Playing To Our Strengths

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Playing To Our Strengths

What We Learned From Our Panel Discussion for International Women’s Day 2024

“Strengths are not just things you’re good at, but things that gives you energy to contribute to a bigger picture.” Jemma MacLean, Director, Insight HRC

When our Diversity & Inclusion Committee assembled four inspirational women to tell us about their achievements and motivations, Acuity attendees were treated to a celebration of strength and motivation.

As we heard from our esteemed senior partner Rachelle Sellek, alongside Member of the Welsh Youth Parliament Maddie Mai Malpas, future Acuity trainee La’Shaunna Williamson and Jemma Maclean, Director at Insight HRC, the thread that wove these speakers’ diverse stories together was one of resilience, openness and plenty of energy.

Each panellist documented their own growth journey, discussing challenges and achievements, and reflecting on events in their lives that steered them towards their goals.

Getting it over the line

Rachelle recounted beginning her legal career in the mid-1990s, when a male opposing partner refused to close a deal with her in the same room, because she was a female solicitor. She got the deal over the line by leading proceedings from a different room with a male colleague fronting discussions (not something she would entertain doing nowadays) – and contemplated today’s more supportive corporate environment.

Rachelle emphasised the importance of role models in helping women understand that anyone can be a leader. But she emphasised that these don’t have to be particular individuals, and that we can be role models for each other – whatever our age.

The journey and the experience

It was on that note that we heard from Maddie Mai Malpas, our youngest panellist. An A Level student, Maddie has been a member of the Welsh Youth Parliament since December 2021, and is passionate about mental wellbeing, physical opportunities and equality. She also volunteers as a young leader at a local scouts group so she can inspire the future, teach life skills and encourage better mental health.

Maddie’s activities have taken her as far afield as South Korea, where she travelled last year to attend the World Scout Jamboree. A keen triathlete, Maddie also took part in a virtual triathlon to South Korea, as preparation for which, she cycled from Cardiff to Tenby – 108 miles.

In describing her love of sports, despite her epilepsy, Maddie offered us a glimpse of the determination and positivity that powers her in life – and will surely take her far in her future career.

“I’m not the best or the fastest in triathlons, but I always put everything into it. I’m not very motivated by results, it’s more about the journey and the experience I get working towards things,” she explained.

Resilience, good humour and achievement

To say that La’Shaunna Williamson is a third-year Law student would be technically true, but would certainly not do justice to the list of accolades she has already racked up despite having not yet graduated: a UN Delegate, a Top 150 Future Leader, Founder of Cardiff Women in Law Society (and Commercial Awareness Society), winner of an Outstanding Leadership Award in 2023 and Law Student of the Year in 2022, not to mention Anti-Racism Officer and blogs and content co-lead for the Neurodiverse Project.

La’Shaunna’s achievements are inspired by the challenges she has faced growing up the eldest child to Jamaican immigrant parents who spoke little English and could neither read nor write the language. Her grandmother worked four jobs, including in the NHS, and La’Shaunna has never forgotten it.

She said: “Nan’s brought us to this country to do better for ourselves and my parents haven’t had that opportunity. I want to be that person that supports them and makes them have a better life.”

To support her place at Cardiff University, La’Shaunna worked at McDonalds – the latest in a long line of jobs taken throughout her adolescence.

Her story is a one of overcoming obstacles such as not having the bus fair to attend college, or facing off racism in her personal and professional life. We were all awed by her resilience, good humour and startling list of achievements, and are clearly extremely lucky to be welcoming her to Acuity later this year.

Speaking up

Jemma MacLean brought her substantial career experience to bear in her talk on the theme of “Imposter Syndrome” or, as she described, “that feeling you are blagging it.”

Having weathered the rough and tumble of the corporate world (she was one of a four-female team who completed an MBO of Insight, which uses business psychology to develop people and operations), she had many wise words of advice to fellow professionals.

Jemma’s Top Tips:

  • Don’t confuse confidence with competence – look for thoughtfulness as well as confidence
  • Don’t punish yourself for a bit of overthinking
  • Play to your strengths. Let everybody play to their strengths and you’ll start creating environments where everybody can thrive in their own way
  • Listen to other people – they will tell you the things you’re good at
  • Create team and organisational cultures that are fostered on trust, where people are able to speak up. The best teams are built on psychological safety and trust. And once you’ve got that foundation you can start building on positive conflict – where you know you can have a difference of opinion and it’s ok.

To find out more about ESG at Acuity Law, visit our website.

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