Update - August 2016

What skills do women need to be successful leaders?

This question was debated by a panel of high profile female leaders at the recent launch of Cadwalader's Women in the City Programme, a series of seminars designed to inspire more women to take leadership roles in their organisations by offering open dialogue, useful insights and practical guidance.

As a major global law firm, Cadwalader has a strong commitment to encouraging female talent across our firm.  A large group of clients and colleagues, as well as reporters from The Independent, Sunday Times, MLex and Global Competition Review, joined us for a lively panel discussion titled "Women in Leadership Debate: How Can Women Pave the Way As Future Leaders In The Post Financial Crisis Business World?"

Six takeaways from this inspiring discussion

1. You don't need to be 'One of the Boys' - but you do need to be assertive.

Mentoring programs are crucial and male mentors have much to offer, but it's important to manage the tension between working in a male-dominated environment and bowing to pressure to assimilate.  Women need to cultivate their own leadership style and find their own voice, deriving confidence through competence.  It's also important to avoid being too self-critical.

2. Manage your career development.

Women should be tactical in their careers, welcoming not only positive feedback, but honest and constructive appraisals.  The environment for professional women in finance is evolving, and a new generation of successful female mentors and advisors is helping support young women.  Entrepreneurialism is also important - for example, looking for opportunities and making the most of them.

3. Women have a very particular skill set.

In general, women are good team managers, adept at conflict resolution and juggling various personalities and logistical demands (whereas male managers often prefer a pyramid-type structure and opt for a less hands-on approach). Women's capacity to encourage and motivate the marginalised allows them to more naturally bridge gaps and find common ground.

4. Salary negotiations are about confidence.

Women tend to be more reticent than men when negotiating salary offers, often because they feel that the social cost of negotiating for higher pay is greater for women than it is for men. The key is letting your negotiating counterpart know that you understand their position and that your own position is legitimate and justifiable.  In fact, demonstrating effective negotiation skills can only enhance your role in a company.

5. Paternity leave is a must - for women.

Programmes and initiatives aimed at developing female talent are important, but more must be done to encourage men to take paternity leave to level the playing field.  As gender equality has advanced, the idea that mothers in the UK can take up to a year of maternity leave while fathers receive only two weeks has become increasingly anachronistic.  To further advance equality of opportunity for women in the workplace, firms need to show greater commitment to supporting their female talent through key career crossroads, and by encouraging men to take paternity leave.

6. The future is looking great! 

It is a fantastic time to be a woman in business.  Modern female leaders are helping to pave the way for a generation of future female leaders. The global competitive environment places a premium on leaders who can encourage and guide their teams, and the growth of strong women's networks and sponsorship programmes provide the support and opportunities crucial to advancement.  Women should feel empowered and ask for what they believe they deserve.  Confidence backed by a logical argument is a winning combination.


The panel discussion was moderated by Claire Cockerton, Chairwoman, Entiq, and Co-Founder of Innovate Finance, and included Eileen Herlihy, Executive Director and EMEA Head of Clearing Sales, J.P.Morgan; Cathryn Lyall, Chief Operating Officer, CurveGlobal, London Stock Exchange Group; Joanna Nader, Chief Investment Officer, JRJ Group; Meryam Omi, Head of Sustainability, Legal & General Investment Management; and Louisa Watt, Partner and Head of Cadwalader's Debt and Claims Trading Practice.  Gregory Petrick, Cadwalader's Managing Partner in London, provided opening remarks.

Our upcoming Women in the City events will include:

  • Women in Investment Management: A Fundamental Advantage (22 September)
  • Women in Alternative Finance and Fintech: Transforming Innovation (November)



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