Law is a difficult profession for a woman at any time. But when you’re not only a woman but also Otjiherero, you’ve got a double hurdle to jump.
Six years in the law industry, from a novice at Kangueehi & Kavendjii Inc to a partner at Angula Co. Inc owned by high profile Elize Angula, Esmeralda has climbed the legal simultaneously burying certain stereotypes from her own cultural background into the boardroom.
“I was lucky to have been attached to a firm while completing my LLB at Unam in 2012 as a student assistant and continued with my candidacy in 2013. Starting at such an early age accorded me the opportunity to understand the space I was operating in. I integrated into the system very early on and I could decide which aspect of law I wanted to do,” she tells Us.
She left Angula Co Inc as a partner last year in a bold move that she describes as a ‘terrifying’ decision at the time. With a focus on labour, commercial law, litigation, family and debt collection, Esmeralda has worked to carve a unique space for her firm.
“What has been challenging is for a lawyer to manage a law firm. We are lawyers who are passionate about law, but setting up your own business means you have to actually take care of the business side of it. You have to provide the service as a lawyer, set up contracts, representing clients in court and then you have to come and pay bills, make sure the servers are up and so forth. It’s a lot of work, but growing into the business of it is empowering,” she says.
Understanding the business side of things was important for Esmeralda, having a business plan and strategy and having a strong pillar and supporter in husband, FNB Head of Home Loans, Brian Katjaerua was good preparation for her but still, a woman working on her own empire in a male dominated industry can be a tough cookie to crack.
“A lot of clients are hesitant when they find out they will be represented by a woman instead of a strong male lawyer. The only way to get rid of this stereotype is to do the work with such excellency, that they will want to come back,” says Esmeralda.
For decades men and women have been graduating from law schools in almost equal numbers and yet this seems to be having little effect on the gender gap in the profession: only 9% of equity partners in the UK are women (20% in the US).
With so many talented female graduates leaving the profession or failing to achieve their potential to fill power positions, Esmeralda has provided the answers to questions many a law firm and legal departments ask themselves on how they can provide an environment that enables all their lawyers with the best opportunity to advance.
Today she is a businesswoman of the year nominee. And being a mother of a three-year-old boy, Esmeralda says young women thinking of a similar career path need only listen to the little voice in their head and follow their dreams, however long it may take.
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