Congratulations to Deshauna Barber: Strength and Femininity

Deshauna Barber made history last week by becoming the first Miss USA winner who is actively serving in the United States military.  First, it is undeniable that this woman is drop dead gorgeous. She is also the epitome of strength:  physical strength, intellectual strength, and strength of character.  After growing up in her non-"girly" military family, obtaining her master's degree in management information systems (not exactly a traditional "girly" career choice), it is refreshingly wonderful that she openly embraces the indulgences of femininity.

So, wear your heels, wear your swimsuits, overdo your makeup, have big curls and lots of hairspray.  It just gives me the chance to be really girly, and I think that's what fascinates me about [pageantry].

Interview of Deshauna Barber by Diana Falzone, Fox411.

For me, this once again brings to the forefront the tension sometimes perceived with women attorneys.  If they are strong, are they not being feminine?  Should they not be feminine because that will be perceived as weak?  I have been asked several times (almost exclusively by men) if I thought I had a tougher time being a female attorney.  While I've never been a male attorney, my answer is still "no."

Deshauna Barber beautifully demonstrates how strength and femininity are not opposites or mutually exclusive.  Women can be in traditional male roles and still hold onto their femininity - even embrace it passionately - if they want to - and thank goodness!!

On The Big Bang Theory, Bernadette and Amy Farah Fowler encourage girls to go into the field of science.
On The Big Bang Theory, Bernadette and Amy Farah Fowler encourage girls to go into the field of science.

I personally think embracing who I am, including my traits that are associated with being female, often makes me a better attorney.  Driving this point home, I truly enjoyed this article by Jan Nielsen Little, a trial attorney with Keker & Van Nest on Ten Reasons Why Women Make Great Trial Lawyers.  It acknowledges the scientifically proven differences between men and women, and celebrates how behaviors and traits more linked to women make them effective litigators.

But I think it goes deeper than that.  Whether an attorney is male or female, one of the worst mistakes they can make is to try to behave like they think attorneys are supposed to behave, or like other attorneys think they should behave - those other attorneys often being their partners.  Instead, they should learn from their partners, mentors, and colleagues what works and does not work for them - what is effective, but is still natural - what are their own strengths and weaknesses.  Only true awareness of personal strengths and weaknesses, without worrying about whether they are masculine or feminine, will permit an attorney to capitalize on their strengths and be effective despite their weaknesses.

For instance, I once had a partner who was nicknamed "the bulldog" because at deposition or at trial he would just go after the opponent - like a barking dog.  His clients LOVED him because this is what they wanted their attorney to do.  That same trait could also be an extreme weakness.  If I even thought about trying to emulate his style, it would be laughable - not because I'm a woman and am "oppressed" into behaving more femininely.  That style is simply not me, nor do I want it to be.  Furthermore, when I come up against an attorney who behaves like that, I have my own powerful tools that are far more successful for me than trying to be someone I'm not.  In short, I am me, I am a woman, I like being a woman, and sometimes even "girly," and I can be strong and successful while embracing it all.

Thank you Deshauna Barber for being another example of embracing strength, femininity, and who you are.

We recognize the immeasurable value of women leaders supporting other women in the workplace through example, mentorship, education and empathy. We hope you enjoy our tidbits of legal and practical information, wisdom, and humor. Thanks for joining the conversation! 
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