Funke is a solicitor leading the UK & Ireland legal team of the world’s largest biotech company. She has received multiple awards and other recognition for her legal work including the Association of Women Solicitors’ in-house award for 2012 (winner), the Law Society’s Legal Businesswoman of the Year award for 2012 (finalist) and Legal Counsel of the year for 2012 (finalist – British Legal Awards). She is consistently listed in various, independent legal directories as being an expert within her field and is recognised as a leading lawyer working in the life sciences/healthcare sector (GC Powerlist 2013). Under her leadership, her team was short-listed for 2 major legal awards in 2013 (in-house team of the year at both the Legal Business Awards and Halsbury’s Legal Awards), a first in her employer’s history. She is a regular speaker at legal and other conferences both in the UK and abroad because of her expertise.
I have had to overcome some significant hurdles along the way as the legal profession is not known for being diverse and private practice law firms tend to have an inherently male working culture which presents a real challenge for working mothers.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and what you do currently
I am a solicitor, heading up the legal team for the UK & Ireland arm of the world’s largest biotech. As the only member of the family who chose not to become a doctor, it was almost inevitable that I would end up working within the healthcare sector! I am also mum to a delightful 11 year old boy and devote a significant amount of my spare time to doing voluntary work within education, diversity and economic regeneration.
What has been your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge by far has been progressing my legal career to this stage, especially once I became a mother. I have had to overcome some significant hurdles along the way as the legal profession is not known for being diverse and private practice law firms tend to have an inherently male working culture which presents a real challenge for working mothers. I am very fortunate that my current employer has represented the most diverse environment I have ever worked in and I have found that to be really inspiring.
What’s been your greatest achievement personally?
Somehow managing to juggle my legal career with home life and voluntary work, an ongoing and very real challenge! I am also proud of the recognition I have had from the legal industry for my legal expertise.
If you weren’t doing what you do, what would you be doing?
I would be chief exec of a large cancer charity or a major diversity organisation, both causes that are very close to my heart.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
My parents, without a doubt. My father (who sadly passed away in 2012) was an exceptional, German-trained doctor who had a successful medical career in Nigeria. My mother remains a real inspiration as she has succeeded in reaching the pinnacle of 2 separate medical careers and is probably the most intelligent woman I know. I am also inspired on a daily basis by my son whose cheerful, optimistic approach towards life in general is quite remarkable.
What does the future hold for you?
I very much enjoy what I am doing for work currently and hope to continue doing that in the long term, adding more value to the company. I would also like to continue making a significant, positive impact in the whole area of diversity within the UK – there is so much more that could be done in this important area.