I Can Do Anything, Momma

I have learned many life lessons over the years from my mother who is, like her only child and “mini-me,” a stubborn, tireless, perfectionist. But the most crucial wisdom she has imparted, which I have used throughout my education and professional life, has been very simple: Be the most prepared person in the room. Or as Thomas Edison is believed to have said, “There is no substitution for hard work.”

I’ve found this advice particularly useful as a relatively new and young female partner at a private law firm—a space where men continue to disproportionately dominate. Although I receive substantial support from my male colleagues, many of whom I count as friends, at times I find myself questioning whether certain barriers can be overcome through hard work alone.

In these moments, I think of my personal heroes (my mother included) whose hard work is their hallmark, including Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a woman who tied for first place at Columbia Law School, yet struggled to find employment as an attorney due to her gender and marital status; Marie Curie, who was only permitted to share the Nobel Prize for physics with her husband for work they jointly completed after a complaint was made that she had been improperly omitted; and Clara Barton, a distant relation who founded the Red Cross and led it for more than 20 years.

What gives me the most pride, however, as well as profound hope, is to see these traits of hard work and resilience in my own daughter and “mini-me,” who often repeats in her little voice the words I’ve said to her a hundred times: “I can do anything, Momma.”