“It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you are not.” That is one of my favorite quotes from the late Maya Angelou and a constant refrain throughout my life. I was voted Class Favorite in high school all four years, among a host of other accolades given to me by classmates. That same level of popularity followed me through undergraduate and graduate school, along with a host of other awards. As a result, you would be surprised to know that I view myself as antisocial, preferring the company of my family and dogs to attending swanky events, dinners with clients, or socializing in general. I recognized early on that in order to be successful, I had to push myself outside my comfort zone—and push myself to see myself differently.
The core issue we have as women is to first convince ourselves that we are worthy before we can make others believe it too. We are our own toughest critics. I believe this is one of the reasons there is still a pervasive culture that supports unequal pay and disparity—not only in the workplace, but in society as a whole. We are not always comfortable making sure we are heard, valued, and respected. I see it often in the younger women I mentor—the fear of being perceived as cocky if you pat yourself on the back for a job well done or recognize your own worth.
I routinely work on communicating in an effective and honest way what I need and deserve. For me, this takes work. As women, this is critical. But, this we must do in order to achieve those continued successes that make us women worth watching.
On the Importance of Role Models and Mentors
Remember at times your greatest allies will not be the “usual suspects,” so seek a diverse community of what I refer to as my “Executive Committee Members” or mentors—folks who have a vested interest in mentoring me and seeing me succeed. My parents and siblings were my first Executive Committee Members who have always believed I could do and achieve anything. They always nudge me to push myself outside my comfort zone.
Natasha’s Advice to Young Women Starting Careers
Nothing helps you succeed more than being the best prepared person in the room. Diversity in the legal field remains a challenge. As a result, I am often mistaken for the court reporter, a courtroom staffer, or in some cases, the defendant, depending on where I am that day. The perception of me as anything other than the attorney is not based upon the clothes I am wearing or how my hair is styled, but solely upon the color of my skin. As a result, I am often underestimated and I use this to my advantage. I may not always be the smartest person in the room, but I will certainly be the most prepared. In so doing, I am already miles ahead of my competition.