So few women see themselves as inspirational. At Lumi, we want to show the world that all women are inspirational and have an inspiring story – even and especially those women that we don’t see on the cover of magazines or the TV.
Olivia is one of these women. At 25, she is already a professional lawyer at one of the biggest firms in the world, has 2 degrees under her belt (a double degree which no-one else at her university could hack!) and already has her goals of professional and personal success in motion. With both of us rushing in-between two appointments (how busy we women can be!), we had a quick chat to find out what makes her tick.
What in your life are you most proud of? What do you see as your biggest achievements?
I’m proud of graduating from university, from a double degree which didn’t exist before I did it! I was the first person to graduate from my university with a degree in Law/Music. All the other people who attempted it with me dropped out one by one. Dropping out was pretty tempting a lot of the time, so getting to the end of it was pretty amazing. Being admitted into the bar as a lawyer was also pretty cool! In some ways, that was more of an achievement than graduating – they make a pretty big deal about the service you’re providing to the community, and your duties to the court and to society, and the higher standard that you’ll be held to in the legal profession.
What in your life can’t you live without?
A support network. I couldn’t live without people who love me and are looking out for me. This is a range of people – family, friends and colleagues, mainly.
What challenges have you had to face and what challenges may still lie ahead of you?
Up until now, the challenges have been pretty minimal – doing that balancing act of working and studying, doing two degrees at the same time and trying to get a graduate job was pretty much as bad as it got when I was at uni. But in the middle of my studies, I was diagnosed with depression, and that was the biggest struggle for me so far. I know that the big struggles still lie ahead of me – something like 4% of managing partners in law firms worldwide are women, so if I want to stay as a lawyer for the rest of my career, I’m going to face that issue as I become more senior. In Australia, the current statistics say that women make up 60% of senior associates at law firms, but only 20% of partners. And out of the 12 partners we’ve got at my law firm – none of them are women. I still haven’t figured out the next steps to working my way up. Not to mention the issue of work-life balance, which just gets worse the more senior you get!
Depression is something that affects so many women, of all ages. As a young woman, how did this impact you in your life?
Depression changed who I was. I suddenly became different. I became an incredibly selfish and insular version of myself – I felt like I was trying to swim through mud, and I couldn’t keep my head above water. When I was in the midst of it – I saw my life stretching out ahead of me, but I couldn’t see happiness in it. It got so bad at one point, I would have panic attacks about going on campus – something I had to do most days. However, it shaped who I am now – I absolutely advocate people seeking help for mental illness and related conditions, because I know how bad it can be, and how great it is to come out the other side. There should not be a taboo on seeking help. Statistics show that 1 in 2 lawyers or law students will experience mental illness in their lifetime, so I’m in a profession where this this is a huge issue. Coming out of depression has helped me find more joy in the everyday than I used to. Blue skies mean a lot more to me these days.
Do you also struggle with work/life balance? How do you try and master this?
Every lawyer ever will answer that question with a ‘yes’. I work for a firm, team, and partner – so there are multiple things to balance, even just at work. There are days when I think, “yeah, I’m doing ok at this, I’m managing.” And then there are days when I feel like I’m dropping the ball – every ball I’m trying to juggle – all at the same time and letting everyone in my life down. But I feel like so long as there’s more days like the former than there are like the latter, I’m doing okay.
What does success look like to you?
It looks like being happy within every aspect of my life. It looks like waking up in the morning, and being excited and grateful for what’s ahead of me that day, and the next day. Having a job that I love, and people that love and support me, and things to look forward to.
What kind of person do you really aspire to be (daily)?
I aspire to be someone who is hard-working and who has integrity and other people know is someone who they can respect. Someone who is respected by others.
What message or advice would you want to give people who read this?
Good things come to those who work hard for them.
Olivia Lives in Perth, where she works as a lawyer. She is a french-horn player, political reader, traveller, and is proud to call herself a feminist. She is also hilarious, and is enjoyed as a friend, daughter, sister, cousin, colleague, and partner.