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Women in Leadership: The female lawyer taking the City by storm

Rhian Morgan

Rhian Morgan talks to Pavani Reddy, the first Asian female to become managing partner of an Indian law firm in London

Leaving India, Pavani Reddy, the managing partner of Zaiwalla & Co Solicitors (whose clients have included the Dalai Lama and the Gandhis), has worked her way up to take on the traditional bastions of male power in the City.

“I grew up in India and completed my education in different states. Studying law was not a lucrative option for women at the time,” she says. 
“The challenges began the moment I decided to take up law as a full-time career. My choice of profession, especially being a woman, was frowned upon. I was told that law was male territory and openly discouraged from going ahead with it. I counted on my determination to succeed and was strongly backed by my parents in my pursuits. I believe my drive to establish a career in the legal field was so intense that the negativity or low moments that came my way only strengthened my resolve to succeed. 

“The perception about women lawyers is somewhat negative. Although I have faced a lot of differing views from others, I believed in doing my job honestly and with a creative mind, and I did not let any of those negative perceptions intervene with my work.

“After I graduated, I wanted a new challenge, so I decided to move to the UK to gain on-the-job experience as a lawyer. Perhaps at the time, I would say there weren’t many opportunities for female lawyers in India to practise international law but now I think that scenario is changing. There are now many more opportunities for women in India to progress in their chosen careers. 

“When I moved to the UK I witnessed what the phrase dignity of labour really meant. I was treated with a lot of respect and I felt accepted very quickly. I loved the work culture instantly. 

“For me, Zaiwalla & Co Solicitors was my big break in the UK. I went on to become a partner at the firm in 2005 and now I am the managing partner. Mr Zaiwalla has been the guiding force and my mentor through this journey.  

“I feel very blessed to have got to where I am today. I know it may sound like a bit of a cliché, but the way to break through the glass ceiling is to simply work hard, be diligent, know your industry inside and out, and always be positive in your outlook. I am always learning new things about my profession so, in that way, it is always a learning curve. I think that as long as someone is willing to give 100 per cent to whatever they put their mind to, and they have a mindset to succeed, then they will.”

As well as being a high-flying lawyer, Pavani also has to juggle motherhood. I ask her how difficult she finds it. “Well, I do nothing different in comparison to the millions of women out there who balance family and work life perfectly well and still somehow manage to excel at both,” she replied.

“I feel women are very strong and focused when it comes to achieving tasks. I believe women can multi-task well because they know where their priorities lie.
 “My profession is certainly very important to me but nothing in this world could ever replace my family or change what they mean to me. So it has not necessarily been very difficult to juggle both. I have been blessed by a very loving and supportive family, who also make things easier for me.

So what advice would you give to your child? “I have a young son, and I always tell him to be true to himself and to have self confidence in his abilities. In life, as long as you have compassion for others, act with dignity, integrity and fairness, and you have humility, you will succeed.”


  • Teresa Ewington

    Great article, thanks.

    Funny think I noticed was the cartoon picture on this is the same one as on Emma Watson's - role models article.

    Has ILM only 1 image for a woman that it uses?

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