Women in Law in Africa

7/29/2014
Chambers Women & Diversity

“There’s a general expectation that young people, and women particularly, don’t know what they’re talking about.” - SHAKILA KHAN

So Africa is rising. Or so we hear. There has been an undeniable shift in the media narrative about the continent. Investors are flooding the region in their droves and they need legal representation, triggering a spate of Western-trained lawyers, some of whom are women, to move to the continent and set up their own practices. We spoke to a number of these women to find out what it takes to be your own boss in Africa.

Going…
When Shakila Khan, who qualified in the UK, moved back to Botswana from London in 2007, she struggled initially: “It was very hard, I don’t know how much of that had to do with gender but I think a lot of it did. It was a difficult first few months, difficult to get used to the work environment here. There was a very different view of women in general, and young women especially. There’s a general expectation that young people, and women particularly, don’t know what they’re talking about. You constantly have to prove yourself.”

At first she worked for other firms but couldn’t move up the corporate ladder: “When the time came to discuss partnership (and it came quickly), you could sense some hesitance from the other partners, that they were not very keen on having a female partner. Questions that would not be asked in Europe like ‘Are you planning on getting married and having children?’ are routinely asked here.”

And that wasn’t the only issue she faced...

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