Women in Law: Terry Mwango, Head of Litigation and Disputes – Kenya
Have you seen any encouraging signs in gender equality in the workplace?
Yes, I absolutely have. There are certainly more women joining the ranks of what has traditionally been, and in reality still is for the most part, a male-dominated area of practice. There are now more female practitioners and more female judges and magistrates. I am particularly pleased to see that we currently have two lady judges at the highest court in Kenya – the Supreme Court of Kenya. I am very much looking forward to the day when female advocates will start to appear on the lists of the top and/or go-to litigators in Kenya. We exist, but we are yet to get a seat at the table.
What changes do you think need to be made in Kenya to encourage more women to enter the field of law?
Statistics have shown us that when peers start their legal careers, there are far more women who qualify to practice and who join the profession. Unfortunately, over time, the numbers significantly dwindle and the end result is that there are far less women in senior management, partnership or C-suite legal roles. This has been attributed to what has in the past been working conditions that have generally tended not to favour working mothers.
What advice would you give to younger women aspiring to make a career in law?
Go for it! It is a highly rewarding career. I think it is extremely important to identify a female mentor to help guide you in your career.
Share a moment in your career where you experienced/confronted/overcame gender bias.
I think being a female litigator is in itself an ‘extreme sport’. My height and weight have also meant that in the earlier stages of my career people would assume that I was not the lawyer in the room. In court, how that played out is that opposing counsel would sometimes underestimate my abilities as they assumed purely by my appearance, that I must be wet behind the ears. I have had to work very hard to get to where I am. Sadly, sometimes people are surprised that I am able to navigate complex commercial disputes, because of my gender and ‘small body’.
Which women are you inspired by in your career? And why?
Lady Justice Njoki Ndung’u who is a judge of the Supreme Court of Kenya. She has had an illustrious career and has had such positive impact on the policy and legislative space in Kenya. She is one of the wisest women I have met in recent times.
About Terry Mwango
Terry Mwango heads our Litigation and Disputes Practice in Nairobi. She specialises in litigation, and arbitration and alternative dispute resolution. She represents a diverse portfolio of local and international clients before various courts and tribunals in commercial disputes involving a range of specialist practice areas. She has BA and LLB degrees from the University of Notre Dame, Australia, a Graduate Diploma in Law from the College of Law, Sydney, Australia, and a Postgraduate Diploma from the Kenya School of Law. She is qualified to practice as a solicitor in Australia (NSW) and an advocate in Kenya.