Working to Level the Playing Field
As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a lawyer. My mother still talks about a resume I wrote at age twelve, where I said I wanted to be a corporate lawyer—but spelled “corporate” wrong!
Today, I am a partner in the M&A Group at Sullivan & Cromwell, where I have been fortunate to have worked on a number of significant deals. In getting here, I have benefitted immensely from the sponsorship of senior colleagues and clients. In turn, I sponsor others, so that our young lawyers have every opportunity to succeed. I also learned something important along the way: Opportunities are only valuable if you seize them. There is no substitute for hard work and perseverance.
In many ways, M&A law is an equal opportunity field. Anyone with intelligence and imagination can excel in it. But that doesn’t mean that women don’t face unique challenges. Even though gender equality is increasingly a priority at law firms, and in society, women often still confront personal and professional obstacles. That’s why we need more women partners at law firms, to serve as mentors and examples to young associates.
We also need to celebrate clients who are focused on hiring diverse senior executives and directors, and vocal about wanting to work with diverse teams of outside lawyers. We need more female professors teaching M&A classes and more female students considering M&A law careers. And we need to put a pipeline in place and clear away the barriers to our success, whether in the form of explicit sexism, different standards and expectations, or disparate levels of support.
The good news is that every woman I know is working to ease the path for those coming after them. My colleagues at S&C are always leading initiatives to ensure our female associates have the resources and opportunities they need.
When I am asked for advice, I think back on myself as a twelve-year-old with a dream, and I say the same thing I would say to her: Work hard. Don’t give up. Know that there will be challenges, but that if something is important enough to you, you will be able to overcome them.
Also: There’s no shame in asking mom to proofread your resume.