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Chile     Women in Law

Chile     Women in Law   

Inspiring Women in Law – An interview with Valeria Ruz: Gender equity in the legal industry  

"There is still a long way to go in gender equality"


Juanita de Marchena,  March 21, 2024

LATIN COUNSEL spoke to Valeria Ruz about the role of women in the legal profession, which remains largely male-dominated.

Valeria has been a partner at FerradaNehme since 2012, working in the firm’s Environment and Natural Resources practice.

Latin Counsel: What was the main reason you decided to become a lawyer? What do you like most about your profession?

Valeria Ruz: My idealism for the pursuit of justice. Law gives structure to society, with clear rules that allow order. Respect for these rules generates a harmonious and peaceful society. Likewise, when those rules are broken, it is necessary to re-establish the balance; being able to help with my knowledge to make that happen is inspiring, it is to contribute -in some measure and however small it may be- to create a better society.

LC: Could you describe a complex challenge that you have faced?

VL: From a gender equality perspective, I have had to deal with situations in which some clients do not consider the opinion or advice of a female lawyer versus that of a male one. This is visible in meetings, where they pay more attention or value what a male lawyer says, which many times coincides with what a female lawyer has previously pointed out.

LC: What aspects made it particularly difficult and how did you approach it?

VR: It is difficult, because you must deal with third party prejudices and biases, that is, there is a culture and preconceived ideas, firmly installed, that require a cultural change. However, I think that this should be an incentive to continue demonstrating how valuable we are professionally, and all that our vision and knowledge can bring to our clients.

LC: For you, what are the most significant changes that the legal industry has experienced in terms of gender equity since you started working?

VR: The most valuable thing is that we have realized that there is a problem. If you don’t see the problem, you can’t find a solution to it. In conjunction with that, there are various initiatives that have been developing, both in the public and private spheres, with the aim of achieving gender equality. It is a good start, but there is still a long way to go.

At FerradaNehme, the firm where I am a partner, we have implemented measures such as recruiting and selecting people under equal conditions, we promote a work environment compatible with personal interests, we encourage women to assume leadership positions, we have a remuneration policy based on salary equity, among others.
The challenge for the industry continues to be to retain and promote all female talent and for women to reach more positions of responsibility, obtaining the recognition they truly deserve; the parameter should be talent and capacity and not gender.

LC: What are the main challenges that women lawyers face today?

VR: The challenges are linked to the existence of a deeply rooted culture that still requires change. This involves gender stereotypes, even unconscious ones, which require a profound transformation. For example, there is a lack of compatibility between work and motherhood, as well as society’s demands regarding the maternal role. This means that female talent is often lost due to a lack of conditions in the workplace that allow it to be developed. Additionally, women face a lack of recognition of their ability to perform effective and successful leadership, which results in fewer women in positions of high responsibility.

LC: From your perspective, what would be the next steps for Chile, a country mostly led by men, to promote greater equality within the legal industry?

VR: We need to establish the right conditions to retain female talent. This, in my opinion, goes hand in hand with flexibility. Flexibility makes it possible to generate an environment that makes professional and personal development compatible, in addition to creating commitment. Similarly, both men and women must be trained to achieve a cultural change related to gender equity. On the other hand, both companies and law firms have to assume the commitment to promote female talent and take the "risk" of giving positions of responsibility to women. I think it is a winning bet, but they are not yet fully aware of it.

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