A Seat at the Table

There was a moment nearly 20 years ago that I remember as vividly as if it happened yesterday. I walked into my first management meeting and saw a sea of men. While I knew in my head that I belonged in that room, there was a moment when I thought, is there—literally and figuratively—a seat at this table for me. At that moment, a senior woman partner strode across the room and, with a booming voice, welcomed me and found me a seat. That moment is one that this mentor of mine likely would not even recall because, for her, it was completely natural. And from that day forward, I was determined to emulate her each day of my professional life.

Recently, a young lawyer who was moving on to a new position stopped by my office on her last day. We had worked together for several years and I had watched her grow into an excellent lawyer on whom many of us depended. She said she wanted to express her thanks to me for always noticing—and highlighting—her accomplishments, for ensuring she had a seat at the table, and for the many times I would stop by to simply ask how she was doing. At that moment, I realized I had come full circle.

Over the arc of a career, one can accomplish so many things, and yet when I look back at the past 30 years, what I remember most vividly and value most greatly are the times that someone reached out a hand to me, or I reached out a hand to another. Those were the moments that positioned us for greater successes, as individuals and as a team.

So take a moment and look around the room; ensure that everyone has a seat at the table and if you can’t find your own seat, look for someone who can help make room for you.