More about Women Lawyers and the Discussion with Nancy Pelosi

You saw my blog entry two days ago, and you see that I think that times have changed for women in the workforce.  This is no surprise because most people would agree that times have changed, save perhaps the Rip Van Winkles of the world who have been sleeping it off for more than just a little while.

Times have definitely changed, but what is the solution?  Is it the solution offered up in the Huffington Post article “Why Today’s Mother’s Can’t Follow in Pelosi’s Footsteps”–namely a solution by Federal Government like that suggested by Nancy Pelosi for childcare options?  “We have to train for it, and pay for it, and have national standards for it” according to Ms. Pelosi.

Even the Huffington Post does not believe that.  As stated in the article, “So yes, policy and legislation can nudge bits of this problem, but can these truly address the whole?  Not likely.”  The article goes on to say that  the workplace has to change in terms of the cultural expectations and that the home front must change as well with both sexes participating in the responsibilities of home and family.  Only this shift in social norms will make the real difference, according to the Huffington Post.

So, what does that mean?  Does it mean that you as Gen Y young women lawyers should hold your breath until the workplace and the home front change?  Hardly.  You may be waiting a long time.

If you have read my book, Best Friends at the Bar:  What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law or heard my speeches, you know that I believe in getting active on these issues immediately.  In fact, it is never too soon.  Make a plan—one that is flexible enough to respond to changed circumstances, get comfortable with your personal definition of success, engage the players that will make a difference, and forge ahead.  You have all the resources you need to get started, and now is the time to get in gear.

Will you have to put your ultimate career goals on the back burner for awhile?  Likely you will.  Will you experience disappointment at your lack of upward mobility for awhile?  Likely you will.  Will you stay in the game to return with more determination and energy at a later time when the work-life struggles ease.  Likely you will.

So, let’s not get complacent and wait for someone else to serve us up a solution.  Get active in crafting your own plan—one that works for you and for your family and that is a positive step toward ultimate career satisfaction.  One thing is for sure. With the right amount of attention and the right dedication, you CAN do it.  That much I know for sure.

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Thought For The Day

Never stop believing in yourself.  You are your own brand.  Believe in it and sell it.  You cannot expect others to believe in you unless you believe in yourself.

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Do Women Lawyers Today Have It Harder Than Past Generations?

I encourage you to read the article in the on-line Huffington Post titled “Why Today’s Mother’s Can’t Follow in Pelosi’s Footsteps”.  It is interesting to note that during the discussion with reporters recently while Nancy Pelosi was responding to questions about how she had five children and went on to be the Speaker of the House of Representatives, it was her daughter who interrupted to point out that Ms. Pelosi was a stay-at-home mom for most of the years when her children were young.  In fact, as pointed out by her daughter, Ms. Pelosi did not run for public office until her youngest child was out of high school.

Ms. Pelosi’s response was very telling, “I don’t have any ideal of how people have kids and jobs,” she stated, making it clear that she did not face that challenge and dilemma.  So what does that mean for the current generation of women lawyers? CONTINUE READING >

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Thought For The Day

The tragedy of the sex scandal at Penn State University should have taught us all something.  Be responsible for yourself.  Do the right thing, even if the law does not compel you to do it.  Be a virtuous human being.

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More Taking Risks—With a Feminine Twist

Here’s an interesting article from the Texas Lawyer web site titled “Pretty Power:  Don’t Hate Me Because I-m Beautiful”.  The author, Melisa Dubose makes some interesting observations about how far a woman professional can go in using her positive female attributes to her advantage.  Sit back and enjoy, but especially remember the message at the end of the article.  Femininity will never trump competence.  However, a combination of both may be the winning ticket.

Below is the article by Melissa DuBose for your reading pleasure.

Pretty Power: Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Beautiful

Melissa DuBose All Articles

Texas Lawyer

October 31, 2011

Femininity: It’s a calculated risk that pays off in today’s legal market.

Some women lawyers watched Elle Woods from “Legally Blonde” and admired her approach, while others thought she was a complete moron. Sure, it’s just a movie, but art imitates life. Everyone has seen a pretty girl waltz in to a room or a job and get things handed to her on a silver platter. Elle, a modern day Hollywood example of femininity in the legal field, wasn’t just pretty; she was pretty damn smart, too.

There’s nothing wrong with using feminine attributes to get ahead in life. Hiding what women so obviously are — feminine — wastes energy. Attempting to stifle such an obvious fact in the workplace to somehow empower women seems illogical. Wielding femininity involves a calculated risk, but there is more to gain from accessing the power of feminine qualities than from suppressing that power.

It’s no secret that males dominate the legal profession. According to State Bar of Texas website statistics for 2011, men account for 67 percent of the attorneys licensed in Texas. Perhaps the anti-femininity crowd feels women should hide their femininity to gain access to the boys club. News flash: Most men find themselves attracted to women and enjoy their company. Men don’t want to spend all their time with other guys or with women acting and dressing like men.

I’ve heard countless men complain about female lawyers playing the tough, masculine role, trying to earn respect from male attorneys, when all it earns them is a reputation for difficult dealings. Some judicious use of girly power goes a long way when trying to get hired, negotiate a deal or snag a new client. For those arguing it’s inappropriate for a woman to get ahead this way, I say: Wake up and smell the coffee. Men often get ahead using masculinity: scotch or cigar with the boss, sports talk or a round of golf.

Femininity means something different for everyone. Some women are girlier than others. I propose that women be authentic. Let femininity shine through and see where it leads. Wear adorable pink suits. Rock those Jimmy Choos with 6-inch heels. Raise that hemline above the knee. Strut down the hallway. Freely engage in delightful conversation with male co-workers. Bat eyelashes. Giggle. Flash those pearly whites.

Everything in moderation, of course. Women lawyers should wear what makes them feel good. Being authentic helps women to utilize their emerging confidence to get ahead at work and in life.

Femininity empowers women, and the studies prove it. According to a July 19, 2010, article in Newsweek , attractive women make 4 percent more than unattractive women. So, pump up the pretty! Some women are born attractive, and others have to work at it. Putting effort into pretty pays off. Fix your hair, put on some lip gloss, and for heaven’s sake, mascara is a must.

Wardrobe matters, too. Sixty-one percent of managers surveyed by Newsweek for another July 2010 article said it’s advantageous for a woman to wear clothing showing off her figure at work. Dump the frumpy turtlenecks and comfy-casual slacks, opting instead for something stylish and fitted.

Appearance is only one aspect of femininity. The killer combo is a smart, attractive woman with a sparkling personality. Catherine Hakim, a sociologist at the London School of Economics and author of “Erotic Capital: The Power of Attraction in the Boardroom and the Bedroom,” refers to this concept as “erotic capital” or “honey money,” which combines good looks and social intelligence, i.e., personality and the ability to relate to others. According to Hakim, using “erotic capital” can boost earnings by 10 percent to 15 percent.

It’s hard to deny that a smart, good-looking woman with a sparkling personality has things easier in life — opened doors, free admission to the corridors of power, opportunities galore. Everyone knows it, and some can’t help but hate such women for it. While not everyone can be a beauty queen, each woman can embrace her feminine charm, which is apparently half the equation.

Inevitable drawbacks come with challenging the status quo. How dare women lawyers go against what the career counselors in law school said? “Wear navy blue and black, hosiery and 2-inch heels with conservative accessories.” We dare to do so, because dressing like that is boring. Dooming a gal to that wardrobe until retirement is likely to send her into a state of depression.

Female lawyers of today face a conundrum. Do we wield our femininity into actual financial gain but risk being dubbed a bimbo by those who disapprove of women who violate the commandment not to draw attention to our awesome female power? What’s a girl to do?

It’s a calculated risk. Lawyers who have the intellect to back it up should flaunt their femininity. People who underestimate a smart, beautiful woman will regret it. Let them talk and be outsmarted. Their misjudgment will be to their disadvantage.

Never, however, should women make the mistake of thinking femininity is enough. Good looks and personality grease the wheels of life, making the ride smoother; sometimes they help a gal get to her destination more quickly, and they certainly can make life more fun. But, at the end of the day, every woman lawyer has to do the work — otherwise the bimbo label will stick.

While a woman lawyer who chooses to embrace her femininity may endure the short-term pain of colleagues believing she’s a subpar professional, her smarts will vindicate her over time. Soon, a fearlessly feminine woman will enjoy the long-term gain of being able to be herself at work, in addition to being respected for who she truly is: an empowered female attorney.

As for the women who still can’t help but hate her for it, they’re in the minority. No good lawyer can make everyone happy all the time. That’s why each woman must pick the route that makes her happy. Let the naysayers keep on saying “nay,” because femininity is here to stay.

Melissa DuBose is a solo practitioner focusing exclusively on criminal defense in Dallas and the surrounding counties.

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Thought For The Day

Too much analysis creates paralysis.  Make a plan and know that it must be flexible enough to respond to changed circumstances.  Waiting for everything to fall perfectly into place will result in inaction and regret.

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Women Helping Women—or NOT????????

Barbara Apple Sullivan has written an interesting article for Forbes on line  (October 28, 2011) about women as risk takers—or, more accurately, the reluctance of women as risk takers.   The article titled “Women and Rule Breaking:  Why It’s Essential for Business Success” begins with Ms. Sullivan’s observations based on some unscientific research she did with expired food coupons.  Yes, you heard me right.  Read on. CONTINUE READING >

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Thought For the Day

Fail versus failure.  This is important to keep straight.  You can fail many times, but you are not a failure until you give up.

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