Women & Diversity in Law Awards – the candidates in the running for Woman of the Year

Ahead of the Women & Diversity in Law Awards in March, we profile the shortlisted contenders for the prestigious Woman of the Year Award

Clockwise from top left: Aarti Thakor, Becca Naylor, Alex Anderson and Ayse Yazir

In this first part of our rundown of the shortlisted candidates for the flagship Woman of the Year Award at Global Legal Post’s Women & Diversity in Law Awards, we profile four women in law dedicated to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion across the industry and beyond.

Click here to read the full shortlist for the category. The awards take place in London on 13 March.

Aarti Thakor, Charity Commission

Aarti Thakor has been with the UK’s Charity Commission since 2008, becoming the first minority ethnic and youngest director in the organisation’s history. Thakor is responsible for overseeing all of the Commission’s legal work, and her strong commitment to DE&I has seen her assemble a diverse team of lawyers and accountants that represent the communities in which the organisation operates. Two key achievements over the past 18 months include her contribution to the development, passage and implementation of the Charities Act 2022, including giving evidence to the House of Lords, reassuring senior government stakeholders on technical aspects of the law and helping the government map out how to phase in the new legislation. In addition, Thakor has advised numerous foreign governments such as Zambia and Indonesia on how to ensure they regulate NGOs fairly and transparently, and to improve their compliance with international standards.

Alex Anderson, RPC

Alex Anderson is a partner at RPC where she chairs the RPC Female Insurance Group (FIG), which turned 10 last year and provides women across the insurance industry with training and networking opportunities. In her efforts to advance DE&I, she also co-chairs the firm’s gender community, provides mentoring through the 30% Club (designed to boost female representation on the boards of FTSE 100 companies) and co-founded the Female Partner in Private Practice Group, a forum for women partners to network and share ideas. At RPC FIG, Anderson has helped spearhead the Boardroom Ready programme, which since launch in 2020 has given more than 800 women the skills and confidence to apply for senior roles and promotions. Last year, Anderson was also handed the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Women, Influence & Power in Law UK Awards in recognition of the impact she has made to female empowerment over the past decade. 

Ayse Yazir, Bench Walk Advisors

Ayse Yazir is global head of origination at litigation funder Bench Walk Advisors. As a minority ethnic woman in a heavily male-dominated industry, she acts as role model for junior female litigation funders and provides internships and scholarships for students from underprivileged backgrounds. She also helped organise Istanbul Arbitration Week, forming an organising committee with 90% women and a programming committee with 100% women representation. Over the past 18 months, Yazir has picked up a number of accolades, such as being named a WWL Thought Leader in Funding, an Industry Leader by the Legal 500 and listed among the top Global Women Role Models in Law by Vogue. She was also named Dispute Resolution Expert of the Year by the Lawyers Monthly. In addition to those awards, Yazir has organised several Women in Litigation Funding events to create a forum for women to share their experiences and offer support.

Becca Naylor, Reed Smith

Becca Naylor is a counsel in Reed Smith’s pro bono team and head of its pro bono practice for Europe, Middle East and Africa, which she helped triple the size of over the past seven years. In her role she oversees more than 350 active cases a year, advising individuals, charities and non-profit organisations. Over the past year, the team provided more than 29,600 hours of pro bono legal support (up from 16,720 hours in 2019), with Naylor playing a role in Reed Smith’s launch of the Afghan Pro Bono Initiative to support Afghans in need of immigration assistance and the Ukraine Refugee Project, through which the firm’s lawyers support refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine providing legal advice, support and representation, particularly to those Ukrainian refugees who want to resettle in the UK. She also takes on cases herself, with organisations including Kids In Need of Defense (KIND UK), a collaboration between Kids In Need of Defense and Migrant and Refugee Children's Legal Unit (MiCLU) and a number of law firms.

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