Sarah Coombes, BSA
Taylor Root is proud to be supporting International Women's Day 2018. We have interviewed a selection of our female clients asking them how they are pressing forward for women's gender parity #pressforprogress
Taylor Root interviewed Sarah Coombes, Managing Director, Compliance & Enforcement - EMEA BSA
If you could tell your younger self one thing what would it be and why?
Have more confidence in yourself and your opinions/decisions – this can still be a challenge for me so I’d tell myself to have more courage and believe in myself.
What action or decision are you most proud of making in your lifetime?
It may be a cliché but having children and managing to combine full-time work with family life is probably what I am most proud of – combining motherhood with work can be a challenge and compromises often have to be made, but it is ultimately an extremely rewarding experience. I hope I’m a positive role model for my daughter (and other girls). I’m a big believer in presenting a realistic view of what it’s like to be a working mother – I don’t want to discourage girls from combining work and family but I do want girls to have realistic role models to look up to and to know that with challenges come great rewards.
In terms of decisions I’ve made, I’m most proud of the fact that I managed to build a career in a new country (England), without a network of friends or contacts to support me or tap into for networking purposes. That was definitely a tough obstacle to overcome at the start of my legal career in London. I’m also proud that I decided to jump ship from private practice to in-house when I did (shortly after having my second child) – it was daunting but definitely the best career decision I made.
If you had to start your career from scratch, knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?
I’m not sure I would do anything different except have more confidence in myself and my abilities. I wouldn’t be where I am now if I’d started out differently.
Of the people that inspire you, what character traits do they have which you admire?
Positivity, empathy, integrity and resilience.
If you were to be a mentor to someone within your profession, what one piece of advice would you give?
As a working mother, I’d wholly recommend an in-house career. There’s usually more opportunity for a good work life balance and a broader career. In my organization, I started out as regional counsel but I now head up a region and manage our legal affairs, as well as our marketing/compliance/education and outreach activities. I love that I’ve been able to leverage my legal role to springboard to a management role and I’d advise anyone I was mentoring to think outside the box in terms of career opportunities.
What is your personal mantra?
Treat everyone with the same level of respect, regardless of who they are, where they come from or what they do. It’s a mantra I learnt from my father and it’s helped me build strong bonds with people from all walks of life (in both my work and personal life).
How is gender parity being achieved in your profession and what do you think needs to be done to press for progress?
My sense is that gender parity is improving within the legal profession and the tech industry (in which I work). There’s a big push to get more girls into STEM and to encourage the next generation to challenge stereotypes. However, real progress will require a shift in thinking (and culture) as it’s my experience that most working mothers still take on the majority of parenting responsibilities and battle against gender stereotypes in their working lives. I’m hopeful that the next generation will make that shift – I see positive signs of it in my own children (a daughter and son, both teenagers), who are most certainly challenging stereotypes and strongly believe in gender parity.
What kind of legacy do you wish to leave behind?
One that embraces girl power and recognizes the important attributes that women bring to the work place. A world where it’s ok to be a strong woman (or girl) without having to demonstrate traditionally “masculine” traits. And a world where kindness is king (or queen)!