Education: BA, Ohio State University; JD, University of San Diego

First Job: Modeled for Sears, law clerk in a law firm

What I'm Reading: Room, by Emma Donoghue

My Philosophy: Work hard with integrity.

Family: Married, with two sons, 25 and 18

Interests: Mentoring diverse law students, reading, cooking, travel

Favorite Charities: The Mid-Ohio Foodbank


Gilda Spencer 

Vice President, Chief Litigation Counsel

award winner

I knew from an early age I wanted to be a lawyer, long before I even knew what a lawyer really did. On television, I had seen women like Barbara Jordan, the first southern black woman elected to the U.S House of Representatives, and I knew I wanted to make that kind of difference and be that kind of leader. But I also knew, maybe just as early on, that I wanted to be a wife and mother.

I traveled a nontraditional career path by getting married and becoming a mom prior to pursuing a professional career.

With that decision, it would have been easy to settle for just one of my life ambitions. With a husband whose job moved us frequently, and a small child to help adjust through these transitions, I would have never started – not to mention finished – law school had I waited for things to slow down. Instead, I had to jump into the deep end. And with the tenacity and work ethic instilled in me by my parents, that’s what I did.

I think, as a woman, you can have it all, but it’s hard, maybe impossible, to get there all at once. You have to know what you want and maintain a long-term outlook. And you have to acknowledge that the path to these long-term goals is rarely a straight line.

There are plenty of times when motherhood took precedence over my career ambitions. And there were times when making a deadline or vigorously representing a client took time from my family. I was always transparent with my employers that I was determined to balance both. I would work hard, meet deadlines and give them my all. I needed them to give me flexibility and respect my dual allegiance.

Without trying to balance family and career, would success as an attorney have come faster for me? Possibly. But it wouldn’t have been nearly as sweet.

As a black female attorney, an underrepresented minority in my field, I am passionate about mentoring and supporting other African-American women who also find themselves on a nontraditional path. People have opened doors for me, and I am steadfast in my resolve to hold the door open for others