Lawyer announced as Young Business Woman of the Year

A partner at a Top Tier has been named the Young Business Woman of the Year at a major awards ceremony: She tells us about her passions, success and what needs to change

Clayton Utz partner Jennifer Wyborn was named Young Business Woman of the Year at the 2014 Telstra ACT Business Women’s Awards last week.

Just a month ago, the lawyer had joined the national Clayton Utz workplace relations and safety team from Meyer Vanderberg Lawyers, where she led the employment and industrial relations and safety practice.

Wyborn has carved out a highly impressive career in the decade since she was admitted to practice, and has held a range of positions including Commonwealth prosecutor, judge’s associate, in-house government lawyer and private sector lawyer and partner.

She’s also active in the community, and has served as Secretary of the ACT and Regional Women's Centre for several years, as well as been the pro bono co-ordinator at her previous firm.

Wyborn told Australasian Lawyer that winning the award is a “pretty incredible thing”, especially considering workplace relations and safety is generally a male-dominated space.

“It shows that women can be successful in that area too – and with a family. Women can do anything,” she says.

The partner has two young children, aged one and three, and an “amazing” husband who has taken on their care during the day as a stay-at-home dad.

As well as being passionate about the promotion of females to senior levels in the workplace, Wyborn says equality across the board - whereby both men and women are supported when they have a family - is drastically needed.

“One of the things I’ve been astounded at is the level of bias my husband has faced for staying at home with the children, even in the workplace we’ve had people question it,” she says. “

“If childcare is seen as a societal issue men would not be treated differently…One of the big questions is how do we change that culture.”

It’s obvious Wyborn is incredibly passionate about what she does, and she admits that this is the secret to her success.

She moved into employment law in 2006 because she saw it as a discipline that really affected people’s lives.

“I want a human face to what I do,” she says.

Among Wyborn’s career highlights of her career is leading the legal team involved in the Federal Equal Remuneration Test Case for Social and Community Services Workers.

The historic 2012 case sought to deliver a pay rise to 150,000 of Australia's lowest paid workers in the social and community services sector, of which 120,000 were women.

It was the first-ever successful equal remuneration case in Australia, Wyborn says, and it achieved a pay rise for women in the sector of up to a huge 50%.

Her work on the matter led to her winning the Department of Employment, Education and Workplace Relations Secretary's Award for Excellence.

Last week, the Telstra Business Women's Awards judges said the lawyer exhibited exceptionally strong professional behaviour and values, proven results of high achievement and highly developed leadership and communication skills.

Wyborn, the only female in Canberra to head a private sector workplace relations and safety practice, plans to focus on growing and consolidating, and continuing to offer the best services possible to her clients.

She says there are two things she’d like to see change in the near future: More women in the industrial relations sector, and more women heading up the negotiating table.

“There are so many talented women in the law and other disciplines who for a range of reasons feel inhibited in achieving their full potential,” she says.

“We need to recognise and work towards greater diversity as a key driver of business success."

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