This month, we got together with a real life wonder woman, Amanda Jones. Not only is she the Global Women's Advancement Director for the worlds largest law firm, Denton's, but she is also a non-executive director for Hibs football club and chair of the Women and Girls in Sport Advisory Body in Scotland. Needless to say, we are delighted that such an inspirational and influential woman proudly carries her Dahlia 2-in-1 tote to all her work meetings! So just how does she juggle all these roles at the same time as staying organised, looking fantastic and feeling confident? We found out...
Hi Amanda. Can you briefly describe your role as Global Women’s Advancement Director at Dentons?
I'm responsible for increasing the number of female partners and women in senior leadership positions in the firm in all the regions round the globe. We know that women are in the majority in entering the legal profession but the numbers decrease in the more senior roles. My job is to identify the causes and seek to remedy this. As Dentons is polycentric in that it has no central office or dominant culture, I have to make sure that I understand the cultural and societal issues in each region in order to properly address the issue.
What are you most proud of achieving in this role, so far, and what’s left to do?
I have helped form a number of chapters of our women's network in regions of the firm where they did not exist before, such as South Africa, Singapore and Latin America and the Caribbean. I've brought all of these groups together so that we can all connect and learn from each other about how to advance women in each of our regions and globally.
There is plenty left to do. Once women are properly represented at the senior levels of the firm, then I hope my role will be redundant.
How is what you’re doing changing the lives of the women involved, as well as the company?
I have the support of our Global Board in the work that I do, and seek to be a role model for other women in the firm and highlight the other fantastic women in the firm who are also role models. I'm very visible and accessible to anyone who wants to speak to me and am putting in place programs which will help allow women in the firm to reach their potential.
What types of things have traditionally held women back from leadership roles in the past?
I look at things through a different lens. I don't think women hold themselves back from leadership roles, I think the systems that are in place, where there are conscious and unconscious biases ingrained in those systems, have prevented women from being promoted to the levels and in the numbers that their talent and experience would justify. So, when we talk about promotion to senior positions, people are so used to seeing men in those positions that women are often overlooked. When we talk about merit, we talk about the skills and experiences those at the top have, so we don't look for different experiences or skills which those who haven't reached leadership position have and often undervalue them.
What advice would you give to other women trying to get ahead in their careers, based on what you’ve learnt in this role?
I read a book recently called Be Brave, not Perfect by Reshma Suajani. I think that encapsulates a lot of my thinking over the years. Take every opportunity offered to you, and don't expect to do everything to the highest standard. Sometimes good enough is enough.
Did you always know what you wanted to do? What would you say to women who might be at a crossroads in their life where they’re unsure of their next career step?
I didn't qualify as a solicitor until I was nearly 30 as it hadn't occurred to me until after I'd studied at University that this might be an option for me. Taking on my current role was quite a risk too as it meant giving up a practice I had built up over 20 years. I think you need to do what excites you and where you feel you can make a difference. You need to keep a roof over your head, but if you are doing something you feel has purpose, then it won't feel like work.
Is self-confidence ever something you’ve had to work at?
When I read that Michelle Obama suffers from Imposter syndrome, it made me feel so much better. I've always worried that someday I'd be found out somehow! You learn to live with it and can use it to your advantage.
What tips would you give to women who might struggle with workplace confidence?
I would say, every challenge can be a strength. If you don't have confidence you make sure you are as prepared as possible, whether that is for a meeting, a project or delivering a presentation. Knowing that you are really prepared is a great strength. Those who don't prepare might fail with confidence, but they still fail.
How have you maintained such focus throughout your career to achieve success in so many varied roles? (Boards of Trustees, Advisory Boards to government etc.)
I love having different roles as you learn so much from each of them. It keeps you energised, but also means that you can apply what you learn in one role to another one. The wider your experience is then the better you are going to be at any role. The more people you meet on the way, and learn from, the better you can apply that learning.
How has your style changed over the years?
I'd like to think it hasn't changed too much. I can now afford to buy better quality clothes, but I've always tried to go for a fairly classic look. I probably wear brighter colours now, and change my hair more often!
What does ‘dressing for confidence’ mean for you?
If you feel good, then it definitely has an impact on how you perform at work. I like to dress in a way that makes me feel comfortable but confident that I look professional.
How do you use your Sarah Haran bags?
I use my camera bag for travelling. It is brilliant for the airport as you can have your passport, phone and cards all to hand. My Dahlia is my go to bag – it is great for a short trip abroad with my laptop and work essentials, but doubles up as an evening bag for dinner. My Michelle bag is my everyday bag, where I feel like I have everything organised. I know that they are going to cope with all my work and personal items and that I won't have a strap break no matter what I put in them!
What are your favourite clothing brands for your work wardrobe?
I like The Fold and Cos best although usually in the sale for The Fold! There is a small boutique in Rome I go to every time I am there which does amazing dresses which they will adjust to fit you on the day.
More about you:
How do you relax and de-stress?
I do Crossfit, running and yoga, although not at the same time! I love reading too and watching football, although watching my own team Hibernian is not often relaxing.
Who inspires you in the world today?
Michelle Obama, who maintains dignity, compassion and shows that you can admit weaknesses and still be strong. I'd love to go for cocktails with her.
What one thing contributes most to your work/life balance?
My husband, Gavin. He has always been the primary carer for our boys, which has meant that I don't have to worry if I have to travel at short notice.
What’s the best bit of career or life advice you’ve been given?
Be yourself, you can't be anyone else.