Goal IX Newsletter

Winter 2000, Volume 6, Number 1

Mentoring by the Book - Dear Sisters, Dear Daughters by: Karen Clanton

Clanton"Optimism is a key to excelling in the profession. For women of color, the twin processes of racism and sexism, often lurking in unexpected places, can be deleterious. The kind of optimism that I refer to is one that recognizes the need to challenge invidious attitudes where they surface, but also to overcome in the face of it."
–Penelope E. Andrews

"If you can get 15 minutes of sunshine on the back of your knees, it’s been a good day.… By almost any measure, I’ve been blessed with a successful career…. But if I had it to do over again, I would do a little less. I’d say "no thank you" a bit more. And I would try to have a few more days where the sun shined on the back of my knees."
– JoAnne A. Epps

"I’ve learned it’s about being okay to just be you."
– Paula K. Bouldon

These are some of the words of wisdom offered by multicultural women attorneys across the nation. Why is such sage, witty, and sometimes wild advice coming our way? The Multicultural Women Attorneys Network (MWAN) is working on an exciting project this year: a book called Dear Sisters, Dear Daughters: Words of Wisdom from Multicultural Women Attorneys Who’ve Been There and Done That. It is a collection of letters from multicultural women attorneys who offer their advice on everything from how to break free from the sticky floor and shatter the glass ceiling to the art of relaxation.

mentorquote.jpg (18741 bytes)The book is designed to gather and share the personal and professional stories of women leaders whom readers may never know personally but can benefit from their wisdom. The women featured in the book are multicultural attorneys who graduated from law school at least 10 years ago. Submissions have come from every sector of the legal community—public interest, private, government, academic—and from a racially and geographically diverse group.

Study after study cites the lack of mentoring as a serious impediment to the careers of minority attorneys. This book provides a space where experienced women can assume the mentoring role, share, and reach a very wide audience in doing so. The words extend to attorneys at every stage of their careers. Not only the "daughters" in the law receive help, but also the "sisters" or peers benefit from hearing how someone has transitioned between sectors, manages her own business, or maintains a balanced life. The project also provides a space where the voices of multicultural women can be heard and their stories told as only they can tell them. The women who have participated in the project have been especially generous by not only sharing the facts about their life, but by sharing from the heart in a manner that can only be described as brave.

MWAN, a joint committee of the Commission on Women and the Commission on Opportunities for Minorities in the Profession, was formed to address the needs of attorneys who must struggle with conflicts and challenges that arise at the intersection of race and gender. MWAN chose this project because the increasing number of multicultural women entering the field obviates the need to prepare them by imparting to them the lessons learned from previous generations. Serving on the MWAN committee this year are: Beverly Poole Baker of Birmingham, Patricia Diaz Dennis of San Antonio, J. Cunyon Gordon of Chicago, Tanya Lee of Cincinnati, Verna Myers of Boston and Angela Oh of Los Angeles.

We made a call to the community of multicultural women attorneys to contribute to this project and the call was answered. The book will be unveiled during the Annual Meeting in July 2000. If you have questions or comments, contact the Projects Manager, Cie Armstead at 312. 988. 5667 or Cie.Armstead@americanbar.org.

Karen Clanton is chair of the Multicultural Women Attorneys Network and editor of Dear Sisters, Dear Daughters.

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