Q&A with Nicola Walker: Female Empowerment

Firetap: "It’s National Womens Day in South Africa and with half of our agency being South African, as well as the majority being female, we thought it only right that we interview our incredible client, Walker Rose Owner and Senior Solicitor, Nicola Walker, to celebrate women in business and delve into her thoughts on the progression of gender equality in both the legal and wider fintech industries. This in relation to recent commitments such as ‘Investing in Women Code’ attempting to break down gender barriers and create a boost in female entrepreneurs."

  1. What advice would you give to a woman beginning her legal career?

Work hard, don’t be scared to ask questions and listen. If you’re working with people who don’t value the importance of you asking questions to aid your development and they don’t take the time to guide you, you’re working with the wrong people.

Never doubt your ability or what you can achieve.  I was discouraged from studying law by a career adviser when I was 17 years old – I often think that I probably only went on to qualify as a solicitor to prove her wrong!

  1. How can we inspire women to adopt technology careers in a male dominated industry?

I feel it all comes down to schooling and the ‘conditioning’ of children at a young age.  If subjects are not presented gender neutral then we’re subconsciously placing in a child’s head that boys do some jobs and women do others.   I read an article at the start of this year which highlighted the heroes behind the growth in the tech industry today were actually achieved by heroines!

I had amazing teachers at school but I do feel that girls were guided more into subjects such as home economics, biology and pushed to take typing classes (I do hope such a module no longer exists!).

I saw a snippet of Robot Wars a few weeks ago (a BBC technology programme that running since the late 1990’s, where contestants programme and build robots which then proceed to battle against each other) only to see lots of teenage young women contestants – it really made me smile.

  1. Do you think the ‘Investing in Women Code’ commitment by financial services firms to improving female entrepreneurs’ access to tools, resources and finance will assist in a rise in female entrepreneurs?

I believe any code or ‘commitment’ to advance female entrepreneurship in the UK by improving access to tools, resources and finance from the financial services sector is a positive, even if it only encourages a small about of females start up businesses.

I personally have seen a massive rise in the number of female clients instructing Walker Rose Solicitors to assist with business ‘start-up’ legal services.   More woman have instructed in the past 6 months than men!

I believe the way we work nowadays has played a massive part in this increase.  Technology and changes to employment laws have enabled us all to change how, when and where we work.

When women observe other women achieving commercial success and happiness, those unfulfilled, unhappy employed women have the confidence to take a leap to go out on their own.

  1. Do you think it’s achievable to increase the number of female entrepreneurs in Britain by 50%?

Woman are amazing and we can achieve anything we so desire! So, yes.

  1. How can marketing help females to empower other females?

This is an easy one – just support one another.  I’m a firm believer in mentoring the new generation coming into the workplace. By firmly embedding in younger women that their opinions matter and taking the time to teach and offer support they will ‘pass it forward’ and go on in later life to provide the same support and encouragement to the next generation.  In my early career I was ‘looked after’ by some amazing woman (and men!) and that empowered me in later life to value myself and not work with people who didn’t place the same value on other women.

  1. Which women do you find inspirational?

In law – Gwyneth Bebb; she took the Law Society to court 1913 as she was seeking a declaration that women should be able to sit the Law Society exams. Her case failed as the judge ruled that women were not “persons” as described by the Solicitors Act (1843) so could not practice law – which is so ridiculous its almost laughable that such a ruling was deemed acceptable.

Bebb went to study Law at Oxford, with first class results no less.  Her application to join Lincolns Inn as a student lawyer, in 1918 was rejected.   The Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act was passed in 1919 which allowed women to become lawyers.  Bebb did go on to the get her rightful place at Lincoln Inn in 1920 after the birth of her first child (which was born 2 days before the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act was passed!) Bebb ought to have been the first female barrister however tragically never called to the Bar as her second child was born prematurely and died. Bebb herself died two months later at 31 years old.  Bebb’s determination and popularity with the press forced changes in the law enabling us women to practice today.

In today’s business world I get inspiration from strong women I am in contact with on a daily basis. such as my client (and friend) Joanne White.  She has created an extremely successful franchise (We Love Pets), just launched a new business (We Love Nutrition), has 2 children under 3, a successful marriage and still has time for her friends and family.  I’ve lost track of the number of qualifications she has achieved over the years ….I think she is some sort of super woman!

Well there you have it – and we couldn’t agree more! In the words of Brigham Young, “You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.