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February 12, 2022

Biz guru to ABA women: “Unleash your power!”

The pandemic has taken a toll on everyone, especially professional women, many of whom worked from home while also taking on expanded household duties.

Enter Rosie Allen-Herring, president and chief executive officer of United Way of the National Capital Area, who offered inspiration to thrive in today’s workplace on February 11 during the 2022 ABA Virtual Midyear Meeting.

The executive spent decades in leadership in both corporate and non-profit industries. As senior deputy director to the Washington, D.C., Community Business Center, Allen-Herring developed investments of more than $2 billion in the Washington Metropolitan area. Allen-Herring also worked at Fannie Mae as managing director of the Community Investment and Engagement Division.

During her remarks –“Unleashing  the Power Within”—Allen-Herring  said it’s important to recognize that everyone faces limitations and obstacles to professional and personal success.

Some are imposed by society, some by an illness or some other unfortunate circumstance, and some are even self-imposed—but it’s how we overcome our limitations that defines ourselves and determines our success, she said.

Allen-Herring draws her advice from personal experience. Her family wasn’t wealthy and she grew up as the youngest of 10 children. “I am from the deep south, in Mississippi,” she shared. “We did not recognize, or at least I did not recognize, that we were poor until I came to Howard University [in Washington, D.C.].”

Elaborating on self-imposed limitations, Allen-Herring said that “we typically, especially as women, we bind ourselves because sometimes when it comes to power, we just don’t believe that we’re worth it.”  Many times, we don’t want to “rock the boat,” so we settle for less.

With the pandemic serving as opportunity for self-reflection, Allen-Herring asked:  “Are you being defined by this moment?”  She said that life is filled with challenging moments, and you can either decide to crumble or you can decide to meet the moment.

She shared the story of a female Harvard law grad working in a big firm who watched as senior partners invited male colleagues to lunch and to play golf. “One day, she asked them point-blank: Why is no one taking me to lunch or to play golf? And they said they didn’t know she wanted to join them. “That story had a big impact on me.”

We must be unapologetic about our power, Allen-Herring urged. “Don’t tamp it down. Unleash it.”

“There is power in your voice, and ultimately there is power in your actions. Let’s meet this moment together.”

Rosie Allen-Herring was hosted by the Women Initiative Network of the Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division.