Alja Poler De Zwart is a partner in MoFo’s Brussels office and is recognized as one of Belgium’s leading practitioners in the technology, media, and telecommunications fields. Her practice focuses on helping clients resolve complex legal issues and representing them in important privacy, data security, and e-commerce matters.
What does the International Women’s Day theme “Each for Equal” mean to you?
International Women’s Day is an opportunity to reflect and recognize the positive steps that have already been taken towards gender equality, and to think about what else we need to do to actually achieve it.
Tell us about the woman who most influenced your career and how she motivated you.
I’m fortunate to work with many women who influence my career on a daily basis, such as Miriam Wugmeister, Julie O’Neill, Chris Lyon, Annabel Gillham, and many more. The women in MoFo’s Privacy & Data Security Group are not only excellent lawyers, they are also wonderful mentors, educators, and women’s rights champions and, through their kindness, have become dear friends. Their work ethic and general approach to life, in addition to their willingness to support and promote colleagues, has influenced my own views on life and helped me become a better lawyer and person. In my opinion, MoFo is a champion for women’s equality. In my 6-plus-year tenure, I have never felt disadvantaged because of gender, and for that I am extremely grateful.
What are some of the biggest opportunities for women in the workforce today? What changes have you seen over the course of your career that paved the way for women’s advancement?
I applaud the success of the growing number of businesswomen I’ve had the pleasure of working with, whether they are colleagues or clients. I’ve also noticed and been inspired by a growing number of women in European politics taking on the highest positions within the Member States’ governments and EU institutions. This process must continue and be supported by men and women alike. More women in the political process will change viewpoints and political policy for generations. It will hopefully evolve into a future where gender is not an issue at all, and where people are evaluated solely on what they can actually do.
If you could meet any historically significant woman, who would you choose? What questions would you ask her?
This is a difficult question because there are so many wonderful women to choose from. I would love to meet Irena Sendler. She was a Polish social worker who saved 2,500 Jewish babies and children from the Warsaw ghetto in 1942 and 1943, and placed them into safe homes with Polish families. To this day, her courage amazes and inspires me. I would like to listen to her memories from that time, and how she gathered the courage to do what she did. I would also like to hear her thoughts on the world we live in now, where right-wing nationalism appears to be on the rise again. I wonder what her thoughts would be on what needs to change so that the history she lived through in the 1940s does not repeat itself again.