“Ambition beats genius 99 percent of the time.”
“Ambition beats genius 99 percent of the time.”
You heard it from President Obama in his State of the Union speech last week, and it is not good news. The cost of childcare for one child in 31 states is comparable to the costs of tuition to send that same child to college. This is shocking, and it can serious affect how women lawyers view their career options.
We do not have subsidized childcare in this country. We also do not have equal pay, mandatory paid maternity leave, and now Congress is playing around with abortion rights again. This is serious stuff, and all young women need to think about it. It’s not yesterday’s news. There is still a lot to be accomplished to improve the professional and personal lives of women, and women lawyers are no exception. There is just too much evidence that women and the value of the work that women do are still undervalued in our society.
So, I think about these things when I review the messages that I have been sending to young women lawyers for years through my books, my blogs, and my speeches. I have been a fierce advocate for the “on ramp” choice for women lawyers and the value of staying in the profession one way or another to protect future options. Although I do recognize that there are some circumstances where that it just impossible, I advocate for it under most circumstances. And I have joined forces as an advisor for the OnRamp Fellowship to further that message.
I will keep advocating for women to stay in the profession because I know it is good advice and in their best interests. As pointed out in Petula Dvorak’s recent column in the Washington Post, “The mommy-track penalty ends up with huge, long-term costs. Two years off usually means a complete career rebuild. One year away from some highly-skilled jobs is like a 10-year hiatus.” However, if women are losing money going to work because of the high costs of child care, that is a serious issue.
As President Obama said in his speech last week, “It’s time we stop treating child care as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority it is for all of us.” I agree.
Think about it. Advocate for it. It is hugely important to your future.
Last week we witnessed an epic event. Two women led the US-Cuban negotiations in Havana. We have seen women, like Former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Hillary Clinton on the world stage as negotiators many times before, and Angela Merkel of Germany and other women heads of state around the world have done their fair share of negotiating at very high levels, but seeing both sides represented by women is very significant, as evidenced by the press coverage last week.
Women make excellent negotiators. Women lawyers may make even better negotiators. Certainly, Hillary Clinton is one, and she did a pretty good job by all accounts. Although neither US Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson (negotiating on behalf of the US in Cuba) or her counterpart at Cuba’s Foreign Ministry, Josefina Vidal (negotiating on behalf of Cuba) are lawyers by education, Ms. Jacobson comes pretty close. She holds a Masters of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School, and it has served her well in her climb up the ladder of success at the US State Department.
Negotiation and diplomacy can be an interesting and rewarding career path for women lawyers. Here are some valuable tips on negotiating from Womaneer, with a little of my own commentary thrown in for good measure. I also address this subject in my new book, Best Friends at the Bar: Top-Down Leadership for Women Lawyers, which will be released later this year.
“Nine Negotiating Tips for Women”:
1. Leave emotions out of it. Negotiating in the workplace is business. Treat it like business.
2. Control your nerves. Breathe deeply, yoga style.
3. Ignore the whiny voice in your ear—your inner critic. Just get the job done.
4. Don’t take it personally. A rejection in price or terms is not a rejection of YOU and all you stand for. Again, it is business, and you should treat it like business.
5. Pretend you are negotiating on behalf of someone else. This is particularly important in personal negotiations like salary and benefit terms. Pretend you are asking for something for your beloved grandma. That should make you go for the jugular.
6. Act like an adult. Don’t fall apart when you do not get what you want. Prepare better for the next negotiation.
7. Don’t be apologetic. Be firm and pleasant and confident.
8. Be assertive, not aggressive. There is a big difference. Keep your voice matter of fact and do not lapse into belligerence.
9. Value yourself. Put a true value on your contribution when you are negotiation for yourself, and be prepared to walk away if you do not get it. That is the test of true value—anything less is untrue and unacceptable, and you must treat it that way.
10. Be prepared. This is my addition to the list. In all things, be prepared. That means anticipating your response to both the positive and the negative. Practice. It makes perfect.
These are excellent tips, and it is important that you remember them as you continually hone your negotiation skills. They will come in handy when you are negotiating on behalf of clients and also when you are negotiating on your own behalf — for things like salary, benefits and opportunities.
And, last but certainly not least, being a skilled negotiator also comes in handy in your personal life! (Which movie would YOU like to see this weekend????)
“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”
Robert F. Kennedy
“Perhaps the secret of living well is not in having all the answers but in pursuing unanswerable questions in good company.”
Rachel Naomi Remen
This week I am thinking about Davos, Switzerland. Not because of the spectacular mountain views or the apres ski … but because of my professional women friends, especially you young women lawyers.
As you may know, Davos is the home of the annual World Economic Forum, and the 2015 conference is underway as I write. Billionaires, CEOs, heads of state and others who breathe the same rarefied air have gathered to address global issues like cybersecurity, international trade, stabilizing international economies, global competitiveness and other such lofty subjects.
Why should you care? Because they frequently talk about issues affecting women that have nothing to do with cocktails and fondue. Yes, important subjects like whether women are ambitious enough for the business world.
That subject was addressed at the 2012 World Economic Forum when Sheryl Sandberg, the Facebook executive, stated that women in the western world lack ambition and that it is holding them back. She talked specifically about an “ambition gap” for women in business. You can read more about her remarks in one of my earlier blogs.
Maybe you just heard my inner scream! This is so far off the mark! Business women in America do not lack ambition. They lack time. There is a “time gap” not an ambition gap. A time gap for family caretaking, for other family support, for billing hours, for business travel, for developing new clients … and the list goes on. If you are one of those women, you know exactly what I mean. And, if you are not, you may be one day, so it is worth paying attention.
Women are not magicians. They cannot create more time. They cannot even create the illusion of more time. No David Copperfields here. Just women working hard to balance in the only way that fits them personally. And, they deserve more respect than a sound bite.
As I pointed out in the earlier blog, women are plenty ambitious in the middle of the night when they are working on the legal memo, fixing the kids’ brown bag lunches for the next day, doing laundry and performing sundry other tasks that did not fit into the daylight hours.
So, let’s hope that the “chit chat” in Davos produces some really helpful information for women this year. That would be nice.
“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.”
George Bernard Shaw
Here is an article that you MUST read. In fact, every woman should read this article. “7 Ways Women Can Lift Up, Not Tear Each Other Down” by established author Susan Skog is spot on when it comes to negative woman-to-woman behavior. Here is the link to the article at Huffington Post.com, and I hope you will share it and this blog generously among your women contacts. This is an area where we all need work.
Here’s how Huffington Post describes Susan Skog: Trained as a journalist, Susan Skog has advocated for and written about humanitarians and their projects for more than 20 years. The author of six nonfiction books, her work has also appeared in many leading magazines and newspapers including The New York Times, Newsday, AARP, Family Circle, Prevention, and many other leading publications. Her books include, The Give-Back Solution: Create a Better World with Your Time, Talents, and Travel, and Peace in our Lifetime, and Embracing Our Essence: Spiritual Conversations with Prominent Women. As a communications leader and consultant, Skog has supported the efforts of more than 30 organizations easing extreme poverty in the developing world.
Pretty impressive. Susan Skog is working on a new book about women bullying women, and I can’t wait to read it. She interviewed me for the book, and I am delighted to join her in this effort. Women helping women is one of the keystones of the Best Friends at the Bar project, and I write and speak about it often. Regrettably, I continue to see too much competition among women and a reluctance to support each other in our profession, and I hope that books like Susan Skog’s will help to make the case for better behavior and improved cooperation.
Here is a summary of the ways women can lift up, not tear each other down, according to Susan Skog:
All of us can relate to this. All of us have had moments when we know we have “crossed the line” and targeted another woman with our own bad behavior or unkind words. ‘Fess up. You know I am right about this. Unfortunately, it has become accepted as “typical female behavior,” and it is time to change that. Simply stated, and quoting Susan Skog, “We are better than this.”
Be part of the solution and not part of the problem. Start today!