There have been a lot of career highs for leading legal firm Partner Amy Nikolovski. From being made Partner, to Managing Partner and President of the SA Law Society, Amy’s made it happen. But her proudest career achievement to date has been the positive impact she’s had on the legal profession by bringing change to the industry with respect to sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination.
Amy has been a staunch advocate for women in business and law in all aspects of her professional life, having chaired the sexual harrassment, bullying and discrimination working group of the Law Society and subsequently seeing recommendations she pushed in her term of Presidency resulting in real change for the profession. All the while starting a family and occasionally waking up with a little foot in her face.
We chat with Amy about the pressure on women to have children, the expectation versus reality of being a working mum and her advice to other women working in law.
As you were progressing through life and career goals, did you feel pressure to have babies?
I definitely felt pressure to have babies as I progressed through my life and career goals. My husband and I started dating when I was 16, and got married in 2009, shortly after I turned 27, the pressure was almost immediate. What made it worse was that we had difficulty conceiving, and it felt like every person that I encountered would ask me about when I was planning to have babies, little did they know the struggle I was dealing with. Eventually after 6 years of trying I fell pregnant with my son with the help of IVF at 36 years old, and almost as soon as he was born, people were at me again about when I would have another. As a woman of a certain age, it is like there is no reprieve from baby making!
How would you describe the ‘expectation vs reality’ of having a baby and being a working mother?
I had my son during my Presidential term in 2019, when I was President of the Law Society of South Australia. I look back now and am still unsure how I got through that year, on next to no sleep, traveling all over Australia with a breastfed babe in arms. I have been very lucky though, my mum is an absolute godsend, she looks after Niko and even travelled with me as my “nanny” as did my two sisters in 2019 when I had my first interstate trip to speak at a National Conference in Port Douglas when he was only 9 weeks old. They say it takes a village, and I have been very lucky to have the support of my village over the last two years to be able to support me and my journey as a working mum. My husband also retired in late February 2021, to be a full time stay at home dad, which has again provided more flexibility to me. Being your own boss also makes a difference, in that I was able to work from home (before we were all working from home post covid), and really pick my own hours, which not all mums’ have the luxury of. I am very fortunate to have a really strong support network around me and supportive Partners, who have not seen my young child as a hindrance to my ability to be a leader and a top lawyer.
What has becoming a mother has taught you?
Patience. I have never been one to have a lot of patience, my A-type personality meant that I was constantly on the go, however having a little person means sometimes you just have to move at toddler speed, and that’s ok, not everything has to happen immediately or be perfect all the time.
Have you found your negotiating and communication skills being a lawyer has helped to manage a toddler?
Ah, no! He wins every argument, because can you really negotiate with a toddler? Maybe as he gets a little older my skills will become more useful, but as it currently stands, Niko is in charge, I am just his lowly handmaiden!
What’s the most rewarding thing about being a mum?
Seeing him grow, from his first smile, to crawling, his first steps and first words, I look at him and still can’t believe I grew him inside of me. The sense of love and pride is overwhelming some days.
What advice would you give to other women in law thinking about motherhood?
Do it! Don’t let your career get in the way of having a family, the law will always be there, but your opportunity to have a family may not.
What’s your proudest career achievement?
Seeing a shift in the profession—that I have played a role in—has been inspiring, to know that future women won’t or will be less likely to suffer from the sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination which was running rampant when I first joined the profession.
What does being a trailblazer mean to you?
I actually feel uncomfortable with that term, I think I am just doing my part as a woman in a position of power. I am aware of the privilege that I have and want to ensure as many women are able to access the same opportunities that I have had available to me.
Finish these sentences…
I can’t live without…
Niko… coffee and my phone!
My morning starts with…
Usually with a tiny foot in the face (yes I co-sleep, it is the only way I get any sleep!)
Female role model…
In the law, my friend the honourable Judge Jo-Anne Deuter.
My legacy will be…
At 39, it is still being written.