NYSBA Celebrates Trailblazers on International Women’s Day

NYSBA Celebrates Trailblazers on International Women’s Day


By Jennifer Andrus

The New York State Bar Association hosted a morning program celebrating International Women’s Day with a panel of legal pioneers representing five different countries. The women shared the successes and challenges of being a woman in the profession and offered advice to other female lawyers. The event was co-sponsored by NYSBA Women In Law and International Sections and moderated by Michele Lee Clarke-Ceres. If you missed this event, you can watch the one-hour program here https://nysba.zoom.us/rec/share/OWbmDsREWDN_2PReepadUC2R6iTbL9j-ScHMQ3x4R9m3d-OaXj8PaiOSpb50ugMk.v_FZhquOiiiTASCI?startTime=1646744557000

mentors and inspiration

For many panelists, it was their mother who inspired them to become a professional woman. Marina Eguiartre-Morett, a tax lawyer from Mexico, reminded participants that there were many women who were not allowed to enter professional careers and were told to focus only on their families. She broke that mold and pursued both a career and a family.

Mary Fernandez, an intellectual property lawyer from the Dominican Republic, says she draws inspiration from volunteer and NGO work focused on women’s rights and equity issues. “It is important to support and mentor women who are in leadership positions in the profession and in other fields,” she says.

Helen Naves, who founded her own law firm in Brazil, says many of her mentors are men and some are not lawyers. She says her first boss was a mentor for over 20 years. “He was there to teach me things at work and taught me to look for solutions to a problem. He helped me assert myself,” she says. Naves says her network of mentors also helped her overcome the pitfalls of opening her own law firm.

Daniela Bertone, a former criminal lawyer from Argentina, encourages women to trust themselves and be their own lawyers. “If your goal is to move up the corporate ladder, you have to do the work. You have to be persistent because you are a woman. In her native country, Bertone says girls are raised to put motherhood and family above all else. “I had to step out of my comfort zone and do things that weren’t expected of a woman. I got criticized a lot,” she said. In the end, Bertone says that paving the way for other women is both a burden and a privilege.

The first but not the last

Several panelists struggled to be the first woman to achieve career milestones in their home countries. Maria Eguiartre-Morett was the first female associate professor to teach tax law at her alma mater in Mexico. “I don’t like to be the first and the only one. The fact that we are the first, the path can make it a little easier for those who come behind us. I may be the first but not the last,” she said.

Ruby Asturias, an infrastructure lawyer from Guatemala, encourages others to develop their emotional intelligence and stay true to themselves as women. “We have to be women and stay true to our nature,” she says. “We must understand that our strength comes from our nature. Dress like a woman, talk like a woman, it doesn’t make us any less!“ She says the road hasn’t been easy, but a good attitude and positive thinking have led to positive results.

Tips for work – life balance

The panelists were all asked to share advice on creating a work-life balance and many of them indicated having a partner or spouse who has been supportive of their careers. “Be around people who can support you at home and at work,” says Helen Naves. Balancing career and motherhood, several panelists say they have strived to raise empowered children. “Children learn by example; they absorb what they see every day. They learn to be independent when they have professional mothers,” said Ruby Asturias.

Others mentioned finding time for personal enrichment through exercise and hobbies. “Find happiness and contentment with small things,” says Helen Naves. She also encourages lawyers at any stage of their career to plan their day and plan their careers. Do you ask yourself ‘Where do you see yourself in the next few years?’ She says it’s never too late to plan. Mariana Eguiartre-Morett added that improving focus, calmness and practicing meditation were key to her success.

The forum ended with a recognition of the suffering of women and children in Ukraine on this International Women’s Day and our common commitment to peace, justice and freedom in the world.

You can connect with all International Section panelists at nysba.org

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