Interview with Joanna Kingston-Davies - International Women's Day 2022
1. What does International Women’s Day mean to you? Why do you support IWD?
For me, IWD means three things; celebrating, championing and calling for change. Celebrating all of the incredible women out there, championing choice and flexibility, but also recognising that we’re not quite there yet and still have a long way to go, all in the knowledge that progress is happening and we should be proud of how far we’ve come.
2. What is your most important advice to young girls considering a career in the law?
Be yourself, shoot for the stars and be proud of what you personally bring to the table. Don’t try and be like other people; find your own style and be true to yourself. Recognise your own potential and strengths and surround yourself with people who raise you up!
3. How did you get into law? Why?
Totally by accident! I’m a non-lawyer and I’ve worked in the legal sector for my entire career. After graduating in French and Music, my sole goal was to get back to France and to join a business I would love. At that time, the corporate legal markets in Paris were really buoyant and I could touch type, so I joined Lovell White Durrant (now Hogan Lovells) as a bilingual legal secretary. After a couple of months, I was keen to progress but didn’t want to leave because I loved the culture of the business and the people. I quickly moved into HR where I ultimately became the Paris Head of HR through a period of very rapid growth.
4. What is the biggest challenge to gender equality in the legal sector?
I think huge progress has been made, and certainly at MAPD and within MAPD Group businesses, we are immensely proud to have 55% female representation at Board level. That said, working practices across the sector at large don’t necessarily facilitate career progression for working mothers as easily as they could. The pandemic has moved us forward tremendously, though, and I expect to see phenomenal positive change over the next few years.
5. In light of the pandemic, how does the MAPD Group aim to support women better at work?
We introduced a hybrid working policy with new tech equipment for everyone to allow people within the business wherever possible to organise their time more flexibly to fit in with their other life commitments both in terms of location and working times. We try to be very much output driven rather than inputs; as long as work gets done to provide our clients with the best possible service and that the team collaborates really effectively, it doesn’t matter where you are or at what time you work. We also radically improved our maternity leave policy within the Jackson Lees Group, the biggest MAPD business, with strong input from our Diversity Committee.
6. What inspired you to get into the legal profession?
I fell into the legal sector by accident more than by design! That said, it’s a sector where I think the opportunity to make a positive difference to the lives of our people, our clients and the communities within which we operate is exponential. That’s our single sense of purpose at MAPD!
7. Who is a woman that has inspired you (globally/locally)? And why?
Globally, I think Jacinda Ardern, Michelle Obama, Malala Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg are all high up on my list for using their voice in different ways to create platforms that effect really positive change. Locally, there are so many people within the MAPD Group businesses who blow me away every single day. Personally, I owe the most to my parents who are the most incredible role models and raised four incredibly strong, independent daughters whilst working together as a team and pursuing careers as a scientist in heart research and a chartered accountant respectively, whilst my mum battled rheumatoid arthritis.
8. What has been the highlight of your career so far?
It was an absolute privilege to appear on the list of the UK’s 50 Leading Lights in Kindness and Leadership in the Financial Times in 2019. For me, the recognition that great businesses (and that the decisions they make) can, and should, be rooted in kindness, is radical progress.
9. Why do you think it is important to have women in leadership roles?
The best teams are always the most diverse and inclusive teams, and different perspectives are crucial in every aspect of life. Vulnerable and compassionate leadership are fundamental in my view to ethical, sustainable and happy businesses. Women in particular can be fantastic at championing, role modelling and facilitating this balance.
10. When considering firms to be apart of the MAPD Group, how do you ensure that they mirror the same values as Jackson Lees Group regarding gender equality and diversity?
Our starting point is always cultural fit and ensuring that the current owners of any potential new acquisition align to our sense of purpose and the MAPD way of doing business. We have walked away from many potential deals when that alignment is clearly missing. We have a LOT of conversations with those running the businesses to ensure we are comfortable, and from there, we formally check that what is said is backed up in practice through the due diligence we undertake. Businesses powered by MAPD share the same fundamental principles of kindness, learning culture, supportive leadership and open and honest communication. We strongly believe that commercial success and our ethical approach are not mutually exclusive and the combination of both makes for successful, sustainable and happy teams.