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The Power List: The Rise and Rise of Dame Patsy Reddy and Her Battle with Sexism

Governor General and former lawyer Dame Patsy Reddy had to battle sexism in her rise to the top of the law profession and now also a top Power List member on LawFuel’s List.

Dame Patsy, formerly a partner at the then Rudd Watts & Stone (now MinterEllisonRuddWatts) has had a highly successful career as a businesswoman, company director and Treaty of Waitangi negotiator.

Power couple

Coming from tiny Te Akau, she and husband Sir David Gascoigne, formerly chair of Rudd Watts & Stone where he was partner with both Patsy Reddy and her first husband, tax barrister Geoff Harley.

She has recalled the road to success ‘littered with sexism’. Although she became the first female partner in Watts & Patterson (in 1983), she had to battle the boys-own inequality that existed in the profession to a considerably greater extent than it does now.

“I remember my first partners’ meeting – the senior partner of the day suggested that I go and make the coffee,” she said in one interview.
“I said no. We never did get on.”

Following graduation from Victoria University Law School she had difficulty landing a job as a result of her gender and resorted to using her initials to avoid the gender problem.

Initial interviews with smaller firms did not go well, she says.

“They were completely shocked I was female,” she remembers. But the third, for a large organisation, went swimmingly.

“I thought, ‘Wow, I’m sure I’ve done well here,'” she says.

“I was really disappointed I wasn’t successful. Some years later, I found out that when the others went to the senior partner and said, ‘Patsy
is the person we want,’ he replied he wasn’t having any women in his firm.”

Watch for the LawFuel Power List 2020

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