Can you share a little bit about what it is that you do and what a typical day for you is like?

A day in my life is just crazy. I try to start my day as early as possible – preferably by 4am. I meditate, head to gym, then get home to pack lunches boxes for my husband and two children (aged 9 and 4). I am a practicing lawyer. I service a wide range of clients across sectors throughout Africa. Anything can come up in a day, from a restraint of trade in South Africa, to a harassment in Zambia to a retrenchment in Tanzania. My passion is platform, gig work and the impact on future of work. To this end I still service entrepreneurs. I run three incubators over 4 to 6 month periods in a year. There is always something happening there. I try to stay up to date with law, news and people and companies on the move. I squeeze in a school run to fetch the kids at 2.30 and either head back to work or work from home. In this mix, I have two Labradors I adopted so they make some feature too. My husband and I try to grab a dinner out of the house or binge watch series late at night, or as working parents do, very early in the morning when our kids and clients are fast asleep. J

Can you tell us about your leadership at Fasken (as Partner) and some of the initiatives you led?

I try to lead by example. Practicing law, having a family and fighting stereotypes are difficult and ambitious cumulatively. I want to illustrate to young females that it is possible to have both a career, a finger on the pulse and a family. I mentor junior professionals. I have tried to use my space at Fasken to make impact. I have coined a legal acceleration and incubation program that I run for entities that invest in entrepreneurs. I have seen so many sharp legal minds battle the juggle over the years and not choose to stay home with their kids but be forced to. At the end of the day, which mother will ever choose anything over her children, I certainly won’t! But here is the catch – balance and support structures and flexibility – these are not utopian but very possible and we need to assert ourselves to secure this to derive the benefits.

Did you always aspire to reach a leadership role in your career?

There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to be a lawyer and with me there is no half-baked cake. I had to get to partnership.  But my story does not end here. To my daughter and to my son I will be mummy who is always there, and mummy who has devoted her life to giving them the best opportunities. So, I will aspire to reach the highest point I can for these two beautiful souls to have the gift of choice.

What are, from your perspective, the biggest challenges for women in leadership roles?

The gender stereotype is alive and well still in this day and age. It is about an assertive woman being perceived as aggressive, a leader being perceived as bossy, an ambitious woman as being perceived as not a team player. That women are identified as mothers first and that co-parenting isn’t well subscribed into by society makes those who pursue their careers look like derelict mothers who have children lacking in maternal love and affection.  

In your opinion is there a difference between how men and women plan to progress in their careers?

Women look to ensure the safety and the wellbeing of their children first. I certainly do. My motivation to always achieve the most is drawn from the hunger to provide the best opportunities for my children. If a support network is not firmly in place, a woman will always look to bed that down or be that. This is why so many women leave their professions upon becoming mothers, or take sabbaticals at this point. I do not know of many men who make this a material part of their career progression. 

Have you encountered any gender specific challenges or obstacles in your career?

Of course. A significant part of my role is to generate business. This means I have to call on corporate client contacts for work. Many men have assumed the lunch proposal is more. 

Have you encountered any gender specific challenges or obstacles in your career?

Would you believe that a challenge that resonates with me is an encounter that I had with a group of women. There is this notion that if the struggle to get to a place of perceived power was hard for one, it should be as hard for others. In addition, there is a scarcity mentality that leads women to feel threatened by the success or advancement of other women.

What advice do you have for women interested in leadership roles?

Go for it! Don’t wait. No one will invite you!

Fun fact about you?

I am an extrovert. And I have a dry sense of humour. I make jokes that are objectively really not funny and I am not afraid to laugh at them alone for minutes at a time.

What can the delegates at She’s a Boss – Women in Tech expect from you? In few lines, please state the importance of such a platform for women?

I want to network and share my experiences and impart my skills set to a group who I can look to collaborate with in a high synergy focused circle. Why? Because I want to be part of a group who make South Africa a land of immense opportunity for women, women of colour, for mothers, for women who don’t want children, for women who cannot conceive, for women with careers, for women who work half day jobs, for women who raise children all day and ultimately for my own children! South Africa is a beautiful land of opportunity waiting to be realised. Women are inherently high impact individuals and we can unlock this.

Join Sherisa at She’s a Boss – Women in Tech this September. Register here

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