Wendy Spalding-Siracusa: Empowering women in business

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Legal expert Wendy Spalding-Siracusa doesn’t let the grass grow under her feet and she has a steely determination to encourage more women to stop simply gazing at the glass ceiling — and break through it.

Wendy, a commercial lawyer and partner at Sills & Betteridge, hopes her own story inspires others and, as co-founder of the networking group Angels Bring Business, she is keen to encourage others to make valuable contacts and pick-up tips for success.

Away from the office, Wendy is also mum to two teenagers and wife to Pompeo Siracusa – who is about to open a new “The Bronze Pig” dining experience with fellow restaurateur and chef Eamonn Hunt in Lincoln.

She is also a fitness fan, a keen charity runner, and a supporter of an Indian orphanage and the inspirational organisation Women for Women International. It all adds up to a full-on lifestyle.

Originally from the south of England, she arrived in Lincoln by a circuitous route and, although career-minded, Wendy loves living and working in a county which is largely rural and which offers a great quality of life. However, there was a time when she hadn’t even considered becoming a solicitor.

“I was born and grew up in Surrey, went to the Tweedale Primary School and was the only girl in my year to get into grammar school (Wallington High School). I then headed off to Leicester University to do a BA in English,” Wendy said.

“After leaving the classroom, I joined NatWest as a manager’s assistant on its graduate management programme. I did that job for a couple of years. Then one day, I got chatting to a solicitor and I quickly decided he had a more interesting life than me.”

Photo: Steve Smailes for Lincolnshire Business

Photo: Steve Smailes for Lincolnshire Business

Very shortly afterwards, Wendy enrolled on a two-year course of study at Guildford Law College. Aiming high from the outset, she went on to land a job with legal giant Clifford Chance when it was based next door to London’s Barbican Centre (it is now at Canary Wharf).

“I remember the day I joined them as a trainee. It was a jaw-dropping moment. Not only were their offices plush, they came complete with a gym and a swimming pool. The firm’s clients also included really interesting top flight corporates,” said Wendy.

After four years, she left Clifford Chance having specialised in banking law (banking always seems to be lurking in the background) and becoming an Associate. “I moved on to a niche firm in the City, having been headhunted for a job which involved doing property and insurance work,” she said.

It was around this time that Pompeo, who lived in Hampshire and who she had met at Leicester University, tracked her down. So she moved from Surrey to join him and take up another job, nearer to her new home.

Their son, Sebastian, who is studying at Leeds University, was born in 1996 and daughter Demelza – a pupil at The Priory Academy LSST – followed in 2002. “Demelza’s arrival practically coincided with Pompeo’s decision to take up a job in the Midlands, working away during the week,” said Wendy.

“After maternity leave, I joined a South Lincolnshire firm, where I became increasingly involved in agricultural matters. I then moved to a Lincoln practice where I did my Fellowship in Agricultural Law. Today, I’m proud to be of one only 100 or so Fellows across the UK.”

Photo: Steve Smailes for Lincolnshire Business

Photo: Steve Smailes for Lincolnshire Business

Opportunity soon knocked again, when Wendy was headhunted by Sills & Betteridge, following the retirement of one of its partners. “The firm has 220 staff, 33 partners and eight offices and a good reputation. There was also the prospect of becoming a partner, so this move really was a no-brainer,” said Wendy.

She thrives on the intellectual demands of a job which comes with a diverse workload and the ongoing challenge of introducing the firm to potential new clients, but Wendy said not many women make long careers in the legal industry.

“Many young women join the profession, but they don’t often reach partnership level because they find the job doesn’t necessarily fit in with family life. I hardly know any women who qualified when I did who are still practising lawyers,” she said.

“I would love to see more women succeeding generally. That is why my friend Josephine Peacock and I started Angels Bring Business to encourage business women to meet more like-minded ladies. Our awards ceremony in March aims to celebrate those who have achieved success and also to inspire others to chase their dreams.”

I am passionate about the empowerment of women, who I feel often lack confidence and who still don’t have as many opportunities as men. Personally, I have always been ambitious, but it has never been about getting a Porsche, but more about being really professional and doing the best that you can.

Wendy also believes it’s never too late to change direction, having seen Pompeo move into the hospitality sector (before the children were born, he worked as an electronics engineer in geophysics). Pompeo and Eamonn (Hunt) hope to welcome diners to The (new) Bronze Pig, off Burton Road, at the end of December.

Among her many interests, Wendy also finds time to raise funds for an Indian orphanage, where she has “adopted” two children. She also donates regularly to Women for Women International (WfWI), which works to equip women in poorer parts of the world with the skills to allow them to climb out of the poverty trap.

Through WfWI, Wendy is currently acting as a “sister” to a young mother who is valiantly trying to improve her life in order to better provide for her six children.

This feature interview was first published in issue 10 of the Lincolnshire Business weekly magazine.