Keily Blair - helping to break 600 glass ceilings

Keily Blair ‘03 studied Law and Politics at Oxford Brookes before embarking on her career as an investigative lawyer. In 2015, Keily founded Fractio Vitri (FV) – “Breaking the glass ceiling”. This inclusive network for women in the early to middle stages of their careers now has over 600 members.

Keily Blair

“At Brookes, I was President of the Law Society which was fantastic – it gave me lots of confidence and experience of planning events. This really equipped me for setting up FV.”

Another thing Keily learnt at Brookes was the importance of hard work.

“I remember one of my first lectures. The lecturer said to us, ‘look at the person to the right of you, look at the person to the left of you. Next year, there’s one who won’t be here. Don’t become that person by not taking your first year seriously.”

It was a stark warning for a classful of freshers who, in part, were expecting to have a good time in their first year before getting onto the main substance of their course in subsequent years. But it was one Keily took on board.

“It tipped me back a little but it was sensible advice. And actually, later on, when it came to applying for training contracts (placements undertaken by trainee solicitors), people were looking at my first year grades. So it was really important.”

After Brookes

Keily studied hard and, by the time she left Brookes, had already lined up her next career step – to complete a Legal Practice Course (LPC). But first she took a year out.

“After graduation, I worked for a bit to earn some money and then went travelling. I had applied to do a Master’s but after speaking to some of my tutors I realised I’d benefit from a having a year-off studying. To get a law degree you need to get good grades at A Level and then work hard for the degree, and to maintain that focus on study without a break would have been difficult. I also wanted to experience life a bit and return refreshed to do my LPC.”

Winning awards

Keily’s career as an investigative lawyer has included going to Washington DC to work with the FBI on a trans-Atlantic case, attending parliamentary select committees and in her current role working, as she puts it, “at the sharp-end of data privacy”. She has also been recognised by her fellow professionals – winning the 2015 Women in the City Future Leaders Award and the Inspirational Women in Law Award in 2016.

“One of the lessons I’ve learnt is to say ‘yes’ to things even when I’m a little bit scared. When someone wants to nominate you for something, say ‘yes, that’s very nice thank you!’

“Women especially can be reticent about entering awards or taking opportunities, we can think ‘maybe I haven’t got the skills, maybe I’ll look silly, I’m worried people will judge me.’ The thing to remember is that nobody is perfect. People we see as role-models are not perfect and the more you get close to them the more you realise their imperfections are part of what makes them great. Our vulnerabilities and failures are ultimately part of our success story.”

Giving back

She has earned the success but Keily is quick to give credit to colleagues and industry peers who have supported her along the way.

“I’ve worked with incredible teams and wonderful mentors who have helped and supported me through my career. And it’s important not to forget to give back. I’ve benefitted so much from people being good to me and helping me. You can’t underestimate how important it is to do that for other people.“

And by establishing Fractio Vitri, Keily is doing just that – hosting networking events, providing interactive skills seminars and creating a community that enables the sharing of ideas between young, professional women in the City.

Keily is Director (Solicitor) Data Protection Strategy, Legal and Compliance Services at PwC