Valeria Chapa, senior General Counsel with Honeywell, is founder or Abogadas MX – a women lawyer’s mentoring group. Originally working alongside the Vance Center, Valeria was one of a number of Mexican lawyers who decided to launch a pilot programme for mentoring: “There is clearly an issue of women in positions of leadership in Mexico as there are very few at the top,” she says. “So we started getting together and asking, what can we do? We started brainstorming different ideas and through working with the Vance Center, an initiative with both a pro bono and women’s focus naturally arose.”
A pilot programme for mentoring was launched in January 2015. The purpose of the programme was to establish a cross-organizational pilot mentoring programme for women lawyers aimed at developing the mentees professional career by:
- identifying career goals, challenges and opportunities by listening attentively;
- sharing relevant knowledge and experience to provide perspective;
- suggesting strategies to advance the mentees’ professional career (i.e. focusing on developing skills such as networking, leadership, business acumen, effective communication, etc).
The founders were overwhelmed by the hundreds of lawyers who came along to the launch event. “We provide a platform for people to share their experiences beyond the mentoring programme as well. I sent out a survey to all participants via social media, and we had a fantastic response to our survey. We formed committees: started organising breakfasts, inviting experts to speak and as things have grown so fast, we have decided to form an NGO.”
As for the participants, mentors are drawn up from WIP Mexico Law Firm Partners and GCs interested in participating in the program and the mentees are women attorneys working in-house and at law firms, nominated by WIP Mexico members.
Valeria hopes the programme will continue to grow and develop. “We want to work with universities and conduct research into why the 50/50 male to female ratio in law schools drops severely at partner level. We’re also interested in the issue of women on boards. We are hopeful that this programme will extend beyond Mexico, and we’re already getting interest from Chile and other countries who want to follow our lead.”
Abogadas MX will have a closing event to wrap up the pilot mentoring scheme in December 2015. They will also have a number of other women in law events during the course of the year.