After law school, I was fortunate to join the finance and restructuring group at Faegre & Benson (now Faegre Baker Daniels). Over the course of my career, I have represented clients in many of the largest bankruptcy cases in the United States, appeared in federal and state courts, restructured companies of all types, and worked on international corporate trust matters. Being a woman in the finance industry has been both challenging and an asset to my career.
Early on, it did not occur to me that gender would impact my career or the opportunities afforded to me. I did recognize, however, that I was often the only woman in the room. There was also only one woman partner in my group, who left before I became partner. Years later, in January 2009, I became the only woman partner in my group. Fortunately, those statistics have since improved, but we still have work to do.
With few women, I found myself asking whether my input was respected and whether I needed to network, practice, and develop clients in the same way my male colleagues do. I also occasionally felt excluded from marketing pitches, introductions, and leadership decisions.
How did I become comfortable addressing these issues? Mentorship has been a critical component of my success. My mentors have given me—and continue to give—career advice, professional opportunities, and introductions to other leaders and managers. They have also acted as advocates for my career.
My principal mentor often tells me that a career in law is a marathon, not a sprint. Throughout our relationship, he has also emphasized the importance of taking responsibility for my own career. For me, that has meant developing a deep expertise, selecting opportunities that are meaningful to me, and, most importantly, choosing my battles carefully to effect change in my work environment.
Of course, being a woman in the finance industry has also been an asset to my career. I believe our diverse team collaborates better, has a broader range of ideas, and connects better with clients, including, importantly, women clients. Women in the finance industry are also very supportive of one another. I have learned to use these opportunities to advance my career.
Is there a role model who has had a profound impact on your career and/or life? What did he/she motivate you to do?
My father has been—and still is—a role model and mentor. He taught me the importance of hard work, leading by example in this respect. He is not my loudest cheerleader (that’s my mom, and I thank her for it), but he is my steadfast supporter.
Has discrimination affected you as a woman in the workplace? How did you deal with it?
I have been fortunate to work at an organization and with people that value diversity. But we don’t always get it right. Most often, those missteps are unintentional and can be corrected with honest and direct communication. In situations where I have felt excluded from development opportunities, I have also asked for advice from my mentors.
What advice would you give young women building/preparing for a career?
Be the best you can be at your job; seek out leadership opportunities; be open to constructive criticism; volunteer for challenging projects; get involved with organizations or activities that interest you; and be your own career advocate.