Martina Bender: Senior Legal Counsel in the Financial Law Division of the European Central Bank

‘Balance for Better’ in the workplace: an alumna’s experience of working in the Financial Law Division of the European Central Bank

German based alumna Martina Bender (LLM European Legal Studies 1998), senior legal counsel in the Financial Law Division of the European Central Bank, reflects on the value of balance in the workplace.

‘This year’s topic for the world women day, balance for better, is certainly true for the future and also for what I noticed in my career.

Balance for better includes gender balance but also other aspects of living together can be recognised in a working environment. Since 2015 I am a senior legal counsel in the Financial Law Division of the European Central Bank where we prepare the legal analysis for the ECB’s monetary policy operations. The work is intellectually challenging, requires permanent learning and also leads to building a unified and sound Europe. It is a satisfactory environment. This is also the case because the ECB’s flexible working arrangements help me to balance my life with my family responsibilities and other creative, sportive and caritative activities which are important for my well-being. The thinking in the institution goes beyond gender equality. Other forms of misperception are sought to be eliminated and the changing working environment is also essential. This leads to new challenges which again require thinking about how to balance humans’ lives for better. I am happy to actively participate in building a balanced future, in particular for my three daughters.

 After I graduated as Master of European Laws from Exeter University and finished my studies and academic work at the University of Konstanz, I started working with Clifford Chance as banking and capital markets lawyer and stayed for five years. I worked on many interesting transactions at the time and found that I liked negotiations. This was twenty years ago and the world has changed since then. The beginning of a career does probably not allow for balance. Like all the others I worked long hours and learned a lot. It was a good experience but a law firm environment at the time was tough and promised only a limited chance to become a partner. I understand that law firms feel that talented young people do not want to start working like I did as they ask for balance right from the start. Therefore, law firms slowly change their approach. Balance for better also finds its way there.

When my husband and I got married I started working in a major German bank in the legal department in banking and capital markets law.  Becoming parents changed a lot for my husband and me and we had to balance our lives. Our working environment adapted to this situation with more or less sympathy and understanding. I felt that it is a learning process to accept that work is one commitment besides others, for men and women. The same is true for people who have to take care of their parents or have any other commitment. I realised that where an understanding of different live patterns can be found a working environment can allow for balance and in particular gender balance but also beyond.

Besides a balance in life it seems to me important that I as a person have a clear understanding of my priorities – which do change, a partner who is a real partner, who I found and to enjoy what one does. I enjoyed studying in Exeter and these studies helped me in my life. Thank you.

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