Women in Law Interview: Monyana Tshiamiso

This month we chat with Monyana Tshiamiso, who is the founder of online portal SHE Legal Co. Monyana is a young woman navigating a career in the legal industry, and pursuing other interests that include, but are not limited to writing, black consciousness and influencer ideations.

SHE LEGAL Co is a conversational portal for women in law and entrepreneurship to talk, inspire, mentor and challenge each other. The platform seeks to raise awareness of the many groundbreaking achievements of female lawyers.

With a mission to create a digital platform where women in law can converse in their similarities, celebrate their differences and achievements while connecting in their goals, SHE LEGAL Co continues to grow its social media audience by providing consistent and quality content to keep us informed. This is definitely a platform to follow and we recommend SHE LEGAL Co to all #womeninlaw and entrepreneurs.

Below is the interview between For Women in Law (FWIL) and  (MT) Monyana Tshiamiso.

FWIL: What inspired you to start SHE Legal Co?

MT: SHE Legal Co was inspired by a sense of need for a community in the area of law. And not just law, but being a young woman trying to figure it all out. I have been blogging since maybe 2012, and it wasn’t always necessarily about law. I shared my thoughts on socioeconomic issues in South Africa, women’s rights, and youth development. I honestly needed a space of identification. How was I a law student at the time supported, in my interests outside law, you know?!I finally got to a point where I was like, you know what, I have to create this by myself, ring in women in law alike, and created a space for us all to exist.

FWIL:What is your vision for SHE Legal Co?

MT:I honestly change my mind so much about the direction I imagine this site to take, and I’m okay with that change. I don’t see it as indecisiveness as such, but I know that with a vision in mind somethings don’t always go according to plan. It’s almost like waiting for a breakthrough right now, I’m waiting to solidify SHE Legal Co in the market of women who exist in law.But for the most part, I’d love to see it lead the conversation around issues affecting young women, from law students, paralegals to lawyers. I would love for it to be the first people/young women in law driven ecosystem and not only change, but also lead the conversation.

FWIL:What are some of things that you had to re-learn and unlearn in the process of setting up SHE Legal Co?

MT:So, so many things haven’t gone the way I had anticipated with SLC. Honestly, I unlearn every day, I learn something new every day. I am always reminded to know more, do more. Like I said, it’s almost like waiting for a breakthrough, and until then there’s no way I’ll ever stop learning. There are so many projects I’ve had to put on hold due to financial reasons, and lack of resources. But I don’t let that deter me, I let it fuel me instead.
One thing is for sure, consistency is key and when I couldn’t do that, I almost lost my mind last year. Personally, I struggle with depression & anxiety and have been diagnosed as such since I was about 13 years old and again back in 2010/11.Also, if I am going to claim to create and inspirational space for people, I need to be in a good mental space to do so. Often, I am inspired by stories of other young women in law.

FWIL:How can other women in law get involved in seeing through the vision of SHE Legal Co?

MT:Omg, in so many ways. There wouldn’t be a SHE Legal Co if it wasn’t for these women being willing to openly share their stories. Engagement with our audience is also pivotal at any given point. I’m hoping to actively grow this online community rapidly this year, but also to do it authentically. Women everywhere, their continued support means everything to the growth of this whole business.

FWIL:What does being an alpha female mean to you?

MT: I’ve never had to think about that. But, I suppose it means to be strong. I fundamentally believe in women having a voice, so I then in turn believe in my own voice and own story. I think maybe I could say because of that, I understand that being an alpha female would mean my ability to co-exist amongst other women and not feel any less of myself, and not think any less of others. We are all then, alpha women.

FWIL:Would you consider yourself a feminist? If yes, what does feminism mean to you? If no, why not?

MT:Yes, and no. No because, I don’t want to be boxed into just one thing. I really believe in being multidimensional.Yes, because the idea of what it means to be a woman, black, and African is what I find the most empowering. 

The world needs to be encouraged to see feminism, as one voice. The scale continues to be unequal in a lot of ways and under the banner of feminism we get to work towards changing that. Which is so important. 

FWIL:What is the best advice you would give to aspiring legal professionals?

MT:Look out for every opportunity. Be more aware of the world around you. Whether you’re young, in school or finding your way around the corporate world, you’ll quickly learn that opportunities to advance your career can be found anywhere. Don’t be scared to network. I literally have only had jobs working in law from knocking on doors. I promise you.

FWIL:What recent change/amendment in the law has caught your attention? (do you agree with the change? Why/why not)

MT:Not a recent law per say, but I’m watching the commission of inquiry into State Capture religiously. And conversations around it, have been “So what? Now what? What action is to be taken?”Honestly, maybe I’m being skeptical, but we’ve seen it with the TRC (Truth & Reconciliation Commission) there were almost no point. Its left to none to take accountability. This current commission will be just like that. I’ve listened to shows whereby people ask, what will happen next and even the law isn’t clear on that. These people go in there, take an oath, share details of corruption and no one knows what is to happen with all that information.

FWIL:What are some of your effective networking skills?

MT:Zero. I’m not a relentless networker to be honest. But I advise on it because it works for those who can. For me, I guess that “I’ll just give it a shot…” mentality works. Like I said, most jobs I’ve had I knocked on the door, and convinced them to grant me an interview or a job. I’ll even volunteer for a while to show a person if I can fit into their work environment. In the past, I’ve wasted time doing things the “right way” by applying for jobs online, filling in z83 and that’s just never worked FOR ME.  I don’t have a pool of contacts. I just relay on putting my best foot forward when given the chance.

FWIL:What does the term “role model” mean to you? Which phenomenal woman in law would you call your role model?

MT:Can I say all of them? Honestly, even without their knowledge I look up to so many women. I like the woman who goes on to be a magistrate/judge. I like the women who go into charity and philanthropy. I like the women who go into business. I like the women who go into activism for great causes. I like the women who built cult-like followings on social media. All of them, and even more. Just exactly what SHE legal Co stands for.

FWIL:What books have you read that have greatly influenced your life?

MT:Let me tell you, Bantu Biko’s I WRITE WHAT I LIKE, changed my whole life. I remember before even reading the book, seeing the words “black consciousness” somewhere and knowing right then and there that I needed to know what it was. And I’ve never been the same since.I walk & talk with a great sense of pride & stride in my blackness. That is why I can walk into an office and ask for a job, my blackness doesn’t not inhibit me and that in fact, it is the reason why I’ll thrive.And the book, Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso. It’s a fairly recent book, 2015 maybe. But it went on to become a media company and online portal, that inspired me to take my blog in the direction it has. I’m an avid follower of her work to date. It’s like following a blueprint.

FWIL:What’s a quote that you live by? Your mantra.

MT:Not a mantra, but a poem. Desiderata by Max Ehrmann. A friend of mine shared it with me a couple of years ago and it’s been my go-to for years now. I live by it, I swear by it.

FWIL:How do you remain autonomous while working in the legal field?

MT:It is not easy, but I’ve never been the kind to role over and play dead for anyone. Just starting SHE Legal Co gives me a sense of freedom from how everything is expected to be while working in the legal industry. It is almost like we are on the brink of democratizing how we go about pursuing our dreams, firmly positioning ourselves and taking our rightful place in the profession.

FWIL:How can people reach out to you? (social media handles)

MT:People can engage with me via the SLC social media pages on twitter.com/shelegalco and Instagram.com/shelegal.co

Haha, there’s a Facebook page, but I don’t really know how to use that, I still need sometime learning how to set it up. But, either than that… A visit to the blog will be highly appreciated.www.shelegalco.com

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