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February 21, 2021

ABC-TV’s Deborah Roberts: Her 3 keys to reaching the top

Award-winning broadcast journalist Deborah Roberts says she lives a privileged life on the Upper East Side of New York City with a successful network television career. But it wasn’t always that way.

Roberts shared her road to success and the lessons she learned along the way during the program “Know Your Worth. The Audacity to Believe in You!” which was part of the 2021 American Bar Association Virtual Midyear Meeting.

Growing up in the segregated Deep South, Roberts was raised in the small town of Perry, Georgia, one of nine children in her family.

Mentors matter

The veteran journalist says strong women in her life nurtured her potential and helped her shape a belief in herself.

“My mom was determined that we would all have a chance and dreams that she never even could think about,” Roberts said of her humble beginnings.

Another early influence was her “no-nonsense” sixth-grade English teacher, Mrs. Hardy.

One day Hardy pulled her aside from the class and said, “You’re a real smart girl. You’re going to go real far in life.”

Roberts said she remembers to this day how special Mrs. Hardy made her feel.

“I had the audacity to believe her and it may explain why I am sitting here in front of you right now. She changed my life with those few words.”

Believe in yourself

“I want you to know that you are powerful forces to be reckoned with,” Roberts told the audience of female judges, attorneys and other legal professionals. “Never forget that each one of you possesses some power.”

Women don’t give themselves enough credit for all that they do, Roberts said.

“Women are more alike than we are different,” she explained. “We are protective of our families. We are averse to war and conflict. We are consummate multitaskers, which isn’t always such a great thing,” she said with a laugh.

Applying those qualities to how they’ve managed the pandemic, women have shown they can be effective in so many other areas of life – especially on the job.

It’s been so much harder for women during COVID-19, she said, because they’ve had to manage child care disruptions and remote learning for their kids — while still working, she explained.

Never give up

Roberts also shared stories of overcoming self-doubt.  “There were countless times where I know that I was passed up for an assignment or offered a raise that really paled in comparison to my male colleagues at times,” she recalled. “I was angry and discouraged but I stayed the course just as many of you have done over the years, I'm sure.

“Sometimes staying the course makes all the difference.”

Roberts spoke at the sixth annual Women Initiative Network’s “Present and Powerful Speaker Series,” sponsored by the ABA Solo Small Firm and General Practice Division.