in-house legal counsel play a very important role in the business. I don’t see that falling away, but I do think that it is going to change, as it already has changed. Where the most complex legal matters used to go to external counsel, I think the breadth and depth of in-house skills and in-house capabilities will continue to be developed and enhanced, so you will really have in-house specialists. If I look at our organisation, the expertise and the quality of our in-house legal and compliance teams is just tremendous.

So yes, I believe that there’s going to be more and more emphasis on in-house legal being an integrated partner to the business and having a high level of technical expertise in-house. And with a lot of organisations facing huge pressures on driving down costs, I think there’s going to be a huge focus on making sure you get the right kind of candidate in the role so that they can execute effectively across a whole range of needs.

When it comes to technology, I’m interested to see how reliance on AI will evolve. At the moment, it would seem like more of a  possible concern to those in private practice, where there’s a lot more of the commoditised work. But, honestly, in the in-house environment, no two days are the same – so it will be a long time before AI can catch up.

That said, when it comes to adopting new technologies in the in-house environment, this too will continue to advance and will require us to constantly consider how we are doing what we do and whether there are tools that can enhance the value we provide. I believe that if we remember to regularly reflect on where we are and to challenge assumptions about how we have worked in the past, then I think we can, and will, evolve.

Fatima Picoto

Curiosity has always been a part of who I am. As a child, I was curious about everything, and because of that curiosity, I questioned pretty much everything. Being Portuguese, but living in an African colony, my sense of equality and justice was developed early on. I found myself instantly respecting the need for diversity. Having resided in various different continents, this led to me to having dreams of being a diplomat, but instead I decided to pursue a career in law. Given my love of reading and my genuine interest in people and business, corporate law came naturally to me. I really enjoy work concerning business strategy, and this became very clear to me when I was studying economics and law. This interest was furthered while I completed my masters in tax. By joining the law, business and tax together, I discovered my passion. I then started my career as a tax lawyer at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

At GSK, I had the curiosity and passion to learn. With this, in addition to wanting to understand the business, and having people who trusted and supported me, I was eventually promoted to the position of assistant general counsel and legal director of GSK in Brazil. The reason I wanted to work at GSK was because of its reputation as an ethical company. It has clear values that match with my own personal views. It is a multinational company that gives back to society, while also allowing me to interact with many different cultures. GSK, as a company, has provided me with many opportunities to grow and develop.

The legal function at GSK has many different responsibilities, and there is no such thing as a ‘typical day’. In some cases, the legal function is the decision maker and in other cases, it is an advisor. But no matter what responsibility, we are always working closely with the business itself, to clearly define the framework we can navigate within. Legal has several interfaces: some are strictly legal to legal and others are more governance-led, where we design strategy implementation in a sustainable way. It is great to see legal acting as an actual stakeholder in the decision-making process, and certainly today we are finding that an in-house lawyer must also be a respected business partner.

I began to face challenges at the start of my career as a tax lawyer; at the time, it was a very male-dominated profession. I also rather interestingly found that there were barriers for young women without children. After applying for one particular role, I was told I was the perfect candidate, but that they required an assurance that I would not fall pregnant within the next five years. My answer was: thank you for the opportunity, but you are not the right company for me. Many women are expected to adapt their behaviour to get ahead, especially in male-dominated industries such as legal. I do not subscribe to this expectation. Rather than adapting, I would prefer to say that I have found my balance, and that I have learned to navigate my way through. When I first moved in-house, I found that I needed to work more than my male peers and do more in order to create a network, avoid misperception, and get ahead. This should not be the case. And I absolutely believe that one of the main challenges for women pursuing leadership roles within in-house counsel teams (and also, I suspect, in private practice) is finding that balance between their personal and professional lives. This is something men are not expected to consider as strongly as women.

“GSK in Brazil, we have made huge strides to address gender imbalance. Currently, 51% of our total staff is women, and 49% of our leadership positions are also occupied by women. ”

That said, at GSK in Brazil, we have made huge strides to address gender imbalance. Currently, 51% of our total staff is women, and 49% of our leadership positions are also occupied by women. This is due in part to specific programmes we have that focus on accelerating the pace at which women are promoted. The development programmes focus on helping female leaders enhance their leadership presence, inspire others, and plan their careers. Gender equality isn’t just a social concern; it’s good for business too. By understanding that gender diverse teams are more profitable and innovative, organisations can become more successful.

Mentoring is so important for aspiring young female lawyers. This is a relationship based on trust and respect, but I believe it’s not just beneficial for women. At GSK, alongside traditional mentoring, we also undertake reverse mentoring, which helps to change our viewpoint and create more self-awareness. Sharing diverse experiences helps to put things in the right perspective. I believe it’s also incredibly important to have male champions who are vocally and actively supportive of women’s issues, although I prefer to call them ‘human’ issues. For me, the more people speaking out loud in support of women, the better. In my career, I have had many male champions: they listened to me and paid attention, and respected my opinion. But it is a two-way street. The most important thing is to open the space for equal treatment.

I work hard to promote diversity and inclusion, not just specifically for women. I truly believe that we must embrace diversity as much as possible. When we combine our knowledge, experiences, and styles together, the impact is incredible. GSK aims to create a working environment where all employees feel included, respected, and valued for the unique qualities they bring, and are empowered to contribute to their full potential. As a woman in the legal industry, I believe that it is important to be you, to be curious, and to learn as much as you can while trusting yourself.

Sandra Monroy

I have over 20 years of legal experience, most of it in-house. I started my professional career working as a legal advisor in the notary service. In 2005, I became general counsel for Telebucaramanga, a subsidiary of the telecommunications company Telefónica. Following this, I spent a year practicing litigation in private practice as a senior associate at Baker McKenzie. In 2008, I moved in-house once again as the manager of Latin American corporate legal affairs for the Colombian oil and gas company Terpel (formerly known as Organización Terpel). During the past ten years, I spent two years at TV Azteca as their legal manager, and four years as a legal and compliance director at CenturyLink in charge of the Northern and Andean regions of Latin America. One of the highlights from my time at CenturyLink was working on a team for the deployment of the first submarine cable connecting Colombia with the Pacific Ocean. I then spent a year at Claro Colombia as director of institutional relations and social responsibility, where one of my biggest achievements came in the form of successfully negotiating roaming agreements for the deployment of 4G networks with Avantel, Telefónica and TIGO.

I am now the legal director for the Andean Region for Uber, and for Panama and the Caribbean for Uber Eats. The recruitment team at Uber contacted me in 2018 and I made the decision to move to Uber because I see its importance as one of the most disruptive companies in the world. Through the use of technology it has a huge impact on the communities in which it operates globally. At Uber I am responsible for litigation, commercial and corporate matters, regulatory issues, competition law, and consumer protection rights. I would never include the word ‘typical’ to describe a working day here. My role requires a constant balance between legal strategy and meeting the business’s goals, and minimising risk for Uber while providing the best legal advice. Every day here is full of challenges, so I have to think outside of the box a lot of the time. I have faced a number of compliance challenges, but my team and I work with the board of directors to manage these crises. The experience I have gained has prepared me to handle such challenges successfully, and I have learned how to make a 360-degree evaluation of complex situations in order to come up with ways to solve them.

One challenge modern companies such as Uber face head-on relates to diversity and inclusion. We are committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for everyone, which includes having policies in place to prevent any form of discrimination or harassment. Uber values the unique contributions of individuals with varying backgrounds and believes that diversity contributes to the success of its business. At Uber, all employees are given the opportunity to develop within diverse employee resource groups (ERGs) such as ‘Pride at Uber’, ‘Able at Uber’, ‘Parents at Uber’, ‘Interfaith at Uber’ and ‘Women of Uber’, among others. These groups promote the diverse nature of Uber’s workforce and improve work behaviours and attitudes every day. ‘Women of Uber’ is an internal group that seeks to find new opportunities, support, and sponsorship for women to ensure all women can speak openly and connect with external networks. It enables them be ‘a voice for women empowerment to change the culture from the inside out’.

“I am strongly committed to empowering the women on my legal team to take risks, to lead and to participate.”

Personally, I promote diversity and inclusion – particularly as it relates to women – by encouraging the women I work with to speak up, to value their own work, and to be confident in bringing their unique knowledge and opinions to the table. I am strongly committed to empowering the women on my legal team to take risks, to lead, to participate in external workshops, and to build their own self-brand. The #MeToo movement created awareness of a difficult reality many people were (and still are) facing in workplace environments. At the beginning of my career, I experienced harassment myself and can assure you that it is not only scary, but it also makes you feel very lonely. What truly amazes me about the #MeToo movement is the way in which it has encouraged women to speak up and support each other. It has certainly proved that ‘unity is a strength’ is more than just four words. The movement has definitely had a major impact on culture and determined a new era in which we women are no longer scared or threatened to speak up for ourselves in unfair situations.

Even though I believe quotas have played a part in creating gender equal workplaces, nowadays we can achieve this in other ways such as by using fair selection processes with clear terms, giving the same opportunities to men and women, and by ensuring we have selection processes that include similar numbers of male and female candidates – as well as male and female interviewers – in order to guarantee inclusive processes that result in fairly elected professionals.

There is an increased understanding of the importance of including women in higher positions and a greater appreciation of women in the professional field. We now see women as high-level partners at top law firms and developing successful careers in leading companies such as Uber. One of the perks in this digital era is having the ability to be connected, and this has an impact on diversity and inclusion. It makes it easier for companies such as Uber to have a global policy on diversity and inclusion that applies worldwide, allowing diversity initiatives to take place without limitations or the excuse of geographical differences.

Brenda Puig and Carmen Roman

GC: Please tell us a little about your pathway into law. What made you move from private practice to in-house roles?

Brenda Puig (BP): I spent my first years as a lawyer in a law firm. It was a large and prestigious law firm in Buenos Aires. I worked long hours and I really loved my job. After some years working for this law firm, I got married and became a mother, and balancing my career with my personal life became a challenge. At that time, at least in Argentina, there was not much debate about these issues. Even though both the law firm and I made great efforts to make it work – I actually became the first part-time attorney – after my second son I felt the need to make a change.

I joined Walmart 14 years ago. I found in the corporate world – and especially Walmart – a much more favourable environment for my personal needs. I also found a completely new way of being a lawyer. The in-house world is so different from private practice, and I just love it. I have been very lucky to experience both sides of the profession, and have learnt a lot from both. I believe this combination has made me a better lawyer.

Carmen Roman (CR): Although I started my professional career in a law firm, what made me move to an in-house role was the opportunity to know about the corporate world, to understand its dynamics, its strategic role, its contribution to different stakeholders, and at the same time interact with different professionals in the same ecosystem. I feel that in the in-house role I have been able to maximise my abilities, improve my strategic thinking, and achieve a work-life balance.

GC: What do you believe are the biggest barriers to women progressing in the legal industry? Are the challenges similar across private practice and in-house, or have you seen differences?

BP: There are many different barriers, which I believe are common to so many other professions, not just the legal profession. Work-life balance is an issue for many women, and even more challenging for mothers of young children. Lack of adequate networking opportunities and visibility is another factor; men tend to have better opportunities for this. The fact that there is a much higher percentage of men in leadership positions plays a role as well – there are fewer women role models for emerging talent. In my personal experience, even though law firms have evolved over the past years, I would say that on average the in-house world is more advanced in designing strategies for solving the gap than law firms.

CR: Yes, I agree. Although we have seen some progress in law firms, I believe that there is more flexibility and career development in the in-house world. There are still large barriers for women in private practice. Even though we see the number of women lawyers growing in private practice, they don’t have equal access to senior positions. The working environment and the long office hours in most law firms are still more suitable to male lawyers compared to their female counterparts. The lack of work-life balance is one of the major obstacles that female (and male) lawyers face. A majority of law firms are reticent to innovate or change with the times, meaning in general that the legal profession lags behind other industries in terms of senior women reaching the top. Law firms should adopt different, realistic working options for parents and actively remote working or a flexible-hours system.

GC: What challenges have you specifically faced in your career, and how did you overcome them?

BP: I have faced many challenges over the years! If I were to find a common ingredient in how I overcame them, I would say that attitude is the key. Whatever challenge you face, having a positive mindset and self-confidence is essential. Believe in yourself and try to find what you can learn from each situation. Also, team-work. No single person on this planet knows everything: we need to rely on our teams, peers, partners, mentors, family and friends. Working collaboratively is a great virtuous circle – help whenever you can, and you will be helped whenever you need.

“Whatever challenge you face, having a positive mindset and self-confidence is essential.”

CR: I am the opposite in that I have never experienced an obstacle that was solely the result of being a woman. I have often been the only woman in the room and almost always the only woman at executive level, but I have never viewed that as an obstacle, because of my attitude. I think the biggest challenge in my career is maintaining a good work-life balance. Progressing in your career while having time for family, friends and hobbies is a constant struggle.

I have always expressed to my different bosses how important family is to me. I request certain benefits as non-tradable. For example, to be able to do school pick-up and drop-off with my children once or twice a week. I make sure this never interferes with my results, and it also has the effect of making my commitment to the company stronger.

GC: Walmart has a strong commitment to empowering women (working with women-owned businesses in its supply chain; the establishment of the Women’s Economic Empowerment Forum). What success have you seen with these initiatives? What metrics are used to measure their success?

BP: We are very much focused on developing our female talent internally and supporting women externally. We truly believe in the power of diversity and inclusion and we put a lot of work and effort into this. We have consistently been working on initiatives for the past ten years. The Global Women Leadership Council was first appointed in 2008 at our US-based headquarters and is an advisory council formed by female business leaders, reporting to our global CEO. This was replicated in each market and we work both locally and globally. I have been part of this council since it was first formed in Argentina in 2009, and I currently serve as its chair. The council is not only focused on the legal department but on the whole company. We have several lines of work and KPIs. I believe that seeing more women in leadership positions as well as in our talent base is the best indicator.

We do awareness activities with men and women: specific training targeted to specific needs of specific groups; mentoring; policies that assure equal representation in recruiting and development; and policies for enabling work-life balance. And we also have an active voice externally. We believe that being such a large company comes with a responsibility because we can inspire change in other companies. We share our best practices and encourage others to have the courage to give it a try. Companies must play their role in improving the work environment and therefore our society.

Our initiatives are both global and local. We have a global framework and there is a lot of market freedom within that framework. We do have company-wide goals and objectives, but challenges around how to tackle those goals and objectives might vary from market to market – the fact is that cultures and realities are different across the region. Each market needs to find the solutions that best fit their specific needs in order to make it locally relevant. And each market can also benefit from benchmarking with other Walmart markets. We like to call it ‘powered by Walmart’.

CR: Yes, that’s right. At Walmart, we know that our people and culture help to make Walmart successful and that different perspectives lead to innovative solutions for our business. Developing inclusive leaders is the key to building a diverse and inclusive workforce. To develop inclusive leadership at Walmart, the executive team has inclusive leadership expectations as part of their annual performance evaluation, and this means (i) participate in at least one approved inclusive leadership education offering such as unconscious bias training, LGBTQ+ training, or sexual harassment awareness training, among others, and (ii) actively mentor two associates, host a mentoring circle, or participate as a mentor in a programme such as our Lean In Mentoring Circles.

In terms of gender, we are focused in developing female talent under the Global Women Leadership Council that Brenda mentioned. We also have a local Diversity and Inclusion Council in Chile; I’ve been a member since 2009 and I’m also currently its president. We are constantly measuring the female participation at leadership level and the programme effectiveness. In addition, I was also part of the International Diversity and Inclusion Council for two years.

Our recent statistics show that 57% of our 51,000 employees are women and 25% of our frontline positions are held by them. At Walmart, we believe that men and women should have the same opportunities, and we ensure internal wage equity with a compensation policy that does not discriminate with respect to gender. We have a range of programmes that promote the development of female leadership within the company:

  • Empowering: Development acceleration programme for women executives with high potential, helping them prepare for the challenges of executive positions in the company.
  • Women in Retail: Development of leaders for the retail of the future through training, networking, and empowerment.
  • Wired Chile: Development, empowerment, and promotion of female talent at Walmart Chile Real Estate through mentoring, conversation sessions, and workshops.
  • More Digital Women: Courses on web development and digital marketing, to contribute to women’s development and empowerment through digital training and employability.

We also have several support programmes for women outside Walmart, because our ethos is about making improvements not just for the women who work for us, but for the communities we serve as well. Some of those programmes include:

  • Women for Chile, developed with the support of ONG ‘Mujeres Empresarias’ (Women Entrepreneurs). Women for Chile seeks to strengthen women-led enterprises through personalised training, boards, and mentoring, with the possibility that some of the selected enterprises will become Walmart Chile suppliers.
  • Solidarity Spaces for women entrepreneurs. These are spaces located in our Leader and Leader Express locations throughout the country. This initiative is developed in partnership with the Ministry of Women and Gender Equity. The women entrepreneurs are given the opportunity to sell and publicise their products in different parts of the country.

GC: Do you think the growth of international companies expanding into Latin America is having a positive effect on LatAm domiciled companies and their D&I initiatives?

BP: Yes, absolutely. We live in a global world today – everybody and everything is connected. Local markets benefit from the influence of international companies that bring best practices. And, likewise, global companies benefit from the local wisdom and practices that can be taken to other geographies. That is the beauty of this synergy.

CR: Definitely. Multinational companies have had more time to develop their best practices, and that is having a positive influence on local markets. In addition, because they are willing to share these good practices with other companies, we are starting to see major cultural changes at the country level.

GC: In what ways do you work with your panel firms to improve representation of women in the legal industry?

BP: This is, again, just using our influence. We look favourably on firms that foster diversity and inclusion, and we give them priority. There are more structured ways and there are other informal ways, such as mentoring other women working for law firms.

CR: We also have ‘Walmart’s Outside Counsel Guidelines’, which establish the expectations the company has of its outside counsel. We expect law firms to stress excellence, integrity, and provide value in resolving legal problems, while also honouring the company’s culture and principles. One of those expectations is to demonstrate commitment to diversity, respect flexible work schedules, promote work-life balance, and to have women as senior partners. We take time to talk about it, and recognise the law firms that advance this cause. Ultimately, we give preference to law firms that foster diversity and inclusion.

GC: You have both been commended for being active promoters of female empowerment and leadership in the workplace. Can you give any specific examples where you have helped other women to reach their full potential and progress in their careers?

BP: I believe that the first thing is to walk the talk. When you reach a leadership position, you need to be aware that people are looking at you. In a large organisation, the few women who reach those positions must be good role models. It is not enough to talk about work-life balance or to talk about supporting and empowering women; you need to live it every day and actively show it. If any young talented woman with the ambition of growing within the organisation looks up and sees that the few women who made it have a miserable life, they will not feel inspired to get there. And, of course, mentoring and sharing one’s experiences is very powerful.

CR: I am counsellor of the Chilean NGO Comunidad Mujer (Women’s Community), and for 12 years, I have been mentor of professional women who seek support and guidance in their career development. This activity has given me much satisfaction, and is also something from which I have benefitted greatly.

“If any talented woman with the ambition of growing within the organisation looks up and sees that the few women who made it have a miserable life, they will not feel inspired to get there.”

Ten years ago, I was the first woman to become part of Walmart Chile’s executive team. I believed I opened the door to other female executives. Today we are four women from ten executives.

I have also supported the career development and promotion of a female lawyer from my Chilean team who is now general counsel in Costa Rica and Central America. I’m so proud of her growth.

GC: How do you go about building a diverse team and leading by example?

BP: Of course, recruiting is key, but also important is the way we form teams for specific projects, the way we manage our team members’ requests, the way we act in every day decisions. For example, a team member who has a sick child will feel more confident in being absent if they see there is an understanding environment for family needs. And the way this is shown is by actions, not words: they need to see that such absence is accepted, that their supervisor shows interest in the child’s health, and that the supervisor also takes leave for family if needed.

“Building a diverse team and leading by example has to be something we constantly have in our minds.”

CR: I consciously aim to recruit different types of talent. I listen, and try to get to know the strengths and weaknesses of each of the team members by having deep one-on-one conversations with them, identifying their biases, and helping to mitigate discriminations.

I am a promoter of career development for men and women, and I’m particularly vocal in promoting both maternal and paternal responsibilities: for example, I always encourage my male lawyers to take on childcare responsibilities during the week (e.g. dropping children to school, or picking them up, etc).

In 2014, we launched a special diversity and inclusion programme, developed with the support of Walmart Legal International, where we assisted law school students (selected by gender, ethnic background, and socioeconomic vulnerability) during their third year. We helped them obtain tools useful for their future professional activities such as English language, mentoring (provided by us or our external law firm partners), and advance networking. This has been a very successful programme.

GC: There is quite a divide between those who believe in quotas to address gender imbalance in the workplace, and those who don’t. Do you have any specific thoughts on that?

BP: I am personally not a fan of quotas, and think they may be very harmful. If you force somebody who is not ready into a leadership position, the probability of failure is high. That failure will not only damage that person and may damage their career, but it also sends the wrong message to the organisation. It can be seen as a counter-example and even limit future promotions. What we need to foster is more talented women in leadership positions, although of course this is not just about gender – it is about talent, and generating the conditions for both talented men and women to reach their full potential. Having said that, sometimes an organisation might need to force things a bit to make the wheel start moving. If that is the case, it has to be done very carefully. In my organisation we do not have quotas, but we have mechanisms in place that seek to ensure that opportunities are equal. Let’s say there is leadership training with open positions for a limited amount of people and that a certain business area only presents male candidates; we would challenge that leader to re-visit the list, to look harder and see if there are any women in whom they see potential and wish to invest. The answer might still be no and that is ok; remember, we look for talent, not just gender.

CR: For me, over time, I have become convinced that quotas are necessary to level the playing field. Sometimes, you have to push for things to happen and quotas are certainly one way of achieving more equal representation of men and women. There are plenty of examples of women who are better qualified for senior roles and have more experience, but aren’t being promoted to top positions because of their gender. I think appointing women to senior positions would create greater confidence among other women.

However, the quotas must be essentially transitory to cause the change; later, when the reality has shifted and equality has been achieved, then quotas will no longer be necessary.

GC: If you could give advice to yourself at the start of your career, what would it be?

BP: I would say to enjoy the ride and each experience. I am more experienced and seasoned now; when I was younger, I was tougher on myself. Now I see my life and career from a different perspective. I am very grateful and feel blessed for the life I have and for the opportunities I have been given; and that includes my career. Sometimes we forget to take the time to stop and appreciate what we have; or we fail in finding the time to support others, which I personally find so rewarding.

CR: My advice would be:

  • Feel passion for your work;
  • Your mistakes are learnings and without them, there is no growth;
  • Do not rest until you find the workplace where you feel comfortable and valued and where you can develop your strengths;
  • Be curious about the opportunities that come your way;
  • Take care to always integrate new knowledge and experiences;
  • Find strength in working collaboratively.

Michael Bruce

GC: How did you become involved with representing Procter & Gamble’s diversity and inclusion initiatives?

Earlier this year, I was invited to an external training session by MARC (Men Advocating for Real Change). It was very eye-opening for me because, as a man you might say ‘Sure, I’m all in favour of D&I and equality’, but what are you really doing? Is it just the idea you like, or are you actually doing something real to achieve equity and equality?

At this training, a lot of very interesting things were said – issues that men don’t even have to think about in their day-to-day lives, but that are commonplace for women. And that’s mostly what I took out of it and what helped me to try to better understand my peers, the women close to me, specifically on the employment side of the issue. The training happened during the week of International Women’s Day, and at the end of that week P&G was participating on a full-day panel with 13 or 14 other multinational companies here in Costa Rica. The event was organised by the Costa Rican Investment Promotion Agency, so it was a big event with close to 600 people attending. One of the IT managers that was participating in the MARC training and was one of the organisers of the Women’s Day event (as you can imagine, IT is way, way underrepresented on gender), reached out to me and said, ‘We have a slot, about ten minutes. Do you think you can prepare something that you can present?’ And I said, ‘Sure. Count me in.’ And that was my first presentation on the topic.

I opened my presentation by saying ‘“He is hormonal.” “He is so intense.” “He got the promotion because the company needed to balance the bands.” “Next time we cannot afford to hire a man for that role.” Those are some of the comments women face every day and men do not.’ I have been using that opening statement ever since. It grabs people’s attention. But it’s also very true. You never hear someone say ‘next time we cannot hire a man for that job. He just couldn’t cut it’. But you hear it about women every single day. And it’s extremely unfair, because competence has nothing to do with gender. Hypothetically I could be a terrible lawyer, way over my head with my role, and people won’t say ‘Oh, it’s because he’s a man’. They’ll say ‘Yes, he was a terrible lawyer; we completely mismanaged the hiring process,’ but my gender is never the issue.

So, that’s how it started and from there I have been invited to give talks to other companies on gender equity issues.

GC: You mentioned that you ‘fell into’ representing P&G on D&I issues, but does the company have a central function that deals with D&I?

Yes, we have what we call ‘pillars’, and D&I is one of them. It looks at many different challenges, one of which is women’s initiatives. Another which was started this year is a neurodiversity project, where we hired six individuals within the autism spectrum. We also have GABLE (Gay, Ally, Bisexual, Lesbian, and Transgender Employees), our LGBTQ network. I also do a little work with GABLE. With the women’s initiatives, as I said, it was just something I fell into, and it has been like putting on a glove. It fits me perfectly. It’s something I believe in, it’s something I feel is important, because I hear so many comments that are not okay.

“I go beyond diversity and inclusion, and I say we need to talk about equity and integration.”

After the first time I went to speak, someone told me that the event was featured in the news. And I thought ‘Oh, good!’ I went to the news programme’s Facebook page, and I found the posting, and I made the worst mistake anyone can make: I read the comments. And there was one that specifically stuck out to me. It was roughly ‘Oh, this is useless, everyone knows women go to social sciences, and men go into engineering, blah, blah, blah’. To me, this was so outrageous, thinking that this might be a parent, a brother – if there’s a young woman starting university wanting to go into science, engineering, maths, technology, and that’s the support they’re getting at home? That was one of the drivers for me to continue finding opportunities to discuss this issue, to show people that if you want to be a pre-school teacher, lawyer, psychologist, engineer – go for it. For me, I’ve never been told ‘you can’t do this; this will never be available to you’. For women, that is something they hear EVERY DAY. And I say that not just because I’m the father of a girl. I could have no children or be the father of ten boys. It would be the same. This is important and we need to change.

GC: How important is it to you that men act as male champions, and also as role models for other men (for example, by taking up opportunities for flexible working)?

It is so important, absolutely. For example, I do flex hours. When P&G started flexible work arrangements here (which was fifteen years ago), this was driven by six or so women who came forward and said ‘Listen, it is difficult for us to keep the same hours; are there any possibilities to work flexibly? We want to continue improving in the company, we still want to work, but we need flexibility’. The company looked into it, and that was it. Those first women were able to take flexible working, and the policy was definitely targeted towards mothers coming back from maternity, or those with young children. But by the following year, the first man had requested flexible working arrangements. And now, today, approximately 95% of the company is using at least one of the flexibility options we have: working from home, not working full-time, etc.

I use it, and I need it. I am divorced, and when I was going through that, it was really difficult for me. My manager at the time said ‘Listen, on Wednesdays, why don’t you leave early, go and pick up your kids from school and spend the afternoon with them, and when you’re able to at night, log back on and check in.’ And I have done that for the last five years.

Often, these working arrangements start because there’s been a reason for women to seek them out, but the beneficiaries are also men. And I think that as leaders we need to show other men that it is okay to leave early, to go to your kid’s soccer game, band presentation, teacher meeting – whatever it may be. As a man, you can do it. The more gear-shifting there is, the more men in senior positions do it, the more we have role models.

It’s just like we need to role model D&I. I go beyond diversity and inclusion, and I say we need to talk about equity and integration. Because that’s what we really need. We need to remove any obstacles that don’t allow someone to achieve equity. We need for everyone to be able to achieve the same, no matter who they are and where they come from.

GC: Do you feel or have you seen that the underlying culture across Latin America, which is quite patriarchal, stymies the take up of those policies?

Yes, definitely. I believe multinational companies have a responsibility to bring best practices to a country where they will eventually become the norm. This year, Costa Rica finally passed a law for flexible working. And why? Because there are so many more multinational companies now, and for them, it’s every day practice. The commerce chamber and associations were also pushing for it. It got enough traction that a law was passed.

One area that I see as low-hanging fruit for companies is paternity leave. You want to get good press for your company? Do paternity leave. It’s so easy. In Costa Rica, by law, mothers have the month before and three months after birth. But offering some type of paternal leave is an equaliser. Because if the conversation shifts from ‘Oh, this woman might one day leave to go on maternity leave’ to ‘Oh, anyone could one day take parental leave’ then it’s a great equaliser. We do it here at P&G, and we are working towards granting more time to fathers so that they can enjoy more time with their children and can help around the house. The president of Costa Rica was pushing for paternity leave and a group within government is working on it. Definitely some organisations and associations are against it, because the money comes from social security. I am completely in favour of it. And hopefully – while we won’t get the full three months – we might get to one month. It’s one of the things I like to talk about.

I talk about gender equity and why it’s important for companies and why we need a diverse workforce, but we also need to talk about the benefits for men of gender equity and more women being in the workforce and the impact is has on society and commerce – it generates more money for the economy. It helps men to move away from these patriarchal strictures: where men need to be the breadwinners, where you have to earn more than your wife or partner. There is a statistic that says women are more likely to try to commit suicide, but men are on average more likely to succeed – they use more brutal means to achieve it. Those suicides – where do they stem from? So often they come from economic problems. Men who lose jobs, men who are in debt – the more we have diverse workforces, the more we have women in work, the more that economic burden is taken away. So, yes, it is a benefit for women but it is also a benefit for men. It’s a benefit for the company. The numbers back up the importance of diversity.

“In our own team, we have a very good gender balance, and we are lucky that this has grown very organically.”

GC: What challenges do you feel the legal industry has in tackling these issues? What does P&G do to tackle gender imbalance?

In the legal profession, we are still way behind. Most law firms, while they may have close to 50/50 representation when it comes to total attorneys, when you get to partner level, it dips substantially. And that’s where we need to call ourselves to attention on it: what are we doing and why? Why are women not achieving partner level in Latin America? That said, it is not just a challenge in Latin America. It is a global challenge.

In our own team, we have a very good gender balance, and we are lucky that this has grown very organically. There haven’t been any team changes in several years. Our chief legal officer is a woman. We had a global meeting in Cincinnati, and these are some of the things we discussed. To me it’s really important how she role models and the things she does. Before Vanessa, the role was filled by a man. The decision wasn’t a conscious ‘oh, it was a man before, now it must be a woman’. It was ‘who is the best person for this role?’ and that person was Vanessa. But I don’t think we will see those big issues here at the company – there might be individual biases – but the company pushes enough what its intent is on the social issues and even more now where the consumer is changing. Consumers, like millennials and Generation Z, want the company to stand for something, not just how much money it can make the shareholders. They want to know what your social issues are, and we have been able to do that through our advertising campaigns.

Our consumer base is predominantly women, and so we really need to practice what we preach. And I think we have three specific campaigns I like to speak about: #LikeAGirl, Share the Load, and We Believe: The Best a Man Can Be. Share the Load started in India and it’s about how, in a very patriarchal way, we assign jobs at the house for women and you go to work and do a full day’s work and then you come home and you have a full day’s work ahead of you again with household chores. And it’s fascinating to see what parents see in how they are raising their kids, or how dads are raising their daughters and how they wished they would have role-modelled differently. And then in 2019 we had our Gillette campaign, where we got clobbered on social media, because apparently there’s nothing more fragile than the male ego. And I don’t get it. I guess the other two campaigns were very inspiring and this was very ‘in your face’, deliberately. But it delivers a message and in the end the numbers backed up that we were right. It was the right call to go that way.

GC: From the legal industry perspective, when you’re thinking about panel law firms and who you give work to, do you look at diversity statistics? Does it influence your decision?

The law firms that I specifically use right now were in place before I started at P&G. Unfortunately, that’s not something I can say we reviewed or I reviewed at the time. But at least one of the firms has a very diverse and very close to 50/50 representation in partners. The other one does not. It’s a very much more traditional Costa Rican set up. But now that I’m more into the importance of this, in everything I try to look at where it is: what does the firm stand for, what does the company stand for, and I look at it in other firms here in Costa Rica. I like to look at whether firms are ranking for diversity.

I think we’re on the right track; we’re starting to talk more about the importance of diversity. It’s a long-term commitment to change, and sometimes you have to start small. It’s like in your personal life, you can’t just say, from now on I’m going to wake up at 5am every day and run 10km, and get to the office early, and eat vegan, and at night volunteer with charities. Choose one initiative, internalise it, commit to it, and then move on to others when you’re ready. Companies can’t go from zero to 100 in a few seconds – it has to be gradual and we have to work on it, work on the culture. Leaders have to role model and show that what they are saying is definitely what the company stands for. Eventually we will reach our goal.