IBA LPRU talks gender equality in the legal profession with senior Spanish lawyer Marlen Estévez

Friday 7 July 2023

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In a new podcast published as part of the International Bar Association (IBA) Legal Policy & Research Unit’s (LPRU) Sustainable Law in Action series, senior Spanish lawyer Marlen Estévez, Partner at law firm RocaJunyent and Founder and President of Women in a Legal World, discussed gender equality and navigating a legal career as a woman.

In this episode of the series, Beatriz Martínez, IBA LPRU Project Lawyer, discusses Estévez’ personal experiences of climbing the career ladder as a woman and mother, and the inspiration behind her not-for-profit venture, Women in a Legal World. Martínez and Estévez also reflect on the findings of the IBA’s recent report on gender equality in the Spanish legal profession, part of the LPRU’s ongoing project 50:50 by 2030: A longitudinal study into gender disparity in law, which examines the global underrepresentation of women lawyers in senior roles. The project is supported by the LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation.


On the findings of the IBA’s report on Spain, Estévez commented: ‘What was surprising for me was that the total number of women involved in the legal profession in Spain is higher than in the other jurisdictions [England & Wales and Uganda]. However […] there is a bigger gap between the number of women in the legal profession and the number of women at a senior level. In general, the public sector is developing and improving in a better way than the private sector regarding achievement of those positions for women [...] legislative measures are helping this happen and the private sector has not been forced to implement those measures.’

Sharing her personal experience of juggling work and family life, Estévez said: ‘My strategy is to try to find a balance every day. Sometimes it is not possible, but I try to find a balance between quality time with my kids […] because that helps them to know that even though I am not with them, I am thinking of them. It is fundamental that the partner you choose for life […] that this partner understands that everything is about co-responsibility. If you are not in a good position from a personal side, the professional side will not work. It is about taking care of what we eat and the sport that we practise, and leaving time for friends, and colleagues, and trying to disconnect. We need to disconnect to reconnect again.’

On her inspiration to found Women in a Legal World, an organisation which aims to promote female talent in the Spanish legal sector and provide a platform for women lawyers to help each other, Estévez remarked: ‘I realised that women were not connected, and that men were connected and helping each other. Everything that has been done by women, opening the path, will not count for anything if new generations don’t want to continue. That was the goal – to connect talent, to strengthen this network, to help each other, in the same way that men do. It is not just a women's question [...] it's a question for all of us, and we need men at the table. They [men] need to push at the same level and at the same velocity. It is good not just from an ethical perspective, but a financial one.’

For younger women starting out in the legal profession, Estévez had the following advice: ‘Think big, dream big, and then work hard. The path is not straightforward […] sometimes it has a lot of ups and downs, and it is a question of persistence, to be able to see far away. To continue working every day and the results will come.’

Listen to the IBA LPRU Sustainable Law in Action series on Spotify.


Notes to the Editor

  1. Related items:
  2. About the 50:50 by 2030: A longitudinal study into gender disparity in law project
    On the occasion of International Women’s Day 2021, the International Bar Association (IBA) announced the launch of an ambitious first-of-its-kind, nine-year global project to uncover the root causes of the lack of gender parity at the most senior levels of the legal profession, identify whether diversity initiatives introduced to address this disparity are having any impact, and to provide practical conclusions and guidance to the profession. Titled ‘50:50 by 2030: A longitudinal study into gender disparity in law’ – a reference to the aspiration of the 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Goal No 5 on gender equality – the project is supported by the LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation.
  3. About the Sustainable Law in Action podcast
    The IBA's Legal Policy & Research Unit has created a series of podcasts covering the UN Sustainable Development Goals and looking at the role of the global legal community in meeting this agenda. The series covers environmental, social and governance challenges, diversity, mental wellbeing, legal tech, the rule of law and more.
  4. The International Bar Association (IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, with the aim of protecting and promoting the rule of law globally, the IBA was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice.

    The IBA acts as a connector, enabler, and influencer, for the administration of justice, fair practice, and accountability worldwide. The IBA has collaborated on a broad range of ground-breaking, international projects with the United Nations, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, The Commonwealth, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, among others.

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