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Cecilia Mairal

Argentina     Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Inspiring Women in Law Insight: Cecilia Mairal

"At Marval we have always had our sights set on diversity"

Marina Vanni

Latin Counsel has spoken with Cecilia Mairal, head of Marval O’Farrell Mairal’s Diversity Committee and Banking and finance Partner at the leading Argentine firm.

Mairal outlines Marval’s long track record in DEI issues, as well as her experience carrying out diversity initiatives, and shares some of the fundamental aspects that have led Marval to become an inclusive law firm.

Cecilia graduated as a lawyer from the University of Buenos Aires and completed a Master’s Degree at Harvard Law School, after which she worked as a lawyer at Linklaters in London and New York. She is recognized as an expert in banking and finance in Argentina by international publications such as Chambers and Partners and The Legal 500. Euromoney named her Best Finance Lawyer in Latin America in its 2017 Americas Women in Business Awards.

This year, the prestigious Argentine firm Marval celebrates its 100th anniversary. In the last decades, the firm has fostered multiple transformations to adjust to the changing times and promote inclusion.

The achievements are already visible in terms of gender parity. "At Marval, more than half of the associates are women, and we want them to feel and perceive that there is a career path," says Cecilia. "We have always had our sights set on diversity", she adds. 

Proof of their commitment to gender equality is the number of events that the firm organizes to promote the advancement of professional women such as the Women Lawyers Meeting (EMA). Since 2007, and together with other law firms in Buenos Aires, EMA has promoted discussions among female professionals.

Another example is the Antitrust Women Network, promoted by Marval. What emerged in 2015 as an event with only a few members became over the years a seminal space with more than 60 participants, including female lawyers and economists of the Antitrust Commission, as well as foreign specialists visiting the Argentine capital.

The joint project with Vance Center and the New York City Bar’s Committee on Women in the Profession to address the challenges faced by women in the legal profession in Latin America is also noteworthy. Since 2007, the entities have collaborated on outlining best practices for women’s empowerment.

But Marval also works within its ranks to make women’s equality a tangible reality.

"From 2018 until the present day we have had a 100% increase in the number of female members in Marval. We have nine female partners, all of them with Full Equity; we have a female lead board member, and female team leaders in very important commissions, such as the election of new partners (commission). In 98% of Marval’s most emblematic deals there have been female partners either leading them or participating very actively", adds Mairal.

"We also have interest groups, such as the Women and Gender Group, which regularly organizes activities in which inspirational speakers come and from which all kinds of proposals are launched. For example, based on these proposals, paternity leave was extended, we created a breastfeeding center, and many other examples," adds the lawyer.

Marval’s initiatives go beyond matters related to gender and include issues of sexuality and representation, among others.

"We have a diversity committee made up of male and female partners, which oversees what stakeholders do. We have created six groups: one deals with women’s issues, another with sexual orientation and LGBTQ+ diversity initiatives; another group deals with socio-cultural diversity, another with the inclusion of people with disabilities, and another with a generational difference, because, and also in our company, many generations work together in many companies," says Mairal.

The approach to the debates is horizontal and democratic. According to Mairal, "everyone in the firm who is interested participates in these groups because the idea is not to create ghettos, but places for meeting and sharing, so that each group can propose initiatives that the Diversity Committee reviews".

Mairal has vast experience in the field of diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI) and has participated in important panels and talks. Her activities include the seminar "Women and Leadership" organized by Carey and Chambers in Santiago de Chile (2018); the fourth edition of "Mujeres Líderes" by La Nación in Buenos Aires (2018); the panel "Diversity on Boards" within the fifth IBA Corporate Governance Conference in Frankfurt, Germany (2018); and the meeting "Women’s Rights in Argentina" organized by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer within the framework of the IBA conference in Miami (2022).

In turn, Mairal provides specific advice for other firms to avoid discrimination and inequality, from not requiring age-related data on CVs to implementing an anonymous whistleblower channel for inappropriate situations, as applied in Marval.

"We have also done other concrete things, such as addressing the issue of unconscious bias. Some tests are easy to share with everyone in an organization or a team," she explains.

As an organization, Marval has contributed its grain of sand to the treatment of diversity, equity, and inclusion in Argentina, the Latin American region, and the world, extending its sphere of influence.

The most recent project was carried out last year in conjunction with Thomson Reuters Argentina and the NGO ELA for the promotion of women’s rights. The news agency and the non-profit organization chose the renowned law firm to produce a report on laws related to violence and harassment in the workplace. The report, which took 8 months of work and addresses the current state of affairs in Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela, is soon to be published.


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