Tips for Being a Woman in the Workplace, as told by RBG

By: Kathryn Rainville

Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Notorious RBG. Brooklyn girl. Supreme Court Justice.

Throughout her career, Ginsberg has demonstrated several key lessons that women should consider in their own careers. In fact, in the two articles that this post is based on, several of the rules overlapped. Below are my favorites, with a little explanation of why.

  1. “One foot in front of the other”/”Take a deep breath”

Often, we become preoccupied with success, advancement, etc. While these things are important, they can be wearing. One author reminds us: “Don’t let temper confuse your goals.” Ruth Bader Ginsberg showed us that you must find your own way in and being deliberate in your actions will chip away at injustices one step, one breath, one act at a time. After all, she didn’t become one of the most prolific champions of women’s rights and gender equality overnight. Instead, she “[chipped] slowly at the big mountain of making women equal in the eyes of the law” with each strategic choice she made for the cases she took.

  1. “Find your own way in”/”Do not reward bad behavior”

If it was as simple as following the pre-constructed directions, there would likely be a lot more successful people, and particularly successful women. However, as Sheryl Sandberg states in her book Lean In, “careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder.” That said, asserting yourself, and being your own best advocate are just some of the steps required to continue to find your own way. As Case says, “Calm down” does not mean shut up.” Ginsberg was one of nine women in her Harvard Law class. Despite graduating from the top of her class at Harvard, no law firm would hire her. Instead, she found her way into the legal world through a professorship with Rutgers University and volunteering as a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) (Byng). Many of her cases went to the Supreme Court, and she won all but one (Byng). She created a reputation for herself, and with each win, she condemned the bad behavior of those who tried to squash her. She was methodical in her rebellion.

  1. “Don’t let personal or professional obstacles stop you”/”Focus on Success”

It’s been preached time and again: “Never try to raise yourself up by stepping on someone else” (Case). Women so often engage in professional politics and become jealous of each other, and even men. None of that is productive. Instead, Case suggests in her article, “find out what is working for the successful people in your firm or industry and focus on cracking the code.” This will maximize opportunity for you. Rather than be discouraged that staff at the Harvard Law Library actively tried to keep the women from entering, that her husband was suffering from cancer, or her mother dying on the day of her high school graduation, Ginsberg decided to conquer the obstacles. Her mother inspired her to “be a lady, and for her, that meant be your own person” (Byng). She never let a single obstacle stop her, and she focused on the vision she held for her career and her life.

There are several additional tips in the sources for this blog post, but these stood out as key components to getting through the daily grind of work and ascending to your goals. As a young woman, these are things that I continue to learn about at work, in my personal life, and beyond. So, whenever you’re in a bind, remember, take a deep breath, formulate a plan, and then push forward, regardless of the challenge.



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