To be a Woman and to be Workplace Ready

For a man, the common mantra is “seize the day.” For a woman, the common mantra is “act accordingly.” The ideal woman projects grace and cooperation. She is to complement situations, not challenge them. She is to follow rules, not make them. Easy to smile and easy to laugh, she is to sidestep her wants and needs for the greater good. One must be assertive, firm, and steadfast to reach personal and professional objectives, however these traits are downplayed at the for fear of being rejected or unlikeable.

I remember my first day as a law clerk. It was standard protocol to listen and take notes during meetings. No one wanted to extend meetings longer than necessary. It was often the case that male colleagues would offer personal anecdotes to showcase their prowess. Reciting case law and legal trivia which was insignificant but the meeting would resume. Once in a while when a female colleague would chime in, an exception tacked on to her argument, a need to qualify her thoughts, when moments ago the male colleague spoke at great length about something completely irrelevant.

On other occasions, colleagues would be assigned to work on a case together. The male colleagues would be invited into partner’s office to discuss while female colleagues were hardly asked for their opinion. In an effort to appear equitable, they would distribute the workload but delegate important tasks to their male colleagues and keep interaction with women to a minimum. The same group of men would usually go to lunch or play golf on the weekends. It became evident that an exclusive club was emerging - in which the male group vouch for one another in conflict and discount concerns contrary to the pack.

In essence, the situation is tribal. The likeminded naturally vouch for one another. However. In context, it is exclusionary because one particular group becomes elevated at the cost of another, and such proclivity leads to one-sided opportunities.

When confronted with such inequity, a reliable litmus test is to compare treatment to a similarly situated person. “What about the guy who started at the same time as I did or how about the other guy who has the same title yet got assigned a more significant role." 

The purpose is to be more self-aware, conscious, and negotiate the given situation.

The rhetorical question arises: how do we accomplish this? 

Ms. JD which does an incredible job bringing together women lawyers to share ideas and personal experiences. Through its existing partnership with NWLSO, Ms. JD can further its mission by providing workshops and programs to young budding lawyers. These programs can train women how to navigate, negotiate, and market themselves, placing special emphasis on developing a professional persona. Skill sets such as public speaking, networking, role-playing, salary negotiating, and other soft power skills should be encouraged. Programs would be held in conjunction with their clerkship to allow students to apply what they have learned to real world settings.

In addition, a mentorship can be established to form relationships between young and seasoned female attorneys. The program can serve as a guidepost for young lawyers seeking advice and support. Mentors can expound on personal experiences and counsel on career choice, professional advancement, and familiar workplace situations. 

By creating interactive workshops, programs can advance opportunities for women on a micro-level. It is common knowledge that law schools do not adequately prepare students for the real world. Legal theory rarely translates into practical competence. However with the right strategy and programs in place, young female lawyers can challenge existing standards and set a path toward a New Normal. 


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