Mannie Kaur Verma was recently named as one of six finalists for Women Weekly’s Women of the Future for 2021. That achievement speaks volumes in introducing her as our next diversity champion.
As a lawyer, public speaker and advocate, we speak to Mannie about her journey through law and advocacy and what diversity means to her. Here’s the story!
Can you tell our readers what a normal day looks like for Mannie Kaur Verma?
Well, I would start by saying that no two days are ever the same for me. What does remain consistent is that I am woken up each day by a kiss from my three-old-son. No one in my household needs to turn an alarm on, because without fail, every day my toddler is awake by 6am and his first job of the day is to wake everyone with a kiss on the cheek. The tantrums and the fight for the TV remote, with his six-year-old sister, start soon thereafter, by which time we are all truly awake.
My husband and I are both lawyers at Vision & Regal Group and we generally begin our workday at around 8.30am. We have the luxury and privilege of grandparents looking after our kids while we are busy with work (whether in the office or from home). A typical day at work generally entails lots of zoom meetings, lots of back-and-forth email correspondences, drafting and implementing workplace policies and constant legal research. There are regular court hearings and mediations, all via web conferencing in the current COVID-19 landscape.
After work, on most days, I have at least one volunteer commitment that runs for about an hour, whether that’s an EMILY’s List meeting or Amnesty Australia or One Girl Org. I currently volunteer for 9 different non-profit organisations. Once that is taken care of (or sometimes during the meeting) I would feed the kids dinner (my mother-in-law usually cooks) and spend some time checking my daughter’s homework. Sometimes we cheat on weeknights and have a movie night watching an Avengers movie or something from the Harry Potter instalment. I usually dedicate time on weekends to catch up on my studies and research with Deakin University.
How important is diversity and inclusion to you and in the work that you do?
I would call myself an intersectional feminist and therefore I do highly value diversity and inclusion. In a multicultural rich country like Australia, I think we ought to do more to promote awareness and implementation of diversity and inclusive practices.
One way we can do this, is by placing Intersectionality at the core of our work. We certainly apply an intersectional lens to all the work we do at Vision & Regal Group and the advocacy work that I absolutely love engaging in.
I truly believe that there is real value in embracing our uniqueness and there is genuine strength in unity. We can achieve great success by providing an environment where individuals can bring their authentic, true selves.
Have you ever faced challenges in your professional career from others because of your identity and if so, how were you able to overcome that?
As a young, woman of colour, who practices in commercial litigation, I often encounter hostility, and this can take many forms. Sometimes it is as subtle as a judge asking at the time of announcing appearances, that Mrs Verma, do you have a counsel representing the client. Initially in my career, this question would often intimidate me and if even I thought I was confident to appear at a Directions hearing or a mediation, I would engage a barrister just so that my client would appear stronger. There is this entrenched notion in the legal industry that the more senior lawyer you have retained, the stronger your case probably is. Race also plays a significant role.
However, now I refuse to be apologetic for my identity. I often appear at Directions hearings and mediations myself without a barrister and if faced with this question, I bravely and politely answer that no, your Honour, I am quite capable of competently representing my client.
ADVICE FOR the youth
Don’t ever be apologetic for your identities. You are unique and that is what makes you special. Use your uniqueness to your advantage. Dig deep and find your unique value proposition. What is it about you that makes you stand out from the crowd? And once you have found it, embrace it, work on it, and use it to push for real, meaningful change in our communities.
Until we stop trying to fit the moulds created by the biases entrenched in our societies and institutions, we will not emerge from the tyranny of the oppressors.
Want to follow and support mannie?
Feel free to reach out to me via my website www.manniekaurverma.com.au or I have very recently joined twitter (I know it’s a bit late) and my handle is @MannieVerma
About the diversity champion:
(she/her) Hi there, my name is Mannie and I am an Indian-born-Australian. A Lawyer. An Advocate. A Wife. And the most rewarding title – A Mother to two beautiful children. As a Lawyer, I feel tremendous gratification in empowering my clientele, particularly young women of diverse backgrounds, to fight for their rights. This may include demanding a respectful relationship, employee entitlements or justice in a dispute. I appreciate that I am in a fortunate and privileged position where I can advocate for people who do not understand our complex legal system or who are not in a position to fight for their basic rights. As a young woman of colour, I am passionate about advocating and empowering local communities to address the issues affecting young girls, girls from diverse cultural backgrounds and bringing these issues to the attention of key decision-makers.
Image description: Mannie is smiling at the camera wearing a bright garment with a grey background