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Following in the Footsteps of Trailblazers and Serving as Role Models Today for the Next Generation of Women
Wednesday, April 17, 2024

When I was growing up, there were only a few visible career choices for women and even fewer high-profile role models. The traditional roles for women outside of being a homemaker and mother (which are truly admirable and hard-working jobs) often included being a teacher, a highly visible profession for women. Being a teacher is a commendable and (sadly) generally unappreciated profession, but it simply was not for me. Women had other professional options, like being in the medical profession as a nurse or doctor, but unfortunately, I hated needles, so I ruled them out quickly.

My mother was a travel agent, and after watching her suffer through that challenging profession, I quickly crossed that one off the list. Before I was born and through my early years, my mother was also a clothing buyer for a department store, which appealed to me more, particularly given my life-long love for clothes and fashion. However, in the end, I would have needed to be sufficiently passionate about retail sales to take the plunge, and I was not.

Following in the Family Business

My father, grandfather, and several relatives were highly accomplished lawyers, making going into the law field a no-brainer. Beyond the considerable influence of my dad, the thing that inspired me to pursue the law was seeing the success of two women who were his law partners. These two high-powered, well-known female attorneys made a lasting impression on me. One played a pivotal role in drafting the equitable distribution statute for the State of New York, which governs the division of assets in the event of a divorce. These trailblazers showed that women could make a difference in this profession and succeed. Their accomplishments resonated with my desire to make a difference, open doors for women, and bring the highest ethical standards to my work.

Admittedly, being a woman in the legal profession was not easy. In fact, to this day, it is still challenging. It was not uncommon back in the early days of my career to run into outright misogyny. Some men were quite contemptuous of women and did little to hide their disdain. In many instances, clients, other lawyers, and even judges prioritized men’s opinions over women’s. As you can surmise, that did not go over well with me. Whoever is the wisest is the one who should be listened to.

Thankfully, things have gotten better for women as time has gone on. The workplace is generally more equitable thanks to the many women who have fought tooth and nail for a level playing field. But let’s not kid ourselves. The world is still a challenging place for women in lots of ways. As luck would have it, I have chosen an aspect of the law where women have been respected. For many, divorce lawyers are viewed as a woman’s profession. That said, when I came up the ranks, most well-respected divorce lawyers were men. The LA community had only two prominent female attorneys—the rest were men. Today, I think we have more women in my community who are respected as top divorce lawyers, showing our progress. That progress was certainly hard fought but well deserved.

The Uphill Battle for Women Continues

I am often asked the question, “Have I ever felt uncomfortable, unheard, or, worse, discriminated against as a woman?” The answer is yes. It happens all the time. Any successful woman will share similar experiences because that is simply the way of the world. While things have improved significantly over the years, it is still an uphill battle to be treated equally.

I have learned from the brave and pioneering women who came before me to keep forging ahead. My generation was built on the hard work of those women. We do it for ourselves, our daughters, and the generations of women who choose to follow in our footsteps.

Many hurdles remain for women attorneys. We fight daily to be heard, treated with respect, compensated equally, and overcome overt and hidden bias. Yes, we have made great strides, but there is still work to be done. I believe that women operate differently than men, which is why we need both. Our society is better off when we have a diverse mix of opinions.

Some have said, “The world would be better and kinder if only women were in charge.” I disagree with this notion. In the recent Barbie movie, the utopian society was run exclusively by women, with men in subservient roles. That’s not an actual utopian world. A true nirvana is a world where people are treated equally based on merit. So, I would have done the Barbie movie differently, although I did love all the pink.

A Message of Empowerment

Women’s History Month has drawn a close, but empowering women is an evergreen topic. I will close with a few of my favorite mentoring tips:

  • Just keep moving forward. Push. Lean in. Find what drives you and follow that passionately. Be willing to fail—mistakes are just mistakes if you do nothing, but if you learn from them, you grow!
  • Help yourself and help others in similar situations, and make it easier for younger women than you. It’s a pay-it-forward message. I cannot tell you how much I learn when I mentor others. It’s truly a win-win.
  • Be yourself. Be feminine if that’s what you are. Understand your strengths and where you need to be vulnerable or seek support. Go with your strengths. Try to minimize your weaknesses. Surround yourself with people who are more intelligent than you.
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