A CRAVING to work in an industry that offers the opportunity to advocate for the rights of others is what sparked Gunnedah businesswoman Stacey McAllan's passion for law at a young age.
Helping people find their voice, particularly those feeling vulnerable and disempowered, motivated the mother of four to begin her legal career at just 21-years-old.
Now, she is director and owner of Gunnedah-based law firm Stacey McAllan Legal.
The nationally accredited mediator is also heavily involved in the Gunnedah community, having previously served as president of Gunnedah Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club of Gunnedah.
It's strong female community leaders like Stacey that embody the spirit of International Women's Day, which takes place on Monday, celebrating the achievements of women, and challenging inequality.
For Ms McAllan, her experience has been one of support - something she puts down to the people she has surrounded herself with.
She says from the beginning of her career she has sought out mentors that she respected - and she encourages other budding legal professionals to do the same.
"Mentors including Peter Long, Alan Beer, Tony Young, George Hoddle and now Brian Mockler have all contributed to my growth and development," she said.
"In my experience, the legal industry has evolved into a profession that is very diverse and inclusive and has a vast supportive network.
"Personally, I have not experienced the glass ceiling due to my opportunity to have my own law firm from very early on in my career. However, I am aware that it does exist.
"There are inequalities in all industries that need to be addressed, such as pay gaps. Closing the gaps must be a propriety at a community, legal and political level."
Closing the gaps must be a propriety at a community, legal and political level.
It is critical to seek out a mentor early on and continue to build your networks to learn from others and evolve into the type of practitioner you want to be, Ms McAllan said.
For other women in the industry, her advice is simple: be kind.
"Don't compromise your own values. Reach out to other practitioners and develop a network of people with like minded values to you. Don't be afraid to ask for help."
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