Women in the Profession Program Seeks to Develop in Africa

March 2021

The Vance Center’s Women In the Profession program  held two webinars among Latin American chapter representatives and Interested African lawyers on how the program might  develop in Africa. The WIP program currently has 19 local chapters in 18 countries in Latin America.

The webinars entitled “WIP Awareness Tour: Drumming up Support for Women in Leadership”  were timed to commemorate International Womens’ Day and sought to introduce the WIP program to lawyers  in Sub-Saharan Africa who might launch WIP chapters in their countries.

More than 85 women lawyers from top tier and smaller firms in the region, in house counsel and independent practitioners from Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Namibia, Ethiopia, and the Gambia participated in the webinars. Vance Center Africa Program Manager Adaobi Egboka gave opening remarks and Vance Center Committee member Lorraine McGowen, partner at Orrick, introduced the Vance Center and the New York City Bar Association. Vance Center Committee Co-Chair for Latin America Antonia Stolper, Shearman and Sterling partner, explained how the WIP program began with a survey by the New York City Bar Association on best practices for gender equity in the New York City legal profession and led to an Americas-wide organization of women attorneys striving to improve conditions and opportunities in their countries. Vance Center Committee member and Africa Sub-Committee Co-Chair Inosi Nyatta, Sullivan & Cromwell partner, moderated the panel conversations for both webinars.

In the first webinar, Vanessa Oquelí de Riera, Managing Partner of García & Bodán in Honduras, Patricia López Aufranc, retired partner at Marval O’Farrell & Mairal in Argentina, and Sofía Escriba, partner at Consortium Legal in Guatemala discussed how they started and built WIP chapters in their home countries. Oqueli described a group of 5 women in Honduras believing in one mission, López Aufranc explained that she was one of only a few woman partners in Argentina when the WIP chapter started, and Escriba described a group of women sharing a common vision.

In the second webinar, Valeria Chapa, Vice President & General Counsel at Orbia in Mexico, Zelma Acosta Rubio, General Counsel & Corporate Affairs of Interbank in Peru, and Paula Samper, partner at Gomez-Pinzon Abogados in Colombia described the WIP chapters in their countries. Each explained how the local chapters arose from the inspiration to make a difference for women in the legal proffession. Questions from the participants focused on fundraising, steps to start a WIP chapter,  and ways to mobilize women in their countries.

WIP seeks to increase the representation of women in the legal profession—particularly in leadership positions—and to use the practice of law to enhance the status of women. The program historically has focused on Latin America and now has 19 local chapters in 18 Latin American countries. An International Steering Committee , which includes two representatives from each local chapter, is led  by nine members of the Vance Center Committee. Through its regional conferences and meetings, it organizes and supports local initiatives throughout the year. The WIP program seeks to enable women lawyers to share best practices and collaborate on solutions to narrow the gender gap, especially with regard to leadership positions.

The Vance Center’s WIP program plans to continue supporting the Women in Africa initiative to develop local WIP chapters. To  learn more about the Vance Center, please click here  and for WIP in Africa, email or reach out to Karina Benzaquen, Program Manager for the WIP program at