NYSBA Celebrates Trailblazers on International Women’s Day
The New York State Bar Association hosted a morning program celebrating International Women’s Day with a panel of legal trailblazers representing five different countries. The women shared the successes and challenges of being a women in the profession and offered advice for other female attorneys. The event was co-sponsored by the Women In Law and the International sections of NYSBA and moderated by Michele Lee Clarke-Ceres. If you missed this event – you can watch the hour long program here https://nysba.zoom.us/rec/share/OWbmDsREWDN_2PReepadUC2R6iTbL9j-ScHMQ3x4R9m3d-OaXj8PaiOSpb50ugMk.v_FZhquOiiiTASCI?startTime=1646744557000
Mentors and Inspiration
For many of the panelists, it was their mother who inspired them to become a professional woman. Marina Eguiartre-Morett, a tax attorney from Mexico, reminded participants that there were many women who were not allowed to enter a professional career and told only to focus solely on their families. She broke that mold and pursued both a career and a family.
Mary Fernandez, an intellectual property attorney from the Dominican Republic, says she gains inspiration from pro bono and NGO work focusing on women’s rights and equity issues. “It’s important to assist and mentor women in leading roles in the profession and other areas,” she says.
Helen Naves, who founded her own law firm in Brazil, says many 0f her mentors are men and some are not lawyers. She sys her first boss has been a mentor for more than 20 years. “He was the one who was there to teach me things at work and taught me to look for solutions to a problem. He has given me help in being assertive,” she says. Naves says her network of mentors also helped her navigate the pitfalls of opening her own law firm.
Daniela Bertone, a former criminal attorney from Argentina, encourages women to trust themselves and be their own advocates. “If your goal is to climb the corporate ladder, you have to do the work. You have to be persistent because you are a woman.” In her native country, Bertone says girls are raised to put motherhood and family above all else. “I had to move out of my comfort zone and do things that were not expected of a woman. I was criticized a lot,” she said. In the end, Bertone says paving the way for other women to follow is both a burden and a privilege.
The First but not the Last
Several panelists grappled with being the first woman to reach milestones in their career in their home country. Maria Eguiartre-Morett was the first female associate professor to teach tax law at her alma mater in Mexico. “I don’t like to the be the first one and the only one. The fact that we are the first, the path can make it a little easier for those who come behind us. I may be the first but not the last,“ she says.
Ruby Asturias, an infrastructure attorney from Guatemala, encourages others to develop their emotional intelligence and stay true to themselves as women. “We have to be women and stick to our nature,” she says. “We need to understand that our strength comes from our nature. Dress as a woman, talk as a women, that does not make us less!“ She says the road was not easy, but a good attitude and positive thinking led to positive outcomes.
Tips for Work – Life Balance
The panelists were all asked to share tips on creating a work-life balance and many of them pointed to having a partner or spouse who supported their career. “Be surrounded by people who can support you at home and at work,” says Helen Naves. When balancing career and motherhood, several panelists says they strived to raise self sufficient children. “Kids learn by example; they absorb what they see every day. They learn to be independent when they have professional mothers,” said Ruby Asturias
Others mentioned finding time for personal enrichment through exercise and hobbies. “Find happiness and contentment with small things,” says Helen Naves. She also encourages attorneys at any stage of their career to plan their day and plan their career. Are you asking yourself ‘Where do you see yourself in the next few years?’ She says it’s never too late to plan. Mariana Eguiartre-Morett added that improving focus and remaining calm and practicing meditation were key to her success.
The forum wrapped up with an acknowledgement of the suffering of women and children in Ukraine on this International Women’s Day and our shared commitment to peace, justice and freedom around the world.
You can connect with all of the panelists in the International Section at nysba.org