By Maleaha Brown • March 03, 2016•Ms. JD, Conference, Ms. JD Weekly Roundup, Careers, Firms and the Private Sector, Legal Academia, Nonprofits and the Public Interest, Politics and Government, •Other Career Issues, Law School, Pre-Law, Choosing a Career and Landing a Job, Curriculum and Classroom Dynamics, Internships and Clerkships, Other Law School Issues, Issues, •Balancing Private and Professional Life, Mentoring and Networking, Sexism, Sexual Harassment, and Other Forms of Discrimination, Women and Law in the Media, Other Issues, Features, Superwomen JDs and What You Can Learn From Them
On February 19, 2016, I attended my first Ms. JD Conference as a Ms. JD Fellow. The eighth annual Ms. JD Conference at New York University School of Law offered a wonderful opportunity to network with inspirational attorneys, law students, and pre-law students. Additionally, I learned a wealth of information from the esteemed speakers, regarding topics such as intersectionality, social media presence, and the advancement of women in the profession. As I reflect on the Ms. JD Conference on Women in the Law: Superwomen JDs, there are five lessons that I would like to share.
1) Strike your superhero pose. We started the day hearing from Ms. JD’s immediate past President, Katie Larkin-Wong, and incoming President, Raychelle Tasher. They spoke about the individual super powers that everyone possesses, and then we all had the opportunity to strike our own #SuperwomenJD power pose. During the mindfulness panel, Gail J. Cummings noted that women lawyers tend to struggle with self-doubt, illustrated in times when we downplay our abilities, undervalue ourselves, and discount our successes. She encouraged us to shift our way of thinking out of self-doubt by practicing mindful power posing, which boosts confidence and prepares you to let your superpowers shine.
“Our body language has an impact on our confidence. Have a power pose and use it daily to project confidence.” – Gail J. Cummings
2) Embrace intersectionality. The first panel and small-group discussion of the day focused on an important topic, intersectionality. The panelists shared their experiences dealing with law school professors, law firm partners, and colleagues who were unaware about how intersectionality affected the lives of minority women. Afterwards, my small-group facilitator and a Ms. JD Fellow, Julie Alarcón, outlined the steps that she has taken to start a conversation about intersectionality at UC Hastings College of Law through founding the Women of Color Initiative. Later in the day, we heard from Anna Maria Chávez, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA, during the keynote conversation. She discussed, among other things, how she remains authentic to herself through a career path defined by public service and social engagement.
“How can intersectionality not impact your life? You can’t separate your life like that.” – Anna Maria Chávez
3) Be your authentic self on social media while remaining professional. The second panel that I attended at the eighth annual Ms. JD Conference focused on networking and branding. One of the panelists, Paula Edgar, informed us that we are always building our brand, even if we are not thinking about it. She challenged us to consider our online presence and what it may say about us, stating that what is online makes the argument for you when you cannot make a counter argument. Another panelist, John Lim, echoed Paula’s advice with encouragement to take control of our digital brand by sharing our personality with the world, while being conscious that what is put on social media will follow you.
“If you’re creating content, let your personality shine. People connect with personality.” – John Lim
4) Lift as you climb. A theme that continued to come up throughout the conference was mentorship, a relationship that Ms. JD values and promotes through programs such as the Ms. JD Fellowship. A Ms. JD Fellow, Amber Mason, spoke about the importance of an organic mentorship relationship during the break-out session about finding and building your superpowers in law school. Additionally, the panelists in the private practice break-out session discussed the significance of having a mentor because even #SuperwomenJDs need guidance in order to develop their careers. During the keynote conversation, Anna Maria Chávez asked a critical question: What are you doing in your free time to help girls? She then urged us to always mentor younger girls and to support them in their passions.
“Be a connector. Use your network not only for yourself but other people as well” – Ingrid Busson-Hall
5) It’s not only about women supporting women, but it’s also about men supporting women. Another reoccurring topic at the Ms. JD Conference was the necessity of men to advocate for women. The consensus was that women are generally aware of the inequalities that we face, so it’s imperative that our male counterparts understand our need for equal opportunity as well. The keynote speaker, Anna Maria Chávez, mentioned that her husband is one of the biggest feminist that she knows! In order to celebrate men who value equality and diversity in the legal profession and who support women and women’s initiatives, Ms. JD awards one honoree a year with The Incredible Men Initiative Award. This year’s honoree, Joseph K. West, proudly accepted the award, while noting the importance of organizations, like Ms. JD, that identify many of the barriers women still face in their careers.
“The role of men is to act as co-counsel and zealous advocate for the rights of women.” – Joseph K. West
I thoroughly enjoyed the eighth annual Ms. JD Conference on Women in the Law: Superwomen JDs, and left with many lessons that I plan to utilize and share. I am already looking forward to the ninth annual Ms. JD Conference in Chicago! Lastly, as my Ms. JD Fellowship comes to an end, I encourage 2L women to apply for the 2016 Fellowship. Through the Fellowship, law students have the opportunity to attend the Ms. JD Conference and network with other law students and legal professionals. Moreover, Ms. JD helps to foster lasting relationships between the Fellows and #SuperwomenJDs! Information about the 2016 Fellowship can be found here.
*Maleaha Brown is a 2015 Ms. JD Fellow and a third-year student at Howard University School of Law.