Doctors, lawyers, astronauts, artists and superheroes – in the eyes of a child, there are myriad opportunities out there that when it comes to careers; and there is little surprise that these career prospects are so appealing – when we switch on our televisions or go online, we see these professions portrayed in an exciting light. However, what we don’t see enough of is a diversified range of people in these professions, and this can send out damaging messages to the young women and men who dream about making a difference one day.
The truth is that there are many inspirational figures from every background who our children can look up to, and for fields such as science and law, this is crucial. Take female lawyers, for instance. In a male-dominated industry, there are several women who have overcome various challenges, not only of gender but also of class and race, to be where they are today and, just as importantly, make a positive difference in the lives of others.
Changing the world for the better
One particularly inspirational woman is US Supreme Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor. Born in the Bronx, with Puerto Rican parents, Sotomayor had to overcome class and race obstacles as well as gender in order to achieve what she has today. After successful years at Princeton and Yale, Sotomayor worked extensively in the public service and is seen as a true beacon and a voice for America’s under-represented communities.
Jennifer Jamilah Douglas-Abubakar has used her prowess in the field of law to inspire other women, particularly Nigerian women, to continue with education and enter the field of law among others, reflecting an attitude that is quickly growing in the African continent’s biggest economy. Abubakar’s influence within politics has also given women a voice and someone to aspire to, and she is at the forefront of a prominent generation of empowered African women who are making big changes across the globe. For more information, see the article “Behold Barrister (Mrs.) Atiku Abubakar.”
International lawyer Louise Arbour of Montreal, Canada, focused her career on human rights, helping to solidify convictions against genocide in Rwanda and the Serbia-Kosovo conflict, protesting against US policy on terrorism, and serving as a justice in the Supreme Court of Canada in 1999 before being appointed High Commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations. She currently runs the International Crisis Group.
The future of women
There are many other inspirational figures worthy of mention, but it’s important to note a pattern of these three women in particular. They come from diverse backgrounds, have overcome several boundaries, have achieved milestones, and, most importantly, they have stood up for the rights of others. That is perhaps the most important message we can send our children. Not only do we need to tell our girls that they can achieve their dreams if they work hard enough, but we also need to tell our boys to respect them as their equals, and, most of all, that we can do good with what we achieve and speak for others – that being a lawyer isn’t just about suits, pay cheques, and courtrooms, but striving for justice and fairness in a world that only our younger generations can truly make better.