Tell us a little about yourself?
I am Carolina, I am a mother and a barrister. I have always been fascinated and passionate about the law. I now specialise in criminal law, with a keen interest in disciplinary matters and mental health law. I feel very fortunate to work in law and to represent clients from a myriad of backgrounds across the vast array of criminal matters.
By way of background, I grew up in Santiago, Chile and migrated to Australia with my immediate family a few weeks before I started primary school in Australia. I attended ESL classes to learn English and grew up in a very multicultural community in the western suburbs of Sydney. Both of my parents worked two jobs, one during working hours and the other from home into the early hours of the morning. They did that for years to be able to pay for my secondary school with the aim of giving me the ability to go to University.
Who are the women who have inspired you the most in your life?
I am constantly amazed at how multidimensional women can be when balancing work, family life and everything in between. I am in awe of my colleagues at the Bar and my girlfriends who all balance both the workload of being a mother and everything else that comes with that.
One of my greatest sources of inspiration in the area of law is Former Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She was and is a constant reminder to me that it takes one person to change the course of the law. She was such a significant powerhouse in everything that she did and what she stood for. I am also inspired by the Honourable Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who also presides in the Supreme Court of the United States of America. I recently read her autobiography, ‘My Beloved World’ and was inspired by her upbringing (brought up in the Bronx) and her pathway to the Supreme Court.
The other source of inspiration is my mum. When she migrated to Australia she did so with minimal proficiency of English. She worked during the day and attended TAFE after work and learnt English. She then went on to study Bachelor of Engineering whilst working full time and raising my siblings and I. She eventually went on to graduate as a Civil and Environmental Engineer as a mature aged student and then a Masters in Environmental Engineering. She is the definition of a true powerhouse.
Why do you think it’s important to increase the number of women in business, particularly in leadership roles?
There is a clear gender imbalance in the judiciary in NSW, particularly in the senior Courts. It is important to have a judiciary and members of the Bar that reflect the diversity that is found in Australia. I am a firm believer that ‘you can’t be, what you can’t see’. The more females there are in the legal profession, particularly at the Bar, the more likely it will be that other females entering the legal profession will aspire to follow similar pathways.
What more can be done to support women in male-dominated industries?
Women in male-dominated industries, whatever they may be, need to actively encourage, support and mentor women entering into the said professions. I am a firm believer in mentoring up and coming lawyers and barristers and regularly encourage women to attend Court and actively ‘lean in’.
How would you motivate women to “lean in”?
My entire ethos to my practice is to put my blinkers on and run my own race. I try not to compare myself to others around me and concentrate on upskilling myself at every possibility. I make a conscious effort to bring myself to the table where active conversations are being made about women, particularly in discussions surrounding diversity in the profession.
How would you describe your current thinking about diversity and inclusion?
I have recently established Soto Chambers with the aim of encouraging members of the Bar across all backgrounds and ethnicities. I personally faced a number of challenges throughout my law degree as I was from a non-English speaking background. I often felt ‘out of place’ due to being from a migrant background but now consider that background one of my strengths. My advice to any woman entering into a male-dominated industry is to tap into mentors in the profession, push on (no matter what barriers are before you) and the be an advocate for the change you are seeking.