This story originally appeared in the September edition of MReport, out now.
“I am woman hear me roar in numbers too big to ignore!” – Helen Reddy, Singer and Activist
I remember loudly singing this 1970s iconic song with my teenage friends. We memorized every single word of Helen Reddy’s lyrics, which inspired us to be strong and invincible. Today, listening to the song again, the words continue to ring true encouraging women they are powerful. Staying strong and invincible in our industry today takes many important qualities.
“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It's about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” – Brené Brown, Professor, Lecturer, and Author
Early in my practice when I asked the managing partner of the Detroit firm where I was employed to give me advice as a beginning associate, he said, “Be yourself. Don’t try to be the image of what you think a lawyer should be, become a lawyer with your unique characteristics.” As a young lawyer, his advice gave me a sense of freedom to explore the job with a new attitude of being myself and becoming an attorney with my personality, not trying to mold myself into what others thought an attorney should be. I had no role models when I started practicing law, I did not personally know another experienced female attorney. There were no other female attorneys in my firm at the time and many times I was the only female attorney in the courtroom. Times have changed, and there are many female role models in our industry. The lessons learned from being my authentic self helped me to truly enjoy my work and industry. Bringing the true “you” to the job helps inspire those around you to do the same.
“The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.” – Harvey S. Firestone, American Businessman and Founder of Firestone Tire and Rubber Company
Empowering others motivates them to do their best and encourages them to be creative within their position. I encourage team members to teach and train others leading to the growth of the whole group. Whether it is improving processes, organizing volunteer events, writing articles, speaking at industry events or participating in webinars; the entire team benefits from lifting others up to do their best. Empowering women in the industry by mentoring is a passion of mine. It is a privilege to meet with another woman to share industry concerns, to her help gain a greater understanding of the industry, to encourage her to attend industry events, and to help her grow as a professional. To empower the next generation of female professionals in the industry by helping to instill confidence and inspiration is a pleasure.
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” – Helen Keller, Author, Political Activist, and Lecturer
Each year I think of something I have not done in the industry and I give it a try. Early on, I would volunteer to take the new litigated issues, an issue no one in our firm had previously handled. This would give me the opportunity to research the issue and deepen my knowledge of the law. I continued risk taking by volunteering to be a public speaker at client training, industry events, and webinars. Public speaking is the number one fear of most people, including me. Pushing myself to go outside my comfort zone made room for adventure and growth. Now, I enjoy public speaking, welcoming the opportunity to share. Last year, I ran to be a member of the Advisory Board for Legal League 100. It was the first time I ran for a board position in any organization. I was elected to the board and enjoy working together with the other members for the benefit of the industry. Women in our industry have unprecedented opportunity to be involved, be willing to take the first step.
Women today need to be courageous and be able to successfully navigate uncertainty in a constantly shifting environment. As the Helen Reedy lyrics continue, “You can bend but never break me 'cause it only serves to make me, more determined to achieve my final goal.” Let’s be willing to use our strengths and skills to make a positive impact on our communities, co-workers, and our industry.