“So often we don’t acknowledge the importance of mentoring, many find it patronising. Mentoring has spring boarded many women to the top of their careers and has advanced the rights and opportunities for women and girls,” said Gauteng High Court Judge Margaret Victor, speaking at the First Annual Women in Justice Conference in Midrand.
She said that women can no longer sit back as competition intensifies and they continue struggling to make their way to the top in male dominated legal professions.
“Despite women playing a vital role in South Africa’s history, 20 years into democracy, we still only have two female judges on the Constitutional Court Bench. We need to see more women in the highest courts.”
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While there has been an increase in female judges among the High Courts and the majority of law graduates are women, Victor believes that much progress still needs to be made.
“What women need is a chance and we must actively create chances for women to climb up the corporate ladder. All law practitioners should take it upon themselves to mentor at least two to three women every year. If this happens, imagine how much our legal system will improve by in 10 years?” said Victor.
Mentorship however is not just about allowing a mentee to tag along and observe; it’s about the transfer of skills, allowing them to empower themselves as well as acquire new skills.
“Mentoring cannot be a mass produced product, but should be a carefully crafted programme.”
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She added that senior women in law shouldn’t be gatekeepers by trying to stop young assertive associates from moving up the ladder.
“When women become bitter, it can only lead to our downfall and we become ostracised by others.”
Also, men shouldn’t be excluded from the mentorship process.
“It is unnecessary to exclude men from the process of empowering women. We don’t have to be hesitant in allowing men to take part,” said Victor.