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Grit and Growth: The Sole Factors Contributing to Women’s Professional Advancement?

Author: Ashley Kaye

Guest Editor: Robert Bernstein

February 11, 2020 3:28pm

You may have heard of the “grit and growth” concept.  In a very brief and simplified nutshell, “grit and growth” refers to common traits of successful people: “grit,” or resilience, and “growth,” or the mindset that people are not simply born successful but rather have the capability to learn and master any given skill through practice and commitment.

The American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession released a brochure outlining “The Grit Project,” which advocates “[using] grit and growth mindset to advance women in the law.”[1]  The concept is similar to Sheryl Sandberg’s best-seller Lean In, in that it encourages women not to preemptively limit themselves and instead “lean in” to a belief that it is truly possible to achieve success in any and all arenas of life.

Both published works are truly empowering and inspiring.  Nonetheless, I submit to you not that the message is incorrect, but that it is incomplete.  Placing the onus of professional advancement entirely on women effectively communicates that:

  1. Women are solely responsible for changing inherent discrimination often present in the legal field; and
  2. Mothers who wish to continue advancing in their careers after childbirth are often left to function within a system not realistically conducive to their obligations and choices.

Resilience, persistence, and a personal commitment to changing the status quo are certainly all crucial to success.  However, placing the onus of change entirely on women effectively absolves men (and women) in power from making changes to expectations and workload which have contributed to an environment historically adverse to women and particularly mothers.

Are all professional women mothers or mothers-to-be?  Of course not.  But the fact is that as a whole, our society remains quite patriarchal, and the majority mindset continues to expect mothers to stay home, or work part-time.  For many, this is a fantastic and fulfilling choice.  However, mothers who wish to continue rising through the ranks at work are often systemically disadvantaged.  If we truly want to empower single women, married women, women who are mothers, and generally all women to be confident in our own abilities to succeed, corporate American must be willing to consider necessary adjustments to its vision of success.

Determining how to implement these changes is a separate issue warranting extensive discussion and debate, but the first step is acknowledging that in addition to encouraging personal responsibility, corporate America’s leadership needs to take equal responsibility for women’s advancement from the top down.  For more information on how Tyson & Mendes is doing just that, attend one of the firm’s Women’s Initiative seminars or contact us.

[1] https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/marketing/women/grit_brochure.pdf

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