March 09, 2015 Articles

Helping, Not Hazing: Sharing Our Stories of "Grit" as Authentic Allies

By Jennifer DeMay and Lisa Frye Garrison

Picture a women’s conference. A moderator is leading a panel discussion about how women can achieve success in the legal field. One panelist, T. Rielle Blaizer, is a 60-something litigator. She shares some “war stories” about overcoming the odds to reach the highest levels of her profession, including anecdotes about being advised by men on how to dress, being expected to cancel vacations when she didn’t have “kids to run home to,” and working on a motion until 2:30 a.m. while pregnant and ending up in the hospital for weeks. Her intention in sharing these stories is to inspire and educate listeners to stick with their professions, show grit and determination, and become successful, fulfilled leaders.

In the audience, a 20-something litigator, Melanie Ahl, is impressed by Rielle’s “war stories,” but finds them more frightening than inspiring. She thinks, “Yikes. Is this what it takes for me to be a successful litigator? I was hoping to be inspired. Now I feel minimized.”

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