The Academy welcomed Funke Abimbola MBE, general counsel and head of financial compliance at Roche UK, in conversation with Claudine Adeyemi, Associate in Real Estate. Funke gives a significant amount of her time towards promoting, encouraging, supporting and campaigning for more diversity within the legal profession and wider business community. She works on a wide range of diversity related initiatives and projects, working with a number of organisations to drive change, such as the Law Society; Aspiring Solicitors; SPARK21; Speakers4Schools; INTO University; Business in the Community and the Ministry of Justice.
Women in Law: Funke Abimbola
Funke Abimbola MBE
I come from a medical background, my family, so law wasn’t a natural choice at all, my father needed some convincing, but I was so passionate about the legal system and I really wanted to see what I could do within it really, to drive change and to add value in some way.
I became a diversity campaigner because I was so incensed by what I saw happening, you know, I realised from some of my own personal experience that it wasn’t a level playing field that but you know just having the talent was not enough if you didn’t have the opportunity, that was supported by someone in a position to help, you probably wouldn’t actually get your foot in the door at all.
With something like diversity campaigning or indeed campaigning full stop, change, tangible change doesn’t happen at the pace we want it to happen so visibility is really key.
Within the legal profession, which is meant to be a reflection of society, I mean the legal framework is so important, to not have your society represented within that profession, I think is really, really, really wrong. You know, I think that it’s so important to have that diversity of thought importantly and to have people from all walks of life, giving legal advice and shaping the legal system because that’s the only way the law can truly reflect the society it serves.
I think unconscious bias is still a real issue. The only way you can overcome that is by trying to educate yourself about what someone else has been through, where they’re coming from, they then understand you better and that’s the best way to try and overcome what is actually unconscious, you know, the brain is wired that way and you need to consciously try and overcome that in some way.
I am very optimistic about the future, I’ve seen amazing commitment from the firms themselves, there’s been a really tangible shift, some of the Senior Partners I work with around this, you know, it’s incredible the resource and the time to try and really, you know, make sure we get the best talent from wherever that talent may come so, I’m hugely encouraged about the future.