Tahanie Aboushi

The Expectations Game

As a woman, the most important expectations to fill are my own. I vow to never compare myself to a man and to never make him my standard.

As a child my parents always told me there was nothing I could not do. They also told me to never let anyone say or convince me I could not do something. More importantly, I was taught to always look for a challenge and never take the easy way out. Being a woman has become synonymous with challenge. As a woman entering the legal profession I am a reflection of our entire race, as each woman is. With every success and failure of mine, it speaks to the abilities of women. Having completed my first year of law school and participated in the race for employment, I can now say that being a woman plays a huge role in what kinds of jobs we get and how we are treated. I have not been treated negatively because I am a woman but I have been underestimated.

In a field dominated by men, women have pioneered the areas of civil rights, family law and international relations. As women, we have a natural tendency to care for others' injustice. We have broadened the legal profession to include impunities of the world while working towards a solution for domestic violence and children's rights. So when a male-dominant firm looks down at our gender it seems they have forgotten who helped raise them. What I have realized is that being a woman is anything but a limitation. The skepticism of employers and the real world have made us more determined, diligent and confident. We are at work earlier, leave later and put out better quality work. We are not afraid of the unknown, the unfamiliar or the competition.

As women we have assumed the roles of breadwinners while maintaining our roles as mothers. Men have always focused on providing for their family and now, as women take on that responsibility, they are booted out of their kingdom. Women are the surprise men do not see coming. As we advance in the legal field we change the world's old-fashioned notion of women in the kitchen. We are also role models for our children and young children everywhere. As children observe our routine while at work and at home, it shows them that women are equal to men. This changes the standard of society from gender to true talent and ability.

Sadly, I cannot say that men have wholly accepted women as their equals in the fight against injustice. However, some have embraced our gender for our skill. I will never forget one attorney's reaction when he saw me at the office. He said, "Her? She is the one who does mock trial and won the award? Wow, I would have never guessed." As I overheard this, I was disappointed in realizing that as women, we have a long way to go until full credit can be given to our work.

I have experienced some skepticism on my trial team when the males would always jump to cross-examine the defendant. Although cross-examination is adversarial in nature and requires control of the situation, it also requires wit and composure. A deep voice and sarcasm can only go so far before the defendant walks because his/her testimony has led to nothing. My greatest accomplishment was perfecting my technique for cross-examination as well as my closings. When it was time to present, the coaches as well as my teammates were surprised and so was I. I was surprised that they would actually underestimate me. I wondered why they assumed my performance would be mediocre and set their expectations of me, if any, so low.

I then realized that as a woman, the most important expectations to fill are my own. I vowed to never compare myself to a man and to never make him my standard. Once I overcame that hurdle and received an award for outstanding attorney, I silently raised the team's standard. Not for female team members but for all the members--present and future. I was often disappointed to hear women succumb to a male's overconfident opinion of their abilities. We are Judges, Lawyers, Legislatures, Secretaries of State, Heads of the House, Partners at leading law firms and Deans at law schools. We are clearly capable--not to do a man's job but to do any job.

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