Don’t Be Your Own Glass Ceiling

This recent article highlights some great advice by More Than A Woman author Caitlin Moran: if you want a career and kids, then don’t marry a glass ceiling.  Moran cautions that for women balancing parenting and a profession, their prospects can come to a grinding halt if the person they partner with or marry isn’t enthusiastically ready to shoulder their part of the load.  The reference to Moran’s book has been making the rounds recently in light of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death and the now-well known backstory of how Marty Ginsburg regarded his wife’s career as important as his own and stepped up to do his share at home.

Although not every woman is lucky enough to marry a Marty, that type of guy isn’t as much of a unicorn as we might believe. I’ve had a couple of Marty’s in my life.  My dad, who worked full time as a chemist but cooked dinner and got down on his knees to sweep up crumbs afterwards, giving my mom, a daycare center owner time to relax and chat on the phone.  And I’ve made no secret that my late husband Bruce Israel was my best friend, who had faith in my law practice before I had it in myself.  Even now later in life as I have been dating, finding a Marty who respects my work isn’t merely aspirational or nice to have, it’s a bare-minimum requirement.

But here’s the thing.  It’s not enough for women to not marry a glass ceiling if we are our own glass ceilings.  A great partner can help us accomplish goals that we set for ourselves.  But if we as women limit our thinking, if we think too small or demand too little, a partner can’t push us past those hard stops.

That’s one of the obstacles to gender parity in the legal profession: women don’t think or dream big enough.  I was guilty of that myself when I started my own law firm. Shamed that I wasn’t good enough to remain on the partnership track at the mediocre mid-sized firm where I’d been working, I initially started my own firm to prove that I was qualified to practice law. But I never thought beyond that:  I envisioned simply replacing my salary, but never dreamed that I could earn many multiples more than I made as an associate, or that I could start a trade association that would influence federal legislation or set new precedent.  My late husband never limited my dreams; I did.

Of course, I wasn’t entirely to blame. Though I went to a so-called top 12 law school, I had never seen a model of a successful woman who wasn’t a partner at a large firm or a law professor (and there weren’t many of either of those).  I was never exposed to role models who took ownership of their careers and their talent and lived and achieved without limits. Without any examples, I couldn’t see the possibilities.

More than anything, that’s one of the factors that motivated me to join with Jeena Belil to co-produce the  At our conference, we’ll be featuring nearly two dozen women who have woven golden careers out of nothing but imagination and drive and a recognition of their gifts.  These women inspire me and I hope they will inspire you too .  Because until we crash through the glass ceiling in our own minds, we will never reach the stars.


Other Links:

Women Like My Mom Nicked the Glass Ceiling [USA Today]

Smashing the Glass Ceiling in VC Fundraising [Entrepreneur]]

The Words Used to Reinforce the Glass Ceiling [Herald Net]

Majority of Americans Don’t Believe Equality Has Gone Far Enough [Pew Research]

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