Thought leadership from our experts

Q&A with Florencia Heredia

What challenges and obstacles have you (and other women) faced in your practice area?

I have been practicing in the extractives sector for 28 consecutive years which is indeed a very long time though it seems to me that I started yesterday. I guess that I never focused in the obstacles or challenges, I took all the difficult tasks as something quite natural to the sector and tried to do my best. Having said this, and even when mining and oil & gas have become more diverse in the last few years, still these areas are dominated by men as also is the case of other sectors and industries.

One aspect that is hard to balance is certainly family life and work specially if travel is part of the the routine. I think there is no perfect solution and this aspect of life is always in tension. It requires dedication to family and work at the same time and how much dedication to each aspect changes with time and how each of us want to address it, it definitively also requires relevant help at home.

In terms of gender diversity, how has your practice area changed since you began your career?

As mentioned, there is an increasing trend to appoint more women in high rank positions and relevant decision making areas. This was not the case 28 years ago. At that time there were very few or hardly any women in relevant positions in the companies and/or organizations for the extractives. I definitively can say that such situation has changed. I have been for many years heading the Natural Resources and Energy practice, in different firms and also actively working in organizations dedicated to the research and promotion of these areas, though my case has been the exception. We need to change the exception and convert it into the normal. Today I see many women getting more involved and one of my goals is that they can with time reach relevant positions based on merits though giving them the opportunity and this requires some extra effort from organizations..

Changes have to come mainly from a change in culture and social trends which ultimately will impact the different industries. In this regard, as mentioned above I note that there is an increasing pressure from investors to have more gender diversity in the boards of public companies and I see this as a good way to work towards a change in the companies also taking into account merits and capacity of the candidates to appoint.

In general, do you feel the legal profession within Argentina treats women and men equally?

With reference to the legal profession, progress has been made, though still there is a long way to reach equal guarantee of opportunities. Firms need to work effectively in more and better policies which need to prove useful and if they are not, they should be changed and adapted according to times and features of each organization. Some sort of metrics and monitoring should be implemented and this also entails permanent open channels and communication with the younger generations.

Do you feel women are well represented at partner level and in management positions in firms in Argentina? Should mandatory quotas exist?

Today all firms have female partners still in a low proportion though they all have however, extremely few or none have female partners in their executive committees and from such extremely few it would be hard to tell if any of such partners have relevant sayings in the firm.

It is fair also to say that it is very hard work to have a role in the firms and also lead a practice and not every women and men are willing to take such load of work.

Regarding mandatory quotas, I have always been adamant to support such however, I may change my view nowadays. I still need to assess whether effectively they are proving to be useful and provide for a change in the mindset. I would support them if they prove to contribute to make the path easier for wome though always stressing the fact that merits should also be taken into account.

What initiatives do you think should be put in place to make your practice area more inclusive?

I think that rating better the companies for their more diverse composition in senior positions would be very valuable. As investors are pressing more for public companies to include more women in boards, I think also regulation may be enacted in such a way. However, in order to see whether this will be really useful we need to see it through time. There is a cultural change involved and this takes time in order to be really effective.

Where do you see the future of your practice area in the coming years?

I see the future of the extractives sector related to more social, economic and environmental interaction in all these aspects. Concepts like Inclusion and productivity will have a predominant role in the years to come. How these concepts will be articulated at the local levels of each project will make the difference. In this regard, it is relevant to note that eg. mining is a global industry with local impacts. Each project in each different country is quite unique and the approach has to be taylor made, considering all the aspects mentioned. This is sometimes not an easy task, it involves public policies, regulation and values from the companies, communities and governments.

What advice would you give to women in junior positions to encourage them to work towards attaining senior positions?

To continue working hard, merits will always have to be the driver, impose their views with respect and try to be disruptive in organizations that do not adapt to modern trends and cultural changes. Perseverance, tenacity and endurance through difficult times need to be exercised, and I see these virtues very alive in every woman. COVID-19 has set a real proof for all of us and hopefully a more diverse and fair world may come out of these very difficult times.