Tina Odjaghian was recently featured on WomanlyInspiration.com on the Amplifying Women's Voices segment. This segment was created to highlight the challenges and triumphs of incredible women in their careers. It contains valuable advice and words of wisdom. The purpose here is to allow women to learn from one another’s experiences. Use this priceless advice to reach your own goals.
Some highlights from the segment are below:
1. What is it like to be a woman in your professional field (the good and the challenges)?
Although I think we’ve come a long way in the legal profession, and we are graduating 55% women from law schools today, I think only a fraction of them are in the courtroom trying cases. And as such there still is sometimes a subconscious stereotype that exists particularly in the mindset of some male colleagues. I had a situation recently where I had a record month with six seven-figure results and reported our firms results on my social media page, a group of male colleagues apparently had a discussion about this and found it to be offensive. Those same male colleagues were high-fiving one another for very similar postings on social media of similar results they had obtained. At first, I took this very personally and was deeply hurt by it particularly since I always celebrate their successes as though they are my own. Nonetheless, after giving it some thought it occurred to me that this was not a deliberate reaction to my success, but rather it was a reflection of the fact that, unfortunately, they are not accustomed to seeing these types of results regularly from female firms as proportionally as we see from our male colleagues, and so some are not accustomed to seeing their female colleagues in this light. Over the years, I have let these types of things roll off my back so that I can resume my efforts with a positive mindset, which then helps me attain more great results for my clients.
2. If you have been stereotyped as a woman in the workplace, how did you deal with it?
Although undoubtably a glass ceiling exists within the legal profession where career advancement and pay are discrepant between my male and female colleagues, I have never seen my femininity or the fact that I’m a woman as a barrier to my success in any way. To the extent it has caused me to be underestimated, I am grateful for that. Despite the stereotypes in my profession, triers of fact are clear that they love hearing a female perspective and hearing from women in the courtroom, as we have a distinct yet equally powerful way of presenting our clients story that is unfortunately underrepresented in courtrooms today. I broke away from the corporate structure early on in my career and started my own firm because I was well aware of the disparity that exists between male and female attorneys in the law firm setting, and I wanted no part of it. Again, not to generalize as there are law firms that are extremely fair and conscientious with their hiring and compensation practices. Nonetheless, I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit and wanted to start my own firm early on. Although I have faced great challenges as a female trial lawyer, I have always embraced my femininity and appreciate the perspective and the different approach that it has afforded me, and have in no way felt disadvantaged because of my gender.
3. What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?
Be yourself. Be true to yourself. Trust your gut instincts. Focus on the positive feedback, take the negative with a grain of salt and let it roll off your back. Seeking validation and respect from your colleagues is natural. However, don’t be dependent on it to feel great about what you do. There will be many supportive and wonderful people in your path. Appreciate them. As your success grows, you may be perceived as a threat by some who may try to undermine your position. Expect it. Be ok with it. Don’t be distracted by the noise. Focus on your hustle, stay your course and know that you are the maker of your own destiny. Lastly, maintain your word and your integrity above all, because it will precede you and open doors for you more so than any advertisement ever can.
4. Have you ever been afraid of being judged because of your gender at work and how did you overcome that fear?
I absolutely feel more susceptible to judgment, criticism and scrutiny as a woman by virtue of being a woman, and even more so because I am a successful woman. As a result, in the past, I carefully considered my every move as strategies at trial, word choice, and even choices with wardrobe and appearance. In my profession, if men are aggressive, they are regarded as being strong, whereas females are regarded with a lewd name that starts with a ‘B’. Indeed, there are seminars about how women should dress and present themselves in a court room. After being in this profession for over 16 years and building my practice from scratch, I have finally learned to trust my instincts and be myself even if it means defying the norms. I learned that I am most effective when I am being authentic and true to myself, which in turn makes me feel confident in my own skin and most effective in my role as an advocate for my clients.