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DAWN BRATHWAITE

Dawn was born in England but grew up in Jamaica. She gained her legal qualifications from the University of the West Indies and initially practised as an Attorney-at Law in Trinidad.


She returned to England in 1991 and worked as a solicitor in several firms.


She has worked with a national law firm since 2001, as a healthcare lawyer advising the NHS on various patient, regulatory and public law issues.


She went on to become a partner in 2008 until 2021. She has recently retired from law, but has remained with her firm and is now their Strategic Lead for Diversity, Inclusion & Wellbeing.


In addition Dawn is an experienced Trustee and committee member and is currently a Non-Executive Director for Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust, and also sits on their Finance, People and Remuneration Committees.


Dawn is also a member of the General Synod of the Church of England, sits on The Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns (CMEAC) and on the Racial Justice Board for the Diocese of Birmingham.


Dawn is also involved in local community initiatives particularly initiatives supporting the Jamaican Diaspora.


Dawn has been recognised for her efforts and has received the following recognition:

  • 2019: Birmingham Black Lawyers Excellence Award – Diversity Champion (Inaugural award).

  • 2021: Legal Innovation Award – Lifetime Contribution to Innovation (Private Practice)

  • 2021: Law Society of England & Wales – Woman solicitor of the Year (shortlisted)

  • 2021: Law Society of England & Wales – Lifetime Achievement Award (shortlisted)


Dawn is married to Terrence and has two daughters and two grand-daughters. Let's shine the spotlight on her and see why she's been so successsful.

All information and links were correct at the date of original publication on
8 Mar 2024

What strategies and skills have you found most effective in overcoming obstacles and achieving success?

I have always ensured that my knowledge of the sector/industry has been exceptional. For this reason, I invested in various post-graduate studies (including LL.M and MBA) so that I was continually improving and could close down any counter arguments about qualification.


I am a planner so have always worked with a career plan in mind.


The culture of the work environment is important to me, so where I decided that I was not in the right environment, I was not afraid to move on.


Women and especially women of colour, should not stay in organisations where they are not valued, or where they are getting empty promises of promotion, whilst others benefit from their talents and hard work. Go where you are valued!


It is important to know your personality type and your strengths.  Not everyone is loud and extroverted but that does not mean that you can’t sit at the top table.


As I got more senior, my work was my calling card – we are only as good as our last project or piece of work. However, we should not be afraid to step out and take on new challenges.


As women, we often see men who take on projects that they are not well equipped to do, but they have bags of confidence.


We need to be less reticent and more assured of our skills and capabilities.


As a woman of colour, there are many occasions when I felt that I had to prove myself twice – where people were just waiting to see whether I knew my stuff. Just getting by is never going to be enough.


I was lucky to have a strong mentor in the early stages of my career in this country and more latterly, had a sponsor (someone who would mention my name when I wasn’t in the room) although at the time, we perhaps didn’t use the word ‘sponsor’.

Working in traditionally male-dominated industries, women often face unique challenges. What advice would you give to the next generation of leaders?

Don’t allow male colleagues to look beyond you, or talk over you as if you aren’t there. Use your voice.


Be informed and say what you have to say, repeating yourself if necessary.


Put yourself forward for challenging projects and if you are rebuffed, don’t be afraid to challenge the process.


Don’t be drawn into conversations that’s only banter and ‘lad talk’ or on the other hand, don’t be stereotyped into gendered roles in meetings.


Being acknowledged in my sector is important. I was awarded the Birmingham Black Lawyers Excellence Award 2019 (Diversity Champion).


In 2021, I was recognised with the Legal Innovation Award (Lifetime Contribution to Innovation (Private Practice) and shortlisted by Law Society of England & Wales for Woman Solicitor of the Year (2021) and Lifetime Achievement Award (2021).


I am an experienced Trustee and committee member. I am currently a Non-Executive Director for Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust including their Finance, People and Remuneration Committees. Make the most of your talents both internally but externally as well.


That’s why it is important that you are not drawn into conversations that’s only banter and ‘lad talk’ or on the other hand, don’t be stereotyped into gendered roles in meetings. Focus on your career plan and keep moving.

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What are the key benefits of empowering women to take on more senior roles within organisations?

Leadership teams should reflect their organisations and their communities. It should also reflect their client base. 


Empowering women to take on senior leadership roles ensures that organisations utilitse the full range of talents in their organisations.


I must stress that I am talking here about senior roles as there is a lot of evidence that often women and those from racially minoritised groups make it half way up the ladder before the ceiling is put in place.


Other benefits include:

  • Having more holistic discussions.

  • Create visibility for younger women aspiring to senior roles.

  • It is a way to bring about culture change faster.

  • Getting more balanced discussions which feed into strategy and policy

Your Company has implemented initiatives and programmes to support women making the most of their career journeys. Please can you share?

We have been intentional as a firm in how we support women in their career progression. Some of our initiatives include:

  • Maternity mentoring provides support to those returning from maternity leave

  • Career spotlights of women across the business in different roles – visibility matters. You can’t be what you can’t see.

  • Increased transparency of paths to senior roles with open Q&A sessions.

  • Introduction of talent partners to reduce bias in decision-making ad providing more support for career progression.

  • We have tried to avoid initiatives aimed at ‘fixing women’ and instead challenged bias on what authority/confidence/ambition looks like.

  • Use of coaching and sponsorship to reach senior positions.

  • Use of network groups, in particular our balanced network.


We have seen a significant increase in the number of female partners being made up each year. 50% of our Board are women.

What message would you like to convey to the next generation of female leaders aspiring to achieve success in their chosen field?

It is necessary to have a plan or a strategy and to have one early. Be prepared to continually review and flex as it may not be a linear path.


Use tools at your disposal and remain passionate. There are now various mentoring schemes and organisations that are specifically set up to support women/people of colour.


Research and engage with these. Some allow work shadowing on boards which is a great way to understand and prepare for a new role.


Most senior women of colour in leadership roles will mentee others. Again use these channels.


There will often be someone who will act as a formal or informal sponsor. Again another huge benefit.


I often advise young mentees to read the book ‘Lean In’ by Sheryl Sandberg.


Too often women of colour refuse to put themselves forward. We have got to embrace new challenges and opportunities.


It is also important to pay attention to your health and wellbeing. I only took this on board very late in my career. I wish I had appreciated the need to focus on wellbeing earlier on.


You may need to accept that you can’t have it all at the same time, and that is OK.


Build a great network around you – family and friends.


Finally, look beyond the naysayers.

A huge thank you to Dawn for taking the time to sit down with us.

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