Legal Business Blogs

International Women’s Day 2022: Barbara L. Becker, chair & managing partner, Gibson Dunn, New York

Which woman most inspired you in your career and why?

That is a hard question! I think I take inspiration from lots of different women. I admire the intensity of all-star athletes like Venus Williams and Naomi Osaka, who are so dedicated to their craft from an early age. I look up to ceiling-crackers like Ruth Bader Ginsberg, with her incrementalism approach, and Indra Nooyi, who grew up in India and led an iconic American company. And I’m inspired by my mother, who majored in Math at Barnard and worked as a Computer Science professor throughout my childhood—a time when I didn’t know any other working mothers.

What advice would you give to aspiring female lawyers?
There are a few pieces of advice I would offer, starting with: Know how valuable you are to your organisations! Similarly, when presented with opportunities, stretch to say yes. And finally, find people who are invested in your success, recognising that mentoring relationships are a two-way street. Avoid being a passive mentee—instead, work hard and over-deliver, which has the benefit of building both your reputation and that of your sponsor.

This year’s IWD theme is ‘breakthebias’ on gender inequality, discrimination and stereotypes – how biased is the US commercial legal market these days and what is the change that most needs to happen?

There need to be more women in leadership roles at firms and clients need to be deliberate about having women lead their matters. It is important for all of us to be intentional in who we staff, who we mentor and who we recruit and champion across all demographic lines – and have these opportunities extend beyond addressing just the gender gap. We are making progress in these areas, though there is certainly more to do!