Pei-hsu Wu & Peter Dernbach
Associate & Coordinating Partner, Winkler Partners, Taiwan
Pei-hsu Wu, Associate, and Peter Dernbach, Coordinating Partner, at Winkler Partners, Interlaw’s partner firm in Taiwan, talk about what they believe needs to happen in the legal sector to encourage more women to enter the profession, as well as the firm’s commitment to providing a family-friendly environment where all employees can thrive.
During the early stages of 2020, it was feared that Taiwan would be one of the worst affected countries for COVID-19, causing understandable anxiety across both the firm and its clients. However, as the danger subsided, the bigger challenge was managing the wider impact on mental wellbeing, as Peter Dernbach comments:
“We had to respond to anxiety and stress coming from elsewhere, whether it be family, clients or colleagues in other countries who weren't faring so well. Managing stress and anxiety at work has been a challenge, but by maintaining clear and open communication with all of our colleagues has made it significantly easier.”
This is something echoed by Pei-hsu Wu, who praised the firm’s communication and also believes the pandemic is an opportunity for change:
“Although we were well prepared and didn't experience much disruption, it has still been a stressful time. The firm communicated its contingency plans openly and clearly, which helped put us all at ease.
“That said, the pandemic made us think a lot about how we work and how our clients work.”
When it comes to supporting greater gender equality post-COVID-19, both Pei-hsu and Peter believe that firms need to embrace a family-friendly approach – something that is already embedded at Winkler Partners. However, as Pei-hsu comments, barriers in the wider legal sector do remain:
“When it comes to challenging the legal profession to support greater gender equality, I believe providing more opportunities for women to excel, and removing barriers to enter or remain in the workforce, are needed. Family-friendly work environments can also be developed such as longer parental leave, or onsite childcare – these not only benefit women, they benefit the whole family. It's also good for business.”
This was echoed by Peter, who points out the wider positive impact for the firm in adopting a more flexible approach:
“We’ve offered benefits, including onsite childcare, for many years, and as a result, our employee turnover has decreased, and our colleagues feel closer to each other. It has also added a family dynamic to our business - it has been a joy to watch the children grow up. I would encourage all law firms and businesses to consider what they can do to make achieving work-life integration easier for everyone – it’s a win-win situation all round.”
Looking forward to 2021, Pei-hsu is focussed on broadening her career experience with an exciting new challenge:
“I'm challenging myself to get out and meet new people and have new experiences. My firm has enabled me to join a mentorship program at the American Chamber of Commerce for young professionals, so I'm excited to meet people from different industries and learn how we as lawyers can better serve our clients.”
Finally, Peter believes that 2021 should be a time to really focus on achieving greater inclusion and equality:
“From my point of view, I want to focus on ensuring that everyone who walks through our door, whether as a member of staff, a client or a visitor, is inspired by our work and strives for greater equity and inclusion in their lives and communities. Inclusion and equality benefit benefit all of us. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an inspiration and trail blazer for equality said it well: ‘Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn't be that women are the exception.'"