Skip to main content

Justice Speeches

Women Executive Leadership Seminar
Retired Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor
October 22, 2020

(Event was on October 20, 2020, with a virtual audience)

Video of Event

Transcript of Event

It’s nice to be here with you all today, even though we’re doing it virtually, but virtually is all we ever seem to do. I don't know the last time I had an in-person meeting with certainly a group this size.

But, you know, we're very fortunate that we have the technology. We have the wherewithal to do this. You're being safe. I'm being safe. You know, the show must go on.

And that's exactly been our philosophy ever since March when we met this challenge, as I'm sure is your philosophy as well.

It's the new normal for this global pandemic. Ohio, obviously, is seeing an uptick in the number of cases.

So, to say that this will be over shortly or hopefully by the end of the year or whenever, is anybody's guess.

And so, we need to carry on. And that's exactly what we're doing. First of all, I'd like to thank the Judicial College for holding this seminar and inviting me to participate.

I also want to thank all of you who are watching. You are key court personnel. Thank you for all that you do to ensure that our courts run smoothly and efficiently here in the state of Ohio.

I know from personal experience that leaders are only as good as their employees, the people that they hire, the staff that they put in place. The mark of a leader, in my mind, is to hire good people and then let them do their thing. Not to micromanage. Not to be so hands-on, as they say, to be interfering. And I'm blessed with a staff like Dot and Christy Tull and the others at the Judicial College that do a phenomenal job. So, I have the utmost confidence in what they do. In these times we are sometimes classified, I think, as unsung heroes.

We have a very important job. From the very beginning in March, it was my statement that the courts don't close. We are not closing. We will reinvent. We will reconfigure. We will try to accommodate, but we will not close. We will look differently. We're different than what we normally do, but we will be there to provide services. It will take maybe a little bit longer to figure out how to do those services, but that was the message in March and I'm very proud to say that the courts have all stepped up and done just that. During COVID, the demands on your time and your planning and your innovation skills have gone way up.

Without you, we could not have operated our courts as well as we have been during these dangerous and unpredictable times.

Whether it's remote learning, remote technology, using Zoom, putting up plexiglass, or ensuring social distancing, you've jumped into action to keep Ohio's courts functioning. We're public servants. I say this to everybody who's a public servant no matter what your position is. We would have no reason to be employed if we were not providing a service for the public. We help people.

The court system helps people solve problems that they can't solve for themselves.

If they could, they wouldn't need us and we would not have the jobs that we have, or not enjoy the jobs that we have. So, it's important to remember whether you're the judge or whether you're the clerk that's accepting filings or anything in between, you are a public servant, as am I. And our number one goal is to provide service for the public.

I think that what I've seen is that the staff of the courts across the state have become comfortable with the uncomfortable and, in my opinion, have done an excellent job. You've implemented safety protocols to protect jurors and judges and attorneys and witnesses and other participants from contracting the virus. Through your participation and leadership, there have been situations where courts have moved outside of the typical courthouse and courtroom and moved into community centers, schools, and other institutions, just to have the room that's necessary to comply with the mandates of the health department. I think that's a great thing. I think that shows innovation and that shows leadership.

We know three items that have changed the way we run courts as the result of this pandemic. First, trials. Trials take on a whole different configuration.

Secondly, we need more people and more resources and we need more physical space to run the court due to the distancing requirements. Even before COVID, many parties didn't feel comfortable walking into court. And that is extremely easy to understand. A court appearance can make people anxious. There are not very many people that come to court willingly, voluntarily. I can think in my career that the only people that ever came to court before me voluntarily was when I was a magistrate in probate court and I was conducting the adoptions. And then that was a very happy occasion. And people were there to solidify their families, and it was a joyous event.

Other than that, I can't think of too many opportunities where people come to court and they're really happy to be there.

If you add a public health crisis and the unfamiliar remote technology on top of the anxiousness that people have, the nervousness factor can go way up. So, I want you to know I appreciate your status on the frontlines of the crisis that, of course, no one saw coming.

I'm proud of the way we've adapted while making safety our number one priority.

Now, I'm going to talk a little bit about what the topic is supposed to be this morning, which is leadership. People asked me if I've faced challenges in my professional career from the beginning of my career as an attorney until my current role as the first female chief justice of the Supreme Court. First of all, I never think of myself as the first female chief justice.

I don't think that it really matters in the way I do my job, at least I don't think it does. But I think what matters about being the first female chief justice is the example that it sets, especially for school children, for high schoolers, and college students to know that it's possible, to know that it's been done, to know that the barriers have been broken. There's a future and the possibilities are limitless for them as they go forward.

You know, oftentimes when I speak to young people, especially high school and below, when they talk about the first female chief justice, it doesn't resonate with them because they do not have the perception that there's any kind of discrimination or should be any kind of discrimination based on gender.

So, when you say the first female chief justice, as I said, it's like no big deal. You know, women can do anything, which I think is an absolutely great attitude to have. I never thought that I would be chief justice.

That was not my ultimate career goal. As many of you may know, I am going to age-out of the system, as they say, at the end of 2022. I will be ineligible to run for office again because I'll be 70 years old. And judges can't run once they're 70.

So, the culmination of my career is being chief justice. But my path to being chief justice was not a straight path. It wasn't predictable, nor was it even a goal. I went to law school and there was a time when I was in law school ? classes started in 1977 ? that was kind of a surge of women entering law school. My class was one of the first where there were more than a handful of women in law school.

So that was encouraging, obviously, back then. I graduated from law school, took the bar, passed the bar, and was able to start practicing. I often say that women take a different path than men when it comes to their career.

Probably one of the major factors for that is having a family. I went to law school for three years. Actually, the day after I graduated, I had my second child. I had my first child after my second year in law school. So, I went into school without children, and I ended up with a degree and two babies.

I look back on it. I don't understand how I did it, but I did. And it didn't seem like a hard thing to do at the time. Maybe it was and I just wasn't aware enough to understand that it was. But anyway, I say that because I'm someone who looks at challenges as just that, something to be dealt with, something to be conquered, and then something to move on from and learn from, of course. And I think that's served me well. I hope that advice serves you well in your careers.

Just briefly, after law school, because I had two young children, I started a small practice of my own.

I did a lot of court-appointment work, a lot of criminal defense work, juvenile work, probate work, and that sort of thing. And after doing that, there was a vacancy in probate court for a magistrate. And I was asked to apply for that by the probate judge. It was not something on my radar.

I did not expect to ever do that. But I decided, OK, I think I'll do it and see what happens. “Why not?” has always been my motto when it comes to doing things. So, I did. I was hired and I spent almost nine years as a magistrate in probate court and it was a fabulous experience.

I learned so much. I learned about expanding my opportunities to be a public servant, about solving people's problems, about treating people with respect and dignity. There are a lot of pro se litigants in probate court.

You learn patience. It was just a wonderful experience. I feel that I used my skills, my talents, my law degree, to develop a certain compassion for people that come to court. And that stayed with me ever since. So, once I was a magistrate and seeing the operations of the judiciary from the inside, I decided that I could and would like to be a judge. I'd like to be a common pleas court judge. Fortunately, I was appointed to be a common pleas court judge by then-Governor Voinovich. And again, wonderful job. I thought that I would be a common pleas court judge for the rest of my life. I truly enjoyed it.

It was a great responsibility. You could do so much good as a common pleas court judge, and that was great. So, as I said, I thought that I would be a common pleas court judge for my entire career.

However, several years into being a judge, there was an opening in the prosecuting attorney's office because the then-prosecutor was elected to the Ninth District Court of Appeals. I regard the prosecuting attorney's office as one of the most important county offices that there are. And there was nobody to take that position. At least there was nobody that I thought would do justice to the position.

So, I went to the party leaders because that's how those vacancies were filled. And I said, I'm willing to resign from being a common pleas court judge in order to become the county prosecuting attorney. People thought I was a little crazy for doing that because I had just been elected judge by almost 70 percent of the vote in the county. So, when I say I could have been a common pleas court judge for the rest of my career, I mean it, I really could have. But anyway, I decided to resign and become the county prosecuting attorney. I never looked back and never thought that that was a mistake on my part because it wasn't. It was a great opportunity to develop leadership skills, to manage an office staff and a varied office staff. We had attorneys, of course, we had support staff, we had assistants, we had investigators, they ran the whole gambit as the types of employees that I was in charge of. And the cases that we prosecuted, the civil cases that we handled, it was all very fascinating. And I thought it was a great job. And my intent there was to become a county prosecutor for maybe two or three terms and then go back on the bench.

That's what my game plan was. Well, I had taken a leadership role in the prosecuting attorney's association. I had also come to Columbus and testified before the legislature on behalf of prosecutors and became, I guess, highly visible. And the next thing I know, after four years, I was asked to join the Taft ticket to run for lieutenant governor.

Again, it was not a job I ever thought I would do, or would ever be involved in statewide politics. Running for office statewide is no easy task. And it wasn't something I sought out, but it seemed like a great opportunity. It was an unknown to me. And then again, I asked myself, why not? So, I did. I did take the risk. I did run for lieutenant governor. Fortunately, Bob Taft was elected. I was elected as lieutenant governor. I was director of the Department of Public Safety. And that was an almost 4,000-person department, and I held both those jobs simultaneously.

And that was just a fascinating opportunity, one that I enjoyed with a lot of new challenges. Again, the size of the staff was enormous and the responsibilities were enormous. But it was something that I enjoyed and learned a lot from. And rose to the occasion.

After four years, I had that feeling that I mentioned earlier that I wanted to get back on the bench. Well, this time it wasn't getting back on the common pleas court bench. There was an opening on the Supreme Court. And so, I decided rather than run for lieutenant governor again, that I would run for the opening on the Supreme Court. By the grace of God, I was elected. And that's how I started my career on the Supreme Court.

When I got on the Supreme Court, I had no intention of becoming chief justice. That was never on the radar. But as things progressed, I was on the court for two terms. I was elected in 2002. There was an opening for chief justice in 2010. I thought I was the best candidate at that point to fill that position and so, I went for it. And I fortunately was elected to that. Again, a great opportunity. A great opportunity not just because of the subject matter that we deal with on the Supreme Court, but because of the policy that we develop for the courts and for the criminal justice system, etc. It has been a great job being chief justice. I'm probably going miss it in two-plus years, but I'm going to look back and look at the various positions that I've had.

When people ask me, “What's your favorite position that you held? I say I can't really pick one out. They were the right jobs for me at the right time. And each one of those jobs led to the next job. Not directly, not because they dovetailed into each other, but because of the skills that I learned and the talents I developed, the reputation I established of being a hard worker, and being very productive. I was able then to be selected for some of the jobs that followed. And because I think one of the secrets of moving ahead and finding yourself in leadership positions is if you do the very best in what you're doing now in your career, you will be noticed. And when opportunities present themselves, people will say, “Oh, let's take a look at so-and-so. She does a great job where she is. She has no potential to do a lot more. She's a team player, the personality is right. Let's explore that person for this position that we're thinking of hiring for.” So that's been the formula that has worked for me.

Being prepared, doing a great job at what you're doing and doing it with the help of a great staff, of course, and opportunities presented themselves. There were not opportunities I anticipated. They were unexpected bonuses, I guess. And it worked. At least it worked for me. So that's my circuitous route to being chief justice.

But did I face challenges? Yeah, of course I did. But I'm not the only one. And I look back on some of the early pioneers in women in the court system and I see the challenges that they faced.

Predominantly displayed in my conference room is a picture of Florence Allen. I don't know if you all know who Florence Allen was, but she was the first female justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio. She was the first woman to be elected in the state of Ohio in 1920 to a judicial seat in Cuyahoga County, before she went to the Supreme Court. She was elected to common pleas court in Cuyahoga County, then she found herself being elected to the Supreme Court of Ohio 98 years ago, and that was in 1922.

And when you think about it, she was elected in 1920 to be a common pleas court judge. And then two years later, she found herself on the Supreme Court of Ohio. Now, think about the attitudes toward women in the workplace in 1922.

She wrote a book and it's called To Do Justly. Justice Allen writes that a male judge was so opposed to having a woman on the Supreme Court, he avoided eye contact with her, wouldn't even look at her. Hopefully, things have improved since then, but there are still obstacles and prejudices against women in the workforce, women in the judiciary. Less so than they were, but again, that was her challenge.

Later, Justice Allen slipped down and fell down a flight of steps landing on her face. And she was badly injured so severely that the other justices thought that they would have to delay a big banking case that they were hearing because she wouldn't be able to participate, but Justice Allen refused to agree to a delay. And the next day, she sat on the bench, her face was covered in bandages, but she persevered and she heard the case. She participated. She did her job. From that day forward, the justice that wouldn't look at her, who didn't approve of having women in his presence on the bench, was able to look at her square in the face and regard her as a colleague. It took falling down a flight of steps and practically disfiguring yourself before he came around. Hopefully, none of us have had to do something similar to that.

She was more than highly qualified for the court, her education and her studious nature, the quality of her opinions were noticed. So much so that she became a federal judge. And I believe she was the first woman to be a federal judge. Among those who took notice of her was Eleanor Roosevelt. The First Lady told Justice Allen that she could see no reason why a woman should not be appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States and said she believed the appointment should be made on the basis of a person rather than sex. She became the only woman on a short list of potential U.S. Supreme Court justice nominees way back then. And while she didn't go to the high court, she did earn an appointment by President Roosevelt to the federal bench.

So, I think that she certainly deserves credit for helping pave the way for other women to see themselves in the legal profession. I encourage you to seek out stories of female pioneers in the legal profession. There are so many. I'm currently reading the biography of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It's a fascinating book. It starts with her childhood moving forward. And the point where I am right now as she was in law school. She also had a toddler in law school, so I can identify with that. She had a nanny. I didn't, but I certainly can understand some of the stress that she was probably going through at the time.

One advantage you have that wasn't developed in Florence Allen's time is mentoring. Our Judicial College programs promote interaction and information sharing among courts. And the entire state of Ohio is a resource for you, as is the Supreme Court. I've asked the Judicial College to share the roster of this event with everyone so you can reach out to your colleagues, especially since we can't mingle and network in person.

You'll find the experiences of your colleagues to be valuable as an aspect of court work, including how to operate during COVID. One leadership technique employed by Justice Allen was staying in touch with her teachers. When she asked one of her former professors if he thought that she should run for the seat on the Supreme Court of Ohio, his response was much like mine: “Why not?” “What's holding you back?” Those two words were a great boost to her confidence and her vision for herself, and I hope they are for you as well. Oftentimes, we limit ourselves by negative self-thought.

That's probably one of the biggest impediments to moving forward, negativity. My advice is to turn off that negative voice in your head. Throughout my career, I encountered some of the same challenges and triumphs that I'm sure many of you have. I'm not saying it's easy to advance in your career to become a leader, etc., but you have to battle through stereotypes in order to move on, and your success is the best victory in that battle against those stereotypes.

Pioneers have made the road somewhat easier. Seeing women as a judge, a court administrator, top of the business, a department head, etc., is no longer surprising, but it was for far too long. So, I would argue that women should study the traits the true leaders have in common. And I think you'll find that these traits cross gender lines.

Here's a few examples that I always think about. Lead by example. That is probably one of the most important things. Lead by example and learn by example. Pick out people that are your mentors, people that you admire and follow their example, lead through listening and lead with honesty. Those who lead by example also tend to give credit where credit is due. They share the spotlight. In fact, they let others shine. They're slow to criticize, yet quick to praise. It's important to criticize in private and praise in public. Be a good listener. It also demonstrates the capacity for an appreciation of leadership. After all, a leader who doesn't have all the facts cannot make an informed decision. Effective leadership means hearing the pros and the cons of an idea, even when the cons are something you really don't want to hear, but you have to. That's one of the things I say to my staff continuously. When I come up with an idea, we're discussing something and I say, “OK, here's what I'm thinking. Tell me why that's not going to work.” And I really mean it. I want to know what the flaws are in my thinking or my perception or where I think this problem is going to take us. And I listen, because I hire great people. An honest leader employs fairness and compassion.

It means making honest assessments. It means delivering negative assessment humanely. And keeping aware of the other person's situation is always important. Leadership also means knowing your strengths and your weaknesses. Know your leadership style and what works best for you. When I say pay attention to mentors, acquire mentors, look at other leaders, learn by example, it doesn't mean being a copycat. It means taking those lessons and internalizing them and finding out what works for. Know your leadership style. Also, know that as a leader, there will be times when you fail to lead. You'll need to assess your own performance and determine how you came up short and how that won’t happen again.

Today's tough times are opportunities for you to improve. You should also be brave and ask others to critique how you handle the situation and how they think you could have done better. Again, that's that feedback that everybody needs. Rather than looking in the mirror, look to other people to give you a reflection of how you did. Share your strengths with others, whatever they may be. Improve on your weaknesses, or hire employees to fill those gaps. All of these techniques will be significant to your growth as a leader. These principles are things that I've learned through more than 30 years of various leadership positions. They apply whether the leader wears a skirt or a suit and tie. So, seek out mentors and colleagues and absorb the things that they can teach you. Learn about yourself through the eyes of others. Learn as much as you can about your colleagues. That shows interest and respect, and that's important. Then when you're learning as much as possible about your subject matter, your position, your work, you can combine all of those things when you're becoming a leader, whether it's positive or negative.

There are lessons to be had in every situation.

I've talked about finding a mentor to help you, to help others avoid mistakes and missteps. Once you're experienced in your current position, think about becoming a mentor yourself.

It's kind of a completion of the circle. When people have helped you along, you in turn help them along or others along to achieve. If you're fortunate enough to learn from a mentor, you will honor that mentor, that person, by becoming one yourself. Finally, if you can excel in whatever position you currently hold, as I said earlier, opportunities will come your way. Don't be afraid to take a risk and seize an opportunity. Now, don't do it recklessly. I think you always have to think long and hard. Is the risk worth the reward? And you evaluate the risks and talk to other people about that risk. Just don't think about it in your head. You need input. I've always worked hard and, as I said, the opportunities presented themselves, and I carefully considered them. The key to your success will be the quality of your work. I had to explore my leadership potential and develop my own leadership style even before these leadership roles that I've taken materialized.

Obviously, my law degree was a great start. It opened opportunities for public service. I have never looked back. I have never regretted using my law degree in public service.

It's true that I could have probably had positions in firms. I'd like to think that I would have been making a lot more money, but that isn't my motivator. Money is not my motivator. I get much more satisfaction out of helping people solve their problems, being a leader, being innovative, coming up with long-term solutions, and leaving a mark. And that's what I think (that) as chief justice I will have done in so many areas that are of great interest to me, of great interest to society, and it'll be lasting. And that legacy is something that I hope to be very proud of. So, I'm going to advise you, stay connected as a community. Learn from each other. I know it's harder now with the Zoom era and COVID, but, nonetheless, it's something that I make an effort to do. I think you'll be rewarded for that.

You won't feel isolated. I think that's one of the downsides of this situation we find ourselves in is feeling isolated. It's important to not only keep up your skills and your interest and your networking within your workforce and your workplace. It's also important to do that within your family and your community. Don't allow the COVID to be an excuse for withdrawing. You need to, if anything, increase your activities to counter this feeling of isolation and continue to be productive in your personal life, in life with your family, and certainly your workforce life.

So, with that, I am now ready to answer any questions.

EMCEE: Well, Chief, thank you so much for your comments. You definitely have a unique experience to share with us. And so now I'd like to invite Jennifer Teil to join us. All of you can read her complete bio in your course materials. Just as a short way of introduction, I'd like to mention that Jennifer has more than 20 years of public sector experience, including 10 years of leadership in local government. She has a range of expertise in organizational assessment, process improvement, financial management, strategic planning and of course, what we are doing today, which is leadership development. So, I am going to let Jennifer facilitate some questions and answers with our first valued speaker, the chief justice.

MODERATOR: Thank you so much, Dot. And thank you, Chief Justice O'Connor. I've been telling my friends and family that today I got to have my Oprah moment. So, I'm very excited to be able to play moderator for some Q&A today. If you do have questions for the chief justice, please use that chat feature, throw your questions in the chat. Dot and I will be watching those. I have a few prepared to start with, but we're happy to field questions that that community here today might have as well. I loved everything about what you shared with us, Chief Justice. And one of the things that really stuck with me while you were speaking is this tendency to say “Why not?” and jump when opportunities present themselves. And I think that's a characteristic of really accomplished leaders that we often see is that fearlessness in the moment of being willing to jump in and go for it. Many of us hit those junctions where there's an opportunity and we freeze. We see all the risk and we just stop. And so, I'm wondering if you could share with us any wisdom to help the women leaders here today when they're at that crossroad to have the courage to just jump and just say, why not?

CHIEF JUSTICE: Well, I think that's a great question. I think that, as I said, talk to people about what the decision is that you have to make. If you've been steadily engaging with a mentor, if you've asked for feedback from colleagues, coworkers, supervisors, etc., you'll get a pretty good idea of what your strengths and your weaknesses are.

And if you have a thorough knowledge of what the job is that you might be interested in doing, you can see whether your talents and whether your experience match up. Will it be a good fit? And if it is, and people will objectively and honestly discuss with you their perception ? again these are trusted people that know what they're talking about ? then I guess I would say the risk is worth the effort. Whether it be leaving an area that you're completely familiar with and moving on to something brand new, or whether it's running for public office, which is one of the biggest risks that you can take, to just going for that promotion within the department. Those are all things that I think that if you honestly ? and that's important ? if you honestly evaluate and have been evaluated, you internalize that, you learn from it, you'll know.

You'll know when it's right.

MODERATOR: We got a related question here in the chat about whether or not there were opportunities that have arisen along the way for you where you said no, or you didn't jump.

CHIEF JUSTICE: Yes, I guess. I have to say that I came from Summit County, Akron area, and I was, as I said, prosecuting attorney. Then I went to be lieutenant governor.

And then two years later, there was the position of the executive, the county executive back in Summit County. And I was asked, encouraged, to come back and run for county executive in Summit County. And I said no. I think I could have won that election, quite frankly, but I said no. Not that I didn't think that I had the ability to do the job. I didn't think it was a good fit. I don't think I would have been happy doing the job. It wasn't just when I said, “why not?” there were more why-nots than there were whys.

So, I didn't pursue that. I look back on that as probably the one time that I said no to something.

MODERATOR: Thank you.

One of the topics that you wove into all of what you said, but toward the end, especially, was this idea of authentic leadership and being in your whole self, in part of being a leader. And I'm wondering if you could tell us, how has your leadership style changed over time, in a career as accomplished as yours? Has it always been consistent or have you evolved your leadership style as you've progressed?

CHIEF JUSTICE: Very definitely evolved. Originally, I thought I had to do everything myself. That didn't last very long, because that's a horrible leadership style. I learned that actually, I think as a magistrate, that you can't do everything.

And there's a reason why you have staff and there's a reason why those people are competent in what they do and probably can do better at the task than you would if you were doing it yourself. And so, I learned to delegate and let, as I said at the onset, hire quality people, and let them do their job, and get out of their way so that they can do their job. So that your relationship with them is more a collaborative relationship, as opposed to dictating or saying what they have to do. It’s a great comfortable way of approaching leadership and maintaining a really good relationship with staff.

I employ that in my chambers with my law clerks. You know, they're all attorneys, they’re judicial attorneys with many years’ experience, some of them. And I let them do what they do best. We meet, we discuss, but I don't micromanage. And I don't do that with the Court at all. It's exhausting to try and micromanage, to try and be that type of a leader. You're setting yourself up for frustration and failure.

MODERATOR: We are getting a lot of really great questions in the chat. I'm going to try in a moment here to make a couple of them together to make the best use of our time together. One of the threads of questions that we're seeing speaks to dealing with overt sexism and even overt racism in the court as a woman leader or as a black woman leader, in the case of one of the questions here. What advice or what sort of insights can you provide on how to deal with those instances of overt sexism and racism as a female leader?

CHIEF JUSTICE: I think those are very real. Racism permeates through our system, every component, I think. This summer, the protest, the wide range of reaction to the brutal treatment and death of George Floyd and the others, Breonna Taylor, etc. It just brings it all out into the forefront, which I think is a wake-up call.

We need to examine our country and our history and learn from it. We've had 400 years of racism in this country and at times we've made progress. In the ‘60s, there was progress, but a lot of times it just ebbs and flows. And unfortunately, it ebbs much more than it flows at times. So, there's an awareness and I think we should not lose that momentum that we find ourselves the beneficiaries of at this time.

Now, as far as what you do for racism in the system, the judicial system, the criminal justice system, the court system, I should say. Interestingly, the state of New York just issued a report. The chief justice, Janet DiFiore in the state of New York, ordered an investigation and a report to be made on this very topic. I'll get that report information to Dot and then she can share that so you can get a copy of that report.

And it's a look at systemic racism by judges, by court staff, all across the gambit. There's comments and a lack of leadership, and it’s a very open book and very telling. It also gives suggestions on how to remedy that, what path should be taken. So that's a great read and I would recommend that. And like I said, I'll get the information about that.

But what do you do as an individual? You know, here you are, a talented individual and I say, get involved in organizations that can showcase your talents. Whether that's the local bar association, whether that's the clerks association, other organizations that are in your county, take a leadership role. Volunteer for things that might have nothing to do with your job. Maybe volunteer for a United Way drive or some other community venture and take a role in that to demonstrate your capabilities. Rather than continue to say “I'm not being recognized for my talents, et cetera.,” go out there and do something that is going to force people to recognize that, yes, you do have what it takes to acquire whatever you want to do. And I think that's important.

MODERATOR: We have an overwhelming number of questions, which is delightful. And once again, I'm going to try to weave some together. And I think that's probably going to be our last question for you today. But a lot of folks are very interested in the conversation that you've started about mentorship. And there's a couple of components of that that folks are curious about. One is about your mentors, who they've been, how you've found them, how you’ve engaged with them. And then the other sort of common thread we're seeing is how within your office or within your workplace can you be a mentor for folks that work with you, without coming across as playing favorites or how can you be an effective mentor without coming across as showing favoritism toward someone?

CHIEF JUSTICE: Well, to your last question, be open to mentoring more than one person. You don't have to limit yourself. The information you're sharing is gold. You just don't share that with one person. You can be flexible. And you don't have to just limit it to other women. You can be a mentor for a man because the leadership skills that I talked about, they're not devoted to just one sex. So, spread the wealth, so to speak, if you're a mentor. And you can have more than one mentor yourself if you're looking for people to lead. You can find mentors not just in your office, in your workplace. You can find them in organizations that you belong to. You can identify people that you admire and just ask to sit down for lunch. Well, not anymore, but maybe if you safely distance or have coffee, that sort of thing.

One of the things that we do for new lawyers is to set up a mentoring program with another experienced lawyer. And those are great opportunities, it's a great model. The attorney can then ask questions of that mentor. They're not asking questions then of their boss or within their law firm, they're more comfortable. So maybe at times you don't want to be asking a lot of questions within your actual workplace, but you've got other opportunities to connect with people and ask those questions. That's an important thing as well.

In closing, when I say my mentors, I didn't have to look very far for mentors. My mother and my grandmother were excellent, excellent mentors of women who have independence, leadership, and an absolute faith and encouragement in their daughters and granddaughters.

I never felt that there was anything I couldn't do. Now, I will also share that I went to an all-girls high school and an all-women's college, and that gave me a lot of opportunities for leadership. I was editor of the yearbook. I was in student government in high school, I was involved in a lot of things. And the same thing when I got to college, class president, student leadership, that sort of thing.

I just felt that I could do that. And I really credit my mother, especially, when there wasn't anything she couldn't tackle or wouldn't tackle. And so, I learned by example and absorbed what I learned.

And I think that I was able to have a confidence instilled in me, not a recklessness, but a confidence to be able.

Word files may be viewed for free with Office Online.

PDF Files may be viewed, printed, and searched using the Free Acrobat® Reader. Acrobat Reader is a trademark of Adobe Inc.