Emily Yiolitis, Managing Partner of Harney Westwood & Riegels LLP
How long have you been working for your current company?
Briefly explain your career history and what led you to your current position.
I was one of the three founding partners of Cyprus law firm Aristodemou Loizides Yiolitis in 2006, which merged with Harney Westwood & Riegels LLP in 2010.
What is your proudest professional achievement and why?
Bringing the jurisdictional advantages of Cyprus to the fore internationally by being a founding member in Cyprus of professional networks such as STEP (Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners www.step.org ) and ETIG (European Tax Intelligence Group www.etig.eu ). I am also a founding member of AIPFE (www.aipfe.com ), the International Association for the Promotion of Women in Europe, which is a pan-European, non-governmental organization advocating and encouraging the participation of women in European affairs.
What are the greatest challenges that you face in your current role and what do you do to overcome them?
I would say that as a tax lawyer, one of the greatest challenges is staying abreast of the ever changing global tax landscape. To do this, I participate in a number of tax groups and committees, subscribe to specialised periodicals and regularly attend seminars and topic-specific conferences.
How difficult is it for you personally to attain work-life balance and how do you endeavour to do this?
A work-life balance is the elusive goal every working mother aspires to. I make a point of being home at the weekends and underlining my children’s important events in red in my diary. It is important not to lose perspective; a work-life balance is key to keeping sane.
Did you have a mentor or role model in your career or while you were studying law? Who were they and how did they help you?
My mother. She was not fortunate enough to have a university education and nevertheless became a successful entrepreneur in the retail industry and went out of her way to make sure I was able to fulfil all my aspirations.
How effective do you think corporate diversity initiatives are? What methods do you think are most effective and why?
I am not an advocate of positive discrimination - it usually redresses social inequalities at a cost which outweighs the benefit. Diversity, in terms of having people of different backgrounds, ethnicity, gender and experience in the same think tank, undoubtedly enhances not only the legitimacy but also the applicability of the outcome - I think gravitating towards diversity in any corporate environment is a natural force which cannot be impeded.
Were there any points in your career when you felt you were at a disadvantage or at an advantage because you were female?
What do you think have been the most significant changes for women in the legal industry over the past five years?
Women have made tremendous strides over the past five years, not only in the legal profession but in the workplace at large. I think the most significant change involves less gender bias at the top tiers which to a great extent is attributed to more flexible working arrangements and a more “gentle” corporate model. As women become a dominant force at the workplace, they can exert effective pressure on the legal system to accommodate their needs.