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25 March 2020

International Women’s Day 2020: Interview with Helen Ratcliffe, Senior Partner

To mark International Women’s Day 2020, we decided to interview Helen Ratcliffe, Senior Partner, to discuss her career in law and her greatest inspirations.

What attracted you to the law?

I came to law by complete chance. I was offered a summer placement at a City law firm in the summer after my first degree. I really liked what I did and eventually I trained with that same firm. What I liked was applying rules and principles to real life situations and the puzzle of finding the right solution.

What do you think about being one of the few female senior partners in a UK law firm?

I was delighted to be elected as the first female senior partner at BDB Pitmans. I was the first part-time partner at the firm so I have kept pushing at that glass ceiling. Part of the reason for standing for election was to show that it could happen. But what I would really like to see is a time when women will have these roles without comment. It does though require women to want to do these roles and to have the confidence to do it in their own way.

Is International Women’s day still necessary?

Absolutely. There are so many injustices, inequities and pressures for women all over the world and we need to support women everywhere. As fast as one aspect is improved, we can often see a different pressure arising.

What does Each for Equal mean to you?

For me it is about every individual being accepted as who they are.

If you were not a lawyer what would you be?

History has been one of my great interests, so something to do with that.

What advice would you give to young girls who want to pursue a career in law?

Find the area of law which really interests you and which you enjoy. Also because you have a long time ahead of you, do not plan to the nth degree. Take opportunities as they arise, do not compare yourself with others and go at your pace.

Who is your greatest female role model?

May I have both my mother and daughter, independent and free thinking spirits, who keep me up to the mark.

If you could have dinner with 3 women dead or alive who would they be?

This was hard to reduce to 3! So Marie Curie (I spotted recently that as a child I was always reading about non-conventional women who broke moulds and made a great impression on me), Ettty Hillesum (a Dutch Jewish diarist and mystic who did so much for her community as they faced deportation in the Second World War) and Eleanor of Aquitaine, a powerful force in the twelfth century.

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