Law school is hard. Especially with 4 kids at home.
My Mom leaned way into law school after I, her youngest of four kids, was born. I
often wonder how different my life would be had she kept working at her hourly
neighborhood job instead of commuting to a big law firm downtown that demanded
far more of her time and energy.
Sure, she would have made it to a few more of my school plays and wouldn’t have
been late to pick me up from dance practice but I wouldn’t have seen first hand that
women can break out of their comfort zones and do much more than they think they
can – even in a male-dominated field. I’m sure most days she wanted to give up out
of pure exhaustion and separation anxiety but she didn’t and has gone on instead to
provide a woman’s voice and perspective in a male-dominated field, benefitting her
clients, her firm and the young women following in her footsteps. She told me there
were gender-challenges in the work world and mentioned there were hurdles to
climb. She even said she was afraid to open her mouth at firm meetings for the first
10 years of her career. Still, she has always told me – and shown me – that women
can do anything they want to and I believed her. I believed her until I actually
entered the work force and was told that there were simply some jobs I would never
get because I am a woman – especially working for a male direct-report because
they required too much one-on-one time. Ironically, it is that one-on-one time that
yields the most candid career advice and relationship building.
I noticed my male – and female – superiors talked to me differently than they did to
my male counterparts. They commented on what I was wearing before they ever
mentioned my recent work and long hours. Entering the twenty-first century
workforce, I thought we were past this. I had been told we were past this. I was
completely unprepared for what I actually encountered. No one had talked to
women of my generation to prepare them for the challenges that women still face
today and to give them the practical skills they can use to overcome them. Until Lean
I’m leaning in so that women of future generations will be prepared when this
happens to them or better yet, so that it won’t happen to them. I’m leaning in so that
when a woman drops a hard project deadline on her male counter parts, she will be
respected instead of called bossy. I’m leaning in so that my nieces will know that it is
alright to play with puzzles and computer learning games instead of dress up clothes
and toys for cooking and cleaning.
Most of all, I’m leaning in because I believe what my Mom has shown me, that
women can do whatever they want to do – especially with the support from their
employers, partners and community. I’m so proud of what Lean In has accomplished so far and I know this is just the beginning.