Interviewed by Elisa de Aragao Bibay & Alice Borgida

In partnership with HEC Paris, UCL Women's Network have had the privilege of conducting insightful interviews with three women leaders, CEOs, lawyers, and human rights specialists, who have generously shared their career journeys and insights with us.  

Natasha Tardif, Managing Partner of Reed Smith Paris

Can you tell us the story about what led you to choose and stay in your particular career path?

I've always been attracted to a profession that would give me the opportunity to be useful to people and society in general. It was quite a natural choice for me to go into law, even though I also had considered journalism as a career path. It's a profession closely intertwined with that of lawyers, as the independence and freedom to practice both professions serve as powerful indicators of a state's democratic health.

My career is the logical outcome of a passion that grew and that I cultivated throughout my entire education. I hold a double degree in French and European law, which led me to study law in Paris and London. I also hold a master's degree in business and international law from the Sorbonne University. After joining Jones Day and then SJ Berwin, working in New York, London and Paris and becoming a partner in 2014, I finally joined Reed Smith in 2017, where I was appointed co-managing partner in 2018 and managing partner in January 2021. The fact that I'm in such a healthy environment at Reed Smith, surrounded by exceptional people who share a common passion, leads me to believe that this is the only career I'd have chosen.

Being a lawyer is an adventure filled with hazards, surprises and strong emotions. Juggling the subtleties of the law, you'll face unique challenges every day. It's an intense, yet rewarding experience, where you'll have the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of others.

Embracing your uniqueness and curiosity can truly set you apart in the legal field, allowing you to approach cases with fresh perspectives and innovative solutions for your clients. 

Being a lawyer is indeed an exciting journey where every day brings new challenges and opportunities for growth. I feel really fortunate to have such a fulfilling job.

Can you help describe some of the key challenges you’ve had to overcome while working in a male-dominated industry?

Working in a male-dominated sector can be a challenge, but it's also an opportunity to contribute to positive change, to move things towards greater parity and inclusion.

One of the major challenges is to make your voice heard and be taken seriously in an environment where women are under-represented at partner level and in management positions while constituting the majority of the profession.

Another challenge is navigating a corporate culture that can sometimes favor men in promotions and development opportunities. With this in mind, at Reed Smith for example, we have set up The Women's Initiative Network of Reed Smith (WINRS) to support the firm's female lawyers in their professional growth and development.

What personal or professional experiences have shaped you as a leader and how did they influence your leadership style?

Our personal and professional experiences profoundly shape our leadership style. My multicultural background has played a pivotal role in my career.  I learned the importance of open-mindedness and the ability to embrace cultural differences.  Making decisions based on several pairs of lenses rather than one brings incredible richness. Diverse perspectives contribute to productive discussions and well-informed decisions as a leader. Moreover, my commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion has also had a significant impact on my approach to leadership.  Creating an inclusive and equitable environment,  is essential to foster collaboration, give everyone a voice and recognize the value of each individual. This led me to develop a leadership style based on attentive listening, collaboration,  kindness and mentoring. In my interactions with my team members, I always strive to create an environment where everyone feels listened to and valued. I firmly believe that each person has something unique to bring to the table, and by encouraging diversity of ideas, we can achieve more innovative and sustainable results.

Looking back on your career, which experiences were unique to being a female leader?

I don't know, I never tried being a man! I did notice though that as a woman, people don't necessarily see you coming and that can be a hurdle if you take it as a limiting factor of who you are and what you can achieve but it can also be can extremely powerful tool, particularly as a lawyer!

What are the top 3 tips about career and leadership you could share with the next generation of women?

For women in their early careers, it is important to maintain a positive outlook and never lose sight of their professional aspirations. Believing in oneself and seizing opportunities as they arise is crucial. In addition, creating one's own opportunities is an invaluable skill.

Determination is irresistible. Don't listen to what others think is feasible or not. The scope of possibilities is set by you and you only. No need to choose between personal and professional life, you can have it all!