Kim De Morney, Legal Counsel for Absa Group Litigation.
How long have you been working for your current company?
Briefly explain your career history and what led you to your current position.
I completed my articles at LindsayKeller in Rosebank and was promoted to Junior Associate. My primary focus was around litigation and Alternative Disputes Resolution. In 2010, I registered for my Masters in Commercial Law, with a specialisation in insolvency and banking law. It was during this time that I started taking a keen interest in banking law, which opened the door for me at ABSA Group litigation.
What is your proudest professional achievement and why?
Graduating, completing articles and being admitted as an attorney were all great accomplishments, but I believe my biggest achievement is still to come.
What are the greatest challenges that you face in your current role and what do you do to overcome them?
I think very early on you realize that being a great lawyer requires a huge amount of hard work and determination, and being women in a predominately male field just adds to one's determination. Work and family all require application and the ability to balance the is probably one of the greatest challenges women face! But as women, we define the meaning of hard work and I believe that we are built and programmed to overcome any obstacle in our way.
How difficult is it for you personally to attain work-life balance and how do you endeavour to do this?
Can you say conundrum! But a useful tip is to visualize your idea of an ideal life and then set yourself goals.
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?
I have many role models. Fatima Meer - despite crippling banning orders, she built up a reputation as a prolific academic and a powerful advocate of gender equality.
Professor Michael Cross - a professor in higher education, he is truly an inspirational man and an amazing mentor. He has provided me with guidance throughout my academic journey and has taught me that discipline and education is the cornerstone to success.
How effective do you think corporate diversity initiatives are? What methods do you think are most effective and why?
Large contemporary organisations like ABSA benefit greatly from understanding and managing diversity, and when implemented correctly it can be a powerful tool for measuring standards, performance, incentives and remuneration.
I believe that diversity should form part of any corporate strategy and an organisation’s human resources should be adapted to respond to diversity related issues. Matters surrounding diversity should be addressed in forums such as ice–breaking venues, team building exercises away from work and the involvement of employees in motivational, leadership and behavioural workshops.
In instances where there is a mismatch between formal and informal organisation practices and values, individuals will be left feeling cynical about diversity initiatives.
Were there any points in your career when you felt you were at a disadvantage or at an advantage because you were female?
The disadvantages that I face as a women have nothing to do with the requirements for a position, but rather a false perception that women lack the personality and experience needed when faced with a difficult decision.
The greatest challenge is probably that of gender inequality, sexist behavior, harassment and demeaning comments. These very challenges are unfortunately shaped by gender stereotypes and double standards that operate to the detriment of women's professional opportunities.
What do you think have been the most significant changes for women in the legal industry over the past five years?
I know that the South African legal profession is dedicated to change and a recent resolution by the Johannesburg Bar Council stipulates that advocates in Johannesburg aiming to attain senior council have to display a reasonable commitment to transformation.