Andrea Convalia

General counsel and ethics correspondent, L’Oréal Chile

After graduating from law school at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, I began my legal career as many lawyers do: in private practice. I spent four years with Leighton & Compañia, where my clients were the biggest banks in Chile. I represented them at court, and also assisted their internal departments in M&A and real estate. After my time in private practice, I actually stopped practicing law, and became a stay-at-home mother; I also spent that time trying to become an entrepreneur – but (fortunately) I failed! It was during this time that I realised what it is I truly love to do, and that is to practice law.

However, I decided I did not want to return to private practice, and instead started looking for in-house counsel roles. In 2009, I was offered a role with Cencosud S.A., one of the largest and most prestigious retail conglomerates in Latin America. I stayed with Cencosud S.A. for five years, where I was responsible for banking, insurance, and regulated markets. I was also responsible for leading the corporate law team.

In 2014, I joined the L’Oréal Group as general counsel for Chile, and three years later was given the added role of ethics correspondent for Chile, and data privacy officer for L’Oréal in Chile and Peru. For me, the best thing about being an in-house counsel is that it gives me the platform to combine the excitement of a fast-paced business world with what I’m really passionate about, which is the law. Being able to engage the management team and be a part of the company’s core business, and to view how the company relates to consumers and the market as a result of decisions made based on my own counsel is what ultimately allows me to feel that I made the right career choice.

My team and I are focussed on making the legal department a true business partner. We are changing our approach to technology, while also working collaboratively; we are driven by our passion to shape innovation in the legal industry. To become an important part of a business and to be able to make a difference in society is priceless. It does not make sense to wake up every morning without passion!

Aside from the practice of law, the other thing I am very passionate about is diversity and inclusion, and specifically gender-based issues. I am lucky that L’Oréal is a company that works hard to support these areas. As an active supporter of the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles, at L’Oréal we are involved in many initiatives that aim not only to improve the situation of women both in the private and public spheres but also to recognise the contribution of women to the progress of humankind (namely via the L’Oréal Foundation ‘For Women in Science’ programme). This focus on women’s rights is part of our general diversity policy, which also covers non-discrimination on the grounds of disability; marital status or family situation; sexual orientation; age; political and philosophical opinions; religious belief; union activity; and ethnic, social, cultural, or national origin. The work we do with our suppliers and subcontractors is also a key part of our programme to respect human rights, which is why for me, the representation of women within a legal firm is always a key criteria for selecting my panel firm partners.

“In my own experience, motherhood is a great challenge for women to achieve their professional full potential.”

In my own experience, motherhood is a great challenge for women to achieve their professional full potential. Because I am responsible for leading a team, and am therefore in a position to take and advise on organisational decisions, I am a strong advocate for those women who are about to go on maternity leave or are returning to work after being on maternity leave. I believe that it’s important for companies to provide support beyond what the law states, and I also strongly believe that you should be able to rely on other female colleagues to become a support network during this time. As women, it is important to have the right conversations (which are sometimes tough conversations) to set expectations on what we are willing to do and not do; we must help other women to be proud of their work. This is especially important in the Latin America culture, as it is so paternalistic. That I why I feel very proud to work at L’Oréal, a company that aims to empower women on a daily basis through different programmes and initiatives.

Outside of my role at L’Oréal, I am also a member of the LWOW (LawWithoutWalls) community, a part-virtual experiential learning initiative designed for practicing and aspiring lawyers. By leveraging intergenerational, cross-cultural, and multi-disciplinary exchange, the community brings a human-centered design perspective to law. LWOW unites students from more than 35 law and business schools around the world to create innovation at the intersection of law, business, and technology, while developing skills essentials to any modern professional. It focuses on three core areas: upskilling and reskilling; transforming culture and relationships; and creating innovative solutions to real business-of-law challenges.

One thing I have become more convinced about throughout my career is quotas. During my time as a law student and the first years of my career I believed quotas were not needed, because talent would be recognised no matter what. But a couple of years ago, during a talk with Bruce MacEwan, he quoted that ‘the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results’ and it really hit me. Women have been struggling for around 70 years to be respected and included among the leaders of any organisation, and nevertheless the efforts and the women participation rate on boards, governments, etc. – it’s nowhere near equal. We need to start doing things differently. And in my own circle of influence, that is exactly what I am trying to do.