By Susan Smith Blakely • March 11, 2020•Issues, Balancing Private and Professional Life
I hope you remembered to celebrate International Women's Day, observed this year on March 8th. The day of observance commemorates the fundamentals of parity for women across the globe. The kind of equality that is like gravity. It cannot be denied.
International Women's Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and is a call to action. Many articles about the achievements of women, the continuing challenges for women, and the need for greater diversity are written each year at this time.
As women lawyers, we find ourselves keeping score. The exercise can be both energizing and defeating. I have seen considerable advances for women in my life as a lawyer, but we still have a long way to go toward parity and enjoying the leadership and practice opportunities we strive for in our profession.
We find solace in the fact that female entrepreneurship is on the rise and that women lawyers are willing to take the risks that are necessary to reach their goals. We celebrate the advances that women have made toward the goal of being authentic and building their own personal and professional brands. These are signs of empowerment, and they propel us forward.
But, even with that good news, we know that women continue to struggle throughout the world. Women in Africa fight against genital mutilation and for property rights. Women in Mexico and Brazil march and protest against gender violence, and women in Arab nations struggle to protect their citizenship and personal status. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much work yet to be done.
In that global context, here is some useful advice from a female lawyer in India. Her advice is simple and rings true. It also demonstrates how alike we are and the solidarity we enjoy.
When asked what her advice would be to a woman starting out in practice today, Madhavi Divan responded this way:
It is a competitive world and things are definitely harder for women, but I think things are getting better. [T]enacity is key. [O]ne of the things that they don’t teach you at law school is how your gender will impact your profession, and I certainly had no inkling of this. The challenges of juggling between career and a family is something which we as women need to talk about, and it is possible. I see a lot of women fall off the ladder and opt out of the profession just as they are beginning to blossom, and this need not happen if they are given correct guidance at the right time.
Importantly, I think we should stop feeling sorry for ourselves because we are women. Your merit must speak for itself. And for that to happen, you have just got to keep delivering every single time.
Interesting and practical advice. Read more here.
Happy reading! And happy International Women's Day. And, since March is Women's History Month, happy women's history also.
With all of the difficult news of the day, we need these opportunities for celebration to lift our spirits. And lift, we will. We are women!
Susan Smith Blakely is the Founder of LegalPerspectives LLC and an award-winning, nationally-recognized author, speaker and consultant on issues related to young women lawyers, young women law students and young women interested in careers in the law. She is author of Best Friends at the Bar: What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers 2009), and Best Friends at the Bar: The New Balance for Today's Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business 2012), which addresses the work-life struggle for women lawyers and includes twelve profiles of women who have successfully transitioned from one practice setting to another. Her third book in the series, Best Friends at the Bar: Top-Down Leadership for Women Lawyers, focuses on the responsibilities of law firm leaders and was released by Wolters Kluwer Law & Business in 2015.
Ms. Blakely’s new book for ALL young lawyers, What Millennial Lawyers Want: A Bridge from the Past to the Future of Law Practice, will be released by Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers in the summer of 2018.
Ms. Blakely frequently speaks at colleges and universities, law schools, law firms and law organizations, and she has been featured in media including Corporate Counsel Magazine, the ABA Journal, the LA Daily Journal, National Jurist, Washington Examiner Newspaper, Forbes Woman, Women Lawyers Journal (NAWL), DC Spotlight, Lawyerist.com, Daily Muse, Lawyer and Statesman, Law.com, Georgetown Law Magazine, Legal Toolkit Podcast, and Huffington Post Business. Ms. Blakely also is a frequent guest speaker and panelist at conferences on women's issues in business and the law profession, and she has been a featured speaker at the US Department of Justice, Civil Division. She is the recipient of the Ms. JD 2015 "Sharing Her Passion Award" and the Lawyer Monthly “Women in Law Award 2016” for her work on behalf of women in the law.
Ms. Blakely graduated from the University of Wisconsin with distinction and from Georgetown University Law Center where she was a teaching fellow. She is a member of the CoachSource global network of leadership coaches and is certified as a career coach for the Indiana University Marshall Goldsmith Leadership Development and Executive Coaching Academy. For more information, please visit www.bestfriendsatthebar.com.