National Women’s History Month presents an opportunity to acknowledge and applaud the countless intelligent, insightful, and intellectually curious women who shatter ‘glass ceilings’ every day – in all corners of the globe.
And here at McCabe and Mack LLP, we have many women who have set the bar high – leading by example for future generations of female trailblazers.
In what was long considered a male-dominated industry, their achievements, of course, have not been without challenges that are unique to women.
Partner Kimberly Hunt Lee noted how difficult a career as an attorney can be for a woman, because “you are often judged on much more than your courtroom skills.”
She reflected: “I remember attending a CLE when I first started practicing and there was a widely respected female trial attorney who told us that you could only wear black, navy, or gray suits. And you could only wear skirt suits and had to wear your hair the same every day – with minimal jewelry. When the group questioned her, she told the story of a trial she had where all the jury could talk about was her hair and clothes. They didn’t listen to her at all.”
“Thankfully,” Kimberly added, “this has changed over the years.”
What has not changed, of course, is the fact that women are often balancing a demanding legal career with the responsibilities of family life.
Ellen L. Baker, Of Counsel at McCabe and Mack LLP, became the very first female partner at the firm in 1987. She feels that the best way to manage such demands is to surround yourself with encouraging people – at home and in the workplace.
“Law is a demanding field, and I was very fortunate to have a supportive husband and family as I developed my career,” noted Ellen. “Early on, I also became a member of the Mid-Hudson Women’s Bar Association, a chapter of the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York. This organization provided me with friendship and mentorship, which likewise helped.”
She continued, “And I chose a firm who made it clear that if I worked hard, I could become a partner. The fact that I was a woman was irrelevant to McCabe and Mack LLP, and their belief in my abilities allowed me to advance in the area of law I found to be fascinating. Along the way, I have had the chance to learn from wonderful colleagues.”
Partner Rebecca M. Blahut reiterated that the broader cultural shift over recent decades has truly empowered 21st-century women; like Kimberly and Ellen, she feels very grateful for the resulting opportunities.
Rebecca said, “I don’t know if it’s the demographics of the Hudson Valley or a sign of the times, but I don’t really feel as though we have to earn the trust of clients from older generations anymore (except for a few rotten old misogynists, which will always be an issue anywhere for any woman). Instead, I have found throughout the years that many of my clients were either raised by or are married to strong, independent women, and they have no issues with working with the same.”
She added, “I am also inspired by our women clients; I hold them in high regard and am in awe of so many of them. I have worked with many older women who were pioneers in their day and who broke a lot of glass ceilings. We have represented female authors, editors, publishers, engineers, artists, financial planners, doctors, and CEOs, just to name a few. Many of my older female clients are divorced or widowed; some were single mothers and managed to accumulate and manage wealth on their own. They are also volunteers, community leaders, politicians, and grandmothers. They paved the way for my generation to achieve anything we desired and I am grateful to know every one of them.”
All of us at McCabe and Mack LLP celebrate the contributions and achievements of females everywhere, especially those who work with our firm. Indeed, you have all raised the bar – and you inspire everyone around you.
Visit https://womenshistorymonth.gov to learn more about efforts of the Library of Congress and other institutions who “encourage the study, observance, and celebration of the vital role of women in American history.”