In 2001, when I was teaching international law as a tenured professor at Harvard Law School, I was asked whether I would throw my cap in the ring to be President of the American Society of International Law, a prestigious honor for academics in my field. I demurred and immediately suggested a couple of other candidates instead.
Undeterred, my would-be backers came to me and asked me to reconsider. A few days later, my husband Andy and I were on a road trip for a weekend getaway. I brought up the issue, and Andy said: “I think you should put your name in. Why not?” I said I was not sure I would have the time, that I was not senior enough in the field (I was tenured in 1994), and basically that I felt awkward putting myself forward for such a prominent leadership position. Andy pushed back, outlining all the benefits of holding the position and comparing me favorably to other possible candidates. Over an hour or two, he convinced me to change my stance.
I went back to my friends and agreed to let them nominate me. I was voted in and served from 2002-2004, the second woman to ever hold the position.
While in the job, I oversaw the conclusion of a major fund drive and made a number of important changes. I simultaneously became Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton in the summer of 2002. Looking back, I realize that agreeing to take on the leadership of the American Society of International Law helped me think of myself as a leader not just within my organization (chairing committees, running programs), but also in more public positions. It changed the way I thought about my own identity and potential in important ways. But without my husband encouraging me to lean in at that critical point, my career could look quite different today.