As I stated in last week’s blog, I hope many of you were able to hear at least some of the three-day World Forum for Women in the Law virtual program that was produced by the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession and offered at the end of January. It was a very valuable program, and I am using this blog to bring some highlights of that conference to you over the next few weeks. I appreciate how busy you are, and I do not want you to miss out on the information and advice.
One of my favorite parts of the program was an interview of Valerie Jarrett, former Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama and current distinguished Senior Fellow, The University of Chicago School of Law. Her candid discussion of her experience with The Imposter Syndrome hit so very close to home for me and I know for many women attorneys. As she discussed her self doubt about her qualifications and capabilities to be a student at Stanford Law, I reflected on my own experiences years earlier as a student at Georgetown Law. Most accomplished women will own up to feelings of insecurity, unworthiness and the reality that, in the words of Valerie Jarrett, they “never have been offered a job they felt qualified for.” At least not a job that was serious enough to impact their lives and validate or change their futures, I think.
Rather, Ms. Jarrett said that we have to get outside our comfort zones and “trust the adventure of life and go for our dreams.” She recommended using our powers of resilience to allow ourselves to become better with time. “Pivoting is OK. You have to be flexible and recognize that, when the perfect plan fails, is when the adventure begins.”
Responding to a question about whether women are making progress, Ms. Jarrett implored all organizations to look at the level of diversity represented at management tables where questions of compensation and dignity are addressed. She encouraged them to ask the women and listen to them. She also urged law firms to influence their business clients on these issues to move the marker forward.
In making these remarks, Valerie Jarrett used these words: “It is hard to be what you cannot see.” Those words also are bedrocks of my writings and programs, and they are at the heart of diversity and mentorship objectives. Ms. Jarrett also emphasized the value of mentors, the imperative of fighting against implicit bias and on behalf of initiatives for equal pay, paid sick leave, and affordable childcare.
Ms. Jarrett closed with an emphasis on building relationships, learning from mistakes and this salient advice: “Don’t be a spectator in your life. Own your life and your decisions.”
Advice does not get much better than that. I hope you “go to school” on it.
For more, check out the ABA’s description of the Valerie Jarrett interview and other interviews at this link.