'I was promoted to partner at my firm while on maternity leave... companies should be keeping talent'
International Women's Day in focus
A woman who was promoted to partner at her law firm while on maternity leave said she believes all companies should be protecting talent.
Real estate solicitor Marie O’Riordan (37) speaks after new figures emerged this week showing that female solicitors outnumber men in Ireland for the first time.
The trend towards turning the gender table in the profession is occurring worldwide - but Ireland has been leading the way.
Marie was promoted to partner at her law firm, Eversheds Sutherland, while on maternity leave after having her daughter Faye.
She works primarily in the acquisition and sales of commercial assets and progressing to partner was something she had always planned for.
At the firm, there is a women’s network that acts as a forum for women across the company to help them tackle any issues and support their progression, which is something she said she found attractive when she was considering joining the company.
And, while the legal profession may have seen a rise in female solicitors, Marie said there are still times when she is the only woman in the room due to her chosen niche.
"In the real-estate sector, it’s very much male-dominated, while within the legal real estate side of things, it's probably more balanced - perhaps until you get to the top levels," Marie said.
"Generally speaking if I was involved in a transaction, it wouldn’t be unusual that I would be the only woman involved or that the only other female would be the solicitor on the other side," she said.
"It really wouldn’t be unusual for me to go into a meeting and be one of the only, if not the only, female at the meeting.
"It doesn’t change how I work and I don’t think it changes how our clients view me," she continued.
"I don’t think they see a female coming in, I think they see their solicitor coming in.
"I don’t think [being a woman] has impacted on my career at all... [in here] you are promoted on your merit and if you work hard.
"From the very outset they were very keen to make clear that the firm encourages work-life balance, agile working and diversity in the firm - not just gender.
"It’s great to know they’re alive to these issues and they want to encourage all of their staff - male and female - to progress."
Marie continued, saying it's important to keep talent in a place.
"From a business perspective it means that they keep their talent," she said.
"The fact that I was promoted last year when I was on maternity leave - I don’t think my maternity leave had any impact positive or negative on my promotion. I was promoted purely on the basis of the work I had done up to March when I went off to have my baby.
"It’s so important when we have really good talent here in the firm and we don’t want people to have any doubts - if you want something and you’re willing to work for it you certainly can achieve it and we’ll help you to get there."