It’s 2020…100 years since suffrage movement activists won the right to vote for many women across the country. As we look back to notable moments like this in history, we celebrate women leaders and acknowledge that the path to gender equality has not been inclusive and we are still on it. For that reason, the Change Matrix team is sharing a series of personal essays about women. They might be women we know who were models or mentors and influenced us as professionals. They might be women whose work we have loved and integrated into our own. They might be about our identification as women through a cultural lens.
At the beginning of my career, I practiced law alone as a solo practitioner and had little to no support, or even community, in my practice. After 5 years of that, I was lucky enough to meet the Director of the Georgetown Center for Child and Human Development (GUCCHD) through my new friend, who was also her son. Phyllis Magrab took an interest in my training and emerging practice as a mediator and soon I found myself in her office, talking about the possibility of my joining her team. What I could not know in that office that day, was that I was about to meet the most incredible group of women who would have a positive impact on my work, my family, and my individual growth.
Roxane Kaufmann, Sybil Goldman, Joan Dodge, Larke Huang, Tawara Goode, Jan McCarthy, and Beth Stroul along with Phyllis were a group of the smartest women I had ever met in addition to my own mother. They were passionately committed to the mental health of children and the work they were doing to support states and their children’s mental health systems. They worked hard at the Center and were dedicated to their own children. They modeled exceptional work, tireless advocacy for children’s health and mental health, and cared deeply about one another.
What I most appreciated about these women is that, from the moment I came, they were interested in knowing me. They asked questions, were curious about my experience and ideas, and actively created opportunities for me to join their work. I had so much learning to do when I arrived at the Center and each of these incredible women invited me into their offices, listened to my ideas, and answered my questions. I never felt marginalized or unimportant because of my age, my later entry into their world, or the fact that my experience and background was so different than their own. If anything, they welcomed the diversity of knowledge, thought, and experience. And when I did misstep, they were there to help me see it, own it, and get through it in a way that supported my growth and development.
And that was just my professional growth. My personal life took twists and turns while I was working at the GUCCHD. Each of those women took time to seek me out to support me. Again, they invited me in to vent, worry, celebrate, and ask deep questions when I was confused. They supported me with all of the care, wisdom, and humor that they brought to their work. In short, they helped me become a mother as I grew as a professional woman.
I think of Phyllis, Rox, Joan, Sybil, Larke, Beth, Tawara, and Jan often. I am grateful for their care, mentorship, and the example they set for me.[Picture above: Photograph of Georgetown University from the University’s website and the logo for the Center for Child and Human Development]