Vance Center Supports Women of Color in South African Law

March 2022

The Vance Center and the South African Legal Fellows Alumni Network held a series of virtual onboarding meetings for the inaugural cohort of mentees and mentors for its Advancing Women in the Workplace (AWW) South Africa project, which is supported by the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria.

The AWW Project is a two-year collaboration of the Vance Center and the Network to address the gender gap in legal leadership positions in South Africa through mentorship, a gender diversity and inclusion survey, and other activities. Each year, the project will pair 20 mentees from all provinces in South Africa with mentors to guide and support them as they navigate their career paths and enhance their professional and leadership skills. The AWW project was launched in November 2021, with South African Justice Yvonne Mokgoro delivering the keynote address.

The mentorship program will rely on and partner with the Vance Center’s WIP program, which seeks to increase the representation of women in the Latin American legal profession, particularly in leadership positions, and use the practice of law to enhance the status of women. The program has 19 national chapters in 18 Latin American countries and is now working on launching chapters in Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda, South Africa, and Kenya.

The initial group of 20 mentees selected from 136 applicants are young women of color from different provinces and private areas of the legal profession in South Africa with at least four years of practice. The project will pair them with 20 mentors who have over ten years’ experience as attorneys or advocates and demonstrated commitment to women’s leadership.

Representatives of the Vance Center’s Women in the Profession program’s national chapters conducted the onboarding meetings. Raquel Stein, partner at Souto Correa Advogados and director of Women in Law Mentoring Brazil, led the training, supported by 12 mentors and mentees selected from WIP mentoring programs in Mexico, Peru, and Brazil, sharing their experiences and answering questions about mentorship process from mentees and mentors in South Africa.

Additionally, members of the Vance Center Committee and AWW Advisory board, Inosi Nyatta, Lorraine McGowen, and Antonia Stolper, welcomed the mentees and mentors, urging them to set clear goals for the ten months of the mentorship program. Representing the South African Legal Fellows Alumni Network, Nontu Made and Zodwa Velleman encouraged the mentees to take ownership of the program and the mentors to support mentees as they navigate their career paths. The majority of the mentors come from the Network, which comprises past participants in the Vance Center’s African Legal Fellows Program.

Jameson DeBose of the U.S. Embassy in South Africa explained how the AWW project aligns with the embassy’s goals in the country. At the closing webinar session, Vance Center Africa Program Manager Adaobi Egboka, who manages the AWW project, announced the mentorship pairs and introduced the Mentorship Support Committee members, who will support the mentors and mentees as they proceed through the project.