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Female mentors a boon for women in law

Joining female-led mentorship programs could prove beneficial for female law students and lawyers alike, according to one solicitor.

user iconMalavika Santhebennur 19 October 2023 Big Law
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Ahead of the Women in Law Forum 2023, Environmental Defenders Office senior solicitor Zoe Bush said she participated in mentoring schemes steered by women when she was a university student.

These included programs at the University of Western Australia and the Law Society of Western Australia at various points when she was a student.

“Through one of the mentoring schemes, I met a woman who took me on as a mentee on an ongoing basis,” Ms Bush told Lawyers Weekly.


“She helped me get my first job at the state’s Solicitor’s Office in Western Australia. We still catch up to this day, even seven years later.”

Ms Bush paid it forward by mentoring other young women at the university once she entered the profession.

She said the mentoring schemes for women were beneficial for her because she found a support network of women to rely on.

“I found women who I could ask dumb questions to, about the legal profession, and who supported me when I came across tricky situations by giving me advice on how to deal with it,” she said.

“I think I was lucky to have had female and male mentors throughout my career who sponsored and supported me to develop professionally as a lawyer. They opened doors so I had access to certain opportunities.”

Joining professional bodies such as the Law Society would also help women build networks with other members of the legal profession, which could boost their career, Ms Bush highlighted.

“Don’t underestimate the value of your professional associations and bodies. Be actively involved in those,” she said.

When asked if she faced any barriers due to her gender, Ms Bush said that as a young graduate, she sometimes struggled with some men’s attitudes and “how they would make women in the room feel small or silent”.

“I think as women, we’re sometimes socialised to question and doubt ourselves and not be confident enough to hold and express our views. It was hard not to feel very small in the room and to feel comfortable and confident enough to contribute,” she said.

Overcoming these barriers requires a willingness for change from men as well as women, she remarked.

“I think a part of the change has to sit with men,” she said.

“We talk a lot about how women need to lean in more, and that can be true in certain situations. But I think it’s also about men making space for women and not always taking up all the oxygen in the room. I think a shift needs to occur with how men conduct themselves in certain contexts.”

Ms Bush’s comments preceded the Women in Law Forum, where she and a panel of speakers will unpack how tailored mentorship programs could empower the next generation of women in the legal profession and why self-advocacy and building confidence are critical to success for women.

Indeed, Ms Bush noted that while women work hard and dedicate themselves to their clients, their achievements could be overlooked.

“Unless they’re actively highlighting how their contributions are adding value to their organisation, it can go unnoticed,” she said.

“Making women’s invisible work visible is really important.”

To hear more from Zoe Bush about how female-led mentorship programs could empower the next generation of women in the legal profession, come along to the Women in Law Forum 2023.

It will be held on Thursday, 23 November, at the Crown, Melbourne.

Click here to book your tickets and don’t miss out!

For more information, including agenda and speakers, click here.

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