Patricia Jarzobski has a story of diversity and inclusion—and of how a personal invitation (and persistence) can help a member overcome their hesitance to step up to leadership.
Based on her work as president of the Colorado Women’s Bar Association, she was approached by some women who wanted to nominate her for president of the Colorado Bar Association (of which she was a member but not terribly involved).
She said no.
“I was interested,” she recalls, “but I had self-doubt, and I had fear.” As a matter of fact, when she left on a trip, she hoped her would-be nominators would forget while she was away. They didn’t—and they pushed her, leading to the following exchange, as Jarzobski recounts it:
“I said, ‘The CBA is not interested in me.’ They said, ‘Yes, they are.’
“I said, ‘The CBA would never pick me.’ They said, ‘Yes, they would.’
“I said, ‘I don’t know the CBA like I know the women’s bar.’” They said, ‘You can learn it.’
“I said, ‘I don’t have the same relationships in the CBA.’ They said, ‘You can build them.’
“I said, ‘I’m not in my comfort zone.’ They said, ‘You can take the risk.’
“Then I lost my mind and said, ‘And what if I’m the worst CBA president ever?’—and at that point, they just said, ‘Snap out of it.’”
She did snap out of it—after realizing that if she weren’t afraid, she would say yes to the nomination—ultimately serving as president of the CBA in 2016-2017.
“We need more women and diverse attorneys in leadership positions making the important decisions in our bar associations,” Jarzobski believes. “When we are at the table, it makes a difference in the decisions that get made.”
Jarbozski is now invested in bringing others to that table, using the same persuasiveness and personal touch that helped her overcome her own fears: In fact, she is chair of the new joint Diversity and Inclusivity Steering Committee between the CBA and the Denver Bar Association. A diversity and inclusion action plan is now taking shape in Colorado, and a big part of it is the ACT (Appointing Critical Talent) Now Initiative, in which the CBA connects with minority and special-focus bars to encourage their leaders to apply for presidential appointments—whether they’re CBA members or not.
Diversity and inclusion, Jarbozski and others say, takes persistence, innovation, and a deep commitment. Sometimes, they say, the work is sparked by one leader’s passion—but in order to be sustained, it can’t end there. How are some bars working to ensure that diversity and inclusion are always a priority, regardless of the frequent leadership transitions that are typical of the bar world?