IBA Annual Conference Paris 2023

29 Oct - 3 Nov 2023


Session information

IBA Showcase: The new female leadership of law firms: a game changer?

Wednesday 1 November (1115 - 1230)



International Bar Association (Lead)
IBA Diversity & Inclusion Council
Law Firm Management Committee
Women Lawyers' Committee


At last, a flurry in appointments of female leaders at many of the world’s largest law firms has occurred. This reached cruising speed as from 2020 and has not stopped since. It should not stop!

This showcase will consist in a conversation between some of those top female leaders, the IBA female leadership and a leadership expert from a INSEAD business school.


The dialogue will address the qualities that such leaders bring to the management table and what firms can do to keep the positive vibe from female leadership once they have moved on and have been succeeded by other, male colleagues?

Female Leadership Excellence in Law Firms: coincidence or here to stay?

Based on research involving 64.000 people in 13 countries, John Gerzema and Michael D'Antonio identified that there is a shift in the types of leadership traits that are associated with success, morality and happiness.

The old masculine traits of aggression control, conflict and command are rapidly losing ground to behaviour, that is considered more feminine, like:  selflessness, empathy, collaboration, flexibility and patience. Both male and female respondents in all researched countries expressed that this is the type of leadership which they consider most suitable for the rapidly changing and unpredictable world we live in. The researchers named this type of leadership: “The Athena Doctrine” (see TEDX Talk).

While these traits can be found both in men and women, it is clear that the Athena Doctrine particularly offers a great opportunity for women to soar in top positions. This session will discuss the following questions:

  1. How does the Athena doctrine translate to leadership in law firms?
  2. How do the leaders we have at the session relate to the Athena Doctrine?
  3. What particular features do they trust that they are bringing to the table?

Session / Workshop Chair(s)

Almudena Arpon de Mendivil Gomez-Acebo & Pombo, Madrid, Spain; IBA President
Myra Garrett William Fry, Dublin, Ireland; SPPI Chair
Carola Van den Bruinhorst Loyens & Loeff, Amsterdam, Netherlands; LPD Chair
Dr Franklin Vrede Propontis BV, Amsterdam, Netherlands


Farmida Bi Norton Rose Fulbright, London, England
Aedamar Ita Comiskey Linklaters LLP, London, England
Marie-Aimée De Dampierre Hogan Lovells, Paris, France
Maria-Pia Hope Vinge, Stockholm, Sweden
Paula Surerus Veirano Advogados, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Christopher Watson CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang, London, England; Co-Chair, IBA Diversity & Inclusion Council
Linda Yang Yingke Law Firm, Beijing, China