Women now represent half of the NYU Law student body. We have more possibilities than ever before, and fear is not an option.
First of all, let me be clear that this post is not intended to exclude men or point fingers at them. I believe that women and men can and should work together in order to ensure equal treatment and mutual respect. But many women still do not get the same payment as men in the same position, or have the confidence to pursue an ambitious career goal—especially in the legal profession.
As for myself, I am infinitely grateful to have met so many inspiring women in our LLM program and at many of the Law School’s events. Just last month we had the honor of listening to Justice Elena Kagan, who is the perfect example of the notion that qualification matters—and not someone’s gender, race, or sexual orientation. Other events, such as the fourth annual Law Women Summit in February of this year, have addressed key issues in the achievement of equality, including tax and fiscal policy, equal pay, and access to capital for women entrepreneurs. NYU Law Women is a student organization that aims to give a voice to women’s concerns at NYU School of Law, and they host a variety of wonderful events throughout the academic year.
Looking ahead, it is clear that the issue of women in leadership positions will play a pivotal role in our careers, no matter if it is a career in the private or public sector. Traditional gender roles have been undergoing a radical change during the last couple of decades as new challenges have emerged for both women and men. Along with female self-liberation and emancipation, historical family models dissolved, leaving a void that is often hard to fill. However, no one can seriously dispute that women are an essential part of every nation’s workforce. Neither developed nor emerging countries can sustain economic growth without enabling women to get the education they deserve and the job they want. But we also need to accommodate the desire for a fulfilling private life and a healthy balance among body, mind, and soul—for both women and men.
In order to facilitate a working environment where both genders can thrive and hone their unique skills and talents, we need to redefine our measures for success and high performance. The best work is the work that gets done in an innovative, creative, effective, and sustainable way. Time spent on a project often does not equal quality. It is important that we do not accept every “truth” that is offered to us, but continue to ask the question: “Why are we doing this the way we do it?” A sensitivity for issues that are viewed as uniquely “female”—such as equal pay, promotion, visibility, and confidence—benefits everyone, not only women.
I am proud to be able to call myself a woman and a lawyer, and I applaud all the men in our lives that have encouraged, supported, and loved us and enabled us to reach our full potential. If we continue to diminish and vilify successful women as “arrogant,” “bossy,” or “annoying,” we also perpetuate stereotypes that men are supposed to live up to. For example, it is still quite difficult for a man to take time off from work to care for his child without putting his career in jeopardy. Putting women in positions of power would almost guarantee an eradication of that antiquated mindset. Women are great leaders because they understand what it means to take on double duties.
Luckily, we already have a lot of fantastic female lawyers and leaders to turn to for inspiration and advice. Whether you are female or male, seek out successful people in your area of interest and talk to them. It will help you to find your own path, build a network, and discover new possibilities.
Honoring the complexities of our modern working world means that we have to work together in order to achieve a better environment for everyone. I do not want to portray myself “just” as a woman, since no one can be reduced to just one label. But being conscious about the challenges that women face can help foster alliances with other women to tackle common problems and concerns. Wherever my career takes me, I will make sure to stay true to my own identity and to respect those of others.