Leave the Ladder Down

In recent years, my interest in women’s issues in the workplace has increased.  My connections with other moms, female professionals, and even women I’ve never met but who offer a new perspective, has kept me going through the pandemic.  I’ve always considered myself an independent and motivated person, but like many female professionals, I’ve experienced rough patches and roadblocks throughout my career.  In reflecting on some of my own struggles, as well as those of my colleagues, I have gained a heightened awareness that many of the uncomfortable and demoralizing interactions experienced by women are perpetuated by other women.  Now, I’m not here to point fingers.  We each play a role in our own stories.  However, what if we each stop and take a minute to truly evaluate what we are doing to help other women succeed in their careers and stop being our own worst enemies?  What if we leave the ladder down for our female colleagues and those who will follow?

I have heard women say, “I had to do it, so will she” as if fighting for a seat at the table is a badge of honor that only the most competitive women will attain.  But why compete?  Why make each woman start at the bottom when we have the ability to pull others up the ladder with us, even if it means allowing them to start ahead of where we were able to begin our careers?  Isn’t that what we want?  Isn’t the overall goal continued growth and success for women in the workplace?  Maybe we should begin by helping each other.  There are a number of little ways we can help each other succeed, but we have to make a conscious effort to start.

There are numerous studies that indicate women are far less likely to negotiate the terms of an offer, including salary, than men.  What if we encourage other women to negotiate more? What if we work with our firms or employers to push for equality in pay, equality in case and client assignments, equality in overall opportunities?  What if we truly advocate for each other?

Many female attorneys, and even male attorneys, discuss the importance of finding a mentor.  Having that one person in your corner to help steer you in the right direction, provide honest and valuable advice even when you don’t know you need it, and help coach you through your career, is incredibly important in the legal field.  But how many female mentors advocate for their female mentees and truly share the secrets to their own success?  If you are a rainmaker, are you sharing what has worked for you with your mentee, or are you holding on to that information for fear that your mentee may someday be your competition?  What if we were all confident in ourselves and our abilities and used that confidence to catapult our own careers and the women around us?

I recently saw the following statement on LinkedIn that spoke to me: “Surround yourself with women who would mention your name in a room full of opportunities.”  Such a simple statement that has the potential to create a cascading effect.  If you see or hear of a position or know of a position within your own firm or company and you know a woman who would be a good fit- TELL HER.  For that matter, tell your firm or company about the person and ask them to reach out.  For those leaving private practice to take in-house roles that utilize outside counsel, are you advocating for more female attorneys to represent the companies for which you work?  Are you advising women seeking the opportunity to represent your company about the criteria for becoming approved counsel?

Why don’t we help each other more?  Are we insecure?  Are we afraid there is an unknown quota of women meant to succeed, and once hit, the rest of us will be unable?  Are we fearful that others may outshine us?  Do we truly not recognize that we are sometimes a hindrance to women around us rather than part of their support system?  

Women have made tremendous strides in the legal field, but imagine how much further we can go if we truly are leaving the ladder down.  Be a cheerleader.  Be an advocate.  Be a woman other women look up to.  There is room at the top for us all.







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