If you want to stand out, I recommend developing a vision, pursuing it, and inspiring others to join the cause. My vision is to see women and minorities achieve equality. Mary Ann Mullaney and I co-founded The Fearless Women Network to shatter glass ceilings and obliterate unequal pay so that all may be measured, promoted, and paid without regard to gender or any minority status.
Writing and public speaking are great ways to influence people and make a difference. To expand diversity, inclusion, and equality, I publish and speak about the profitability of diversity and how to minimize unconscious bias.
Getting active in your law alumni association, the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL), and bar associations can multiply your professional contacts and enable you to make a difference. During my term as president of the Temple Law Alumni Association (TLAA), I got to know amazing lawyers and to found TLAA’s Women’s Initiative and Diversity Committee, their awards, and their programming.
Since my presidency, I joined NAWL’s Diversity Committee, was appointed to the American Bar Association Gender Equity Task Force, and was appointed as co-chair of the Pennsylvania Bar Association Commission on Women in the Profession Diversity Committee. Through such endeavors, I get to know more fabulous attorneys who are similarly devoted to equality.
Mary and I, with help from Vanessa McGrath of our firm, organized the Fearless Women Network’s Symposium entitled “Harnessing the Competitive Advantage of Greater Diversity and Inclusion by Achieving Pay Equity.” Such events can raise awareness.
In sum, I suggest forming and pursuing a vision by building professional relationships, writing, public speaking, and engaging in social outreach. As Margaret Mead famously said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
On Finding Success and Staying Competitive
First, you have to stay in the legal profession long enough to succeed. That is easier said than done, especially for women and minorities. We are not evaluated, paid, or promoted equally, or credited equally for the work we bring in. However, we can still reach the brass ring: independence. Doing so certainly requires working hard, studying the rules, and mastering legal skills, but to propel your career, I recommend also building a wide base of professional contacts.
On the Importance of Role Models and Mentors
My mother is the most extraordinary person I’ve ever met. She’s smart, talented, driven, and compassionate. She founded what became an award winning, regional pet food business, raised my seven siblings and me, and, for two of my brothers, she successfully fought the local school board and won the creation of special education classes. She showed me by example how to be inclusive, and how to negotiate my position upwards, overcome obstacles, and achieve.
On Facing Challenges
My toughest challenge has been sticking with the profession. I was so demoralized by the treatment of associates, I nearly left it.
Sheryl’s Advice to Young Women Starting Careers
Invest in building relationships. You will become successful in direct proportion to the number of people who care about you, think highly of you, and want to see you succeed.