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In conversation with Claire Matheson Kirton 💬

Off the back of International Women’s Day, we have been thrilled to interview some of the fantastic women in our network throughout the month of March. Next up, we are so excited to share an interview with yet another female inspiration of ours, Claire Matheson Kirton, Partner at global law firm White & Case LLP…

1.     Provide a short introduction to yourself and your career 

My name is Claire Matheson Kirton, and I am a partner and head of the Middle East debt finance team for White & Case (a global law firm). I am an emerging markets finance specialist and work with clients across the Middle East and Africa. I qualified in London and spent time in UK and US firms in London before then moving to Dubai where I have now spent 18 years, and the majority of my career. I am passionate about equipping my team and other lawyers around me with the skills, support and experience to excel. I am passionate about D&I in the workplace and I believe you have to work hard for success but that in doing so, authenticity, ethics and honesty are the most valuable assets you have. Without integrity, a lawyer has nothing!

2.     What are the skills you think that are most needed in the workplace today? 

Emotional Intelligence (inc. empathy) to be able to connect and form authentic, supportive work place and client relationships that are engaging and beneficial to yourself whilst also being aware of your impact on others and how to get the best from them and make them feel supported and enabled. This applies to those around you whether you are junior or senior. Ability to listen and disagree, appropriately, maturely, respectfully and professionally. 

3.   Do you have a female role model that has inspired you in your career?

I have never favored having a single role model. I fear that desire to emulate a single person can hamper your personal development and keeps you on a linear path in the footsteps of another. I prefer to think of our careers (and personal life) as journeys. There are different things you need at different stages of your journey and one can find inspiration and guidance from many people throughout that journey. I like to observe, absorb and emulate people’s approaches, traits and impact and try to accumulate and utilize those that I most admire or think are most effective in my own way.  Therefore, I have many people that I have admired professionally, looked upon as a role model and been inspired by.  Some of those have been women but many have also been men.  It’s no secret that female partners were somewhat of a scarcity when I was a junior lawyer so I had to look wider than my immediate working environment. That said, women like Cherie Booth KC and Ruth Bader Ginsburg are certainly women I did (and do) look up to in the context of being successful, impactful and trail blazing lawyers who were able to have an amazing career whilst playing a strong family role and being mothers.

4.     In your opinion, what is the best way of inspiring inclusion in the workplace?

By actively demonstrating from the top that diversity & inclusion is a fundamental core belief for the business, that it is a necessity for good business decisions (and therefore for profitable business) and by acting in a manner that not only supports that belief but actively manages those who do not act in a manner consistent with that core belief. Providing an open and human working environment, being willing to be flexible for others and having an eye to the bigger picture can foster a sense of “buy in” from colleagues and that itself creates an environment where everybody is invested for the good of themselves and the team. When combined with strong, authentic and empathetic leadership I believe you will find the workplace to be an inclusive and invested environment.

5.     How do you think the skills that are taught by Debate Mate enable inclusivity?

Debate Mate is a great leveler in actively teaching the skills needed to be successful in today’s workplace. Their workshops teach, refine and challenge skill sets in a way which is not necessarily traditionally taught at schools, university or in the workplace.  Their workshops therefore provide transferable skills across effective communication and being able to implement critical and creative thinking “on the spot”.  Knowing how effective you are in how you speak, having the ability to provide reasoned discussion, having the confidence to explain viewpoints and being able to respond to others in an appropriate, thoughtful and empathetic manner are particularly important workplace skills to enable and empower those who may not be usually heard in the workplace, may be under-represented, may hold different views to the “majority” or suffer from corporate stereotyping.