Miriam González Durántez is a partner of international law firm Dechert LLP where she is co-chair of the firm’s International Trade and Government Regulation Practice. She is the founder and chair of Inspiring Girls International, a charity dedicated to raising the aspirations of young girls around the world by connecting girls with female role models. Miriam is the mother of three boys and wife of former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
1. Why did you set up your charity ‘Inspiring Girls International’?
“We live in a world where less than 4% of CEOs in the world’s largest 500 corporations are women, and over 55% of 11-21 year old girls in the UK think that they don’t have access to female role models. This is something that must change, and we are trying to do that with the charity Inspiring Girls International.”
2. Women at board level is a hot topic right now, what’s your opinion as a woman who’s obviously achieved this?
“If you are a woman who wants to go to the top, and aspires to lead, then firstly I want to emphasise that it is possible, it is doable. You have to be realistic though, it is tough, it doesn’t happen overnight and it does require certain sacrifices. My main advice would be to speak up and offer your opinion and thoughts. The more you do this, the more valued you will become if you offer useful insight. It is hard, but it is not unachievable.”
“I think all the sectors are the same, it isn’t just the legal industry; men tend to do better at senior levels, and women thrive more at lower levels. It is quite rare to see more than 10% of women in higher level positions. What is worth saying is some women do not want to go to the top, it is inaccurate to suggest all women want to be in top level positions with high levels of stress, but simply aren’t getting the opportunity because men are being prioritised over them. This is relevant to men too – not everyone sees their success in terms of their level of seniority.”
3. As a partner of a top law firm and with family in Spain, you must travel frequently, how do you travel ‘well’?
“I try to be very organised to ensure I travel as smoothly and stress-free as possible. I measure the minutes so exactly so I don’t waste any time. It is almost a surgical operation with how strict I am with myself!”
“I also am lucky to have the ability to sleep absolutely anywhere. As soon as I sit in my chair, my eyes are shut. If I am on an overnight flight for a meeting, that is my bed for the night, and then I go to my meeting, and then get back on the plane for my next night’s sleep!”
4. Are you concerned Brexit will make travelling more difficult?
“For the travel industry, Brexit is a particular worry. So much is regulated by the EU currently – air services, common aviation areas and so on. This will all need to be renegotiated when we leave the EU with a new regulatory model. This will inevitably change things in the industry. This uncertainty will leave the travel industry nervous.”
5. What about the UK traveller, will Brexit change how they travel?
“I hope not. There is no doubt about the complexities of entering a country when we leave the EU. We won’t have the medical cover easily available as we do now. Many European countries need tourism to survive; some UK travellers may feel it is easier to just holiday in the UK, but I really hope we don’t see too much change.”
6. Do your needs differ when travelling for business?
“They definitely differ. I am more picky when I travel for business. Big hotels and big rooms make me feel lonely, and miss my family. Hotels need to feel personal with a bit of eccentricity in my opinion. I don’t like very fussy rooms where I wouldn’t know how to switch the lights off or open the curtain because it is all controlled remotely.”
7. What makes a hotel truly great?
“Customer service is very important. Just a simple smile, engaging staff and helpful recommendations for the area around your hotel will make a memorable stay.”
8. You are also a food writer and blogger of “mums and sons” – what role does good food play in your life?
“I come from a culture focused on food. Everything was organised around the kitchen, and in my house the soul of the house is the kitchen. Food is so important, but your surroundings and company are just as pivotal. I remember my grandmother always used to say ‘the least important thing about eating is the food’. It is also a great way to spend time with my boys… we don’t really rely on Nick though, he’s a terrible cook!”
9. What have been your most memorable trips?
“I have had two very memorable trips – one for pleasure and the other a business trip. In 1994, Nick and I went to Vietnam – before we had the kids – it was fascinating. We were there just after President Clinton lifted a 19-year-old trade embargo of the Republic of Vietnam. It was so insightful to see the country going through this transition. The other one I remember very fondly. It was a business trip to Iran in 2002. We were there when the negotiations on Trade and Cooperation Agreement began between the EU and Iran. It was deeply interesting – a landmark in history.”
10. Any top travel tips?
“Never take luggage – always have carry on. Sacrifice an outfit for speed. And always take a nice shawl to use as a blanket on the plane.”
Inspiring Girls International is a charity dedicated to raising the aspirations of young girls around the world by connecting girls with female role models. Currently there are 26-thousand volunteers, and the charity is operational in six countries, and plans for expansion are imminent. “Volunteers at the charity give one hour of their free time a year to go into a classroom, or meet a girl, and provide advice and inspiration to them for their imminent future and life plans. Diversity is key, and we ask for any volunteers from any career, with a variety of different expertise, and from any background. Information and diversity is essential to give our young girls the opportunity to see all the avenues they could look into when they are older. The simple aim is in whatever industry they delve into, we want them to aim high and believe they can succeed.” Inspiring Girls International.