Joanna Caen, Partner and Head of Private Wealth, China – Herbert Smith Freehills

Our interview with Joanna:

Can you introduce yourself in a couple of sentences;
I am a European New Zealander, cis gender female. I have lived in HK for over 4 years now, and love the city. Professionally, I am a lawyer with the international firm of Herbert Smith Freehills. I am a partner and also head the private wealth practice for China. I am also the partner responsible for pro bono matters in Hong Kong for the firm.

When did you first get involved in gender equity and why?
I’ve always been passionate about equity in all forms – whether gender, race, sexual orientation, mental and physical health or disability, or any other form. From the time I joined the legal profession I found the statistic that about 60% of law graduates (in NZ and HK) were women but less than 25% of partners (on average) were women disheartening.

How are you currently involved in gender equity initiatives through your company / position?
I am the “partner patron” of the HK office’s Gender Equity Matters network and an organizer of our bi-monthly “Fireside Chats” in which female leaders in our business tell their stories about their career progression and answer questions about discrimination they may have faced. I am also fully committed to helping Herbert Smith Freehills achieve its target of 35% female partners in the partnership by 2022.
I am also involved with Women in Law HK and have previously mentored young female lawyers under that and other schemes.

How do you measure the success of the initiatives you support and/or organise?
With a mix of empirical and anecdotal evidence. The empirical evidence comes from helping the firm reach its targets, including for female partnership, female leadership roles, and female retention. In the context of flexible and agile work initiatives within the firm, it comes from productivity data (helpfully, lawyers fill in timesheets, so we know how many hours people are spending on work). Anecdotal evidence includes views of team members on others’ flexible and agile arrangements and whether that is impacting the smooth working of the team.

How do you influence your company / team culture?
However I can! I try to lead by example (e.g. I try to “leave loudly”). I also try to listen carefully and closely to my staff and, where possible, empower them to fulfill their goals.