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Your Path: Women at Work in Annapolis

What does it mean to be a woman working in Annapolis these days?

It’s a topic that I’ve been asked thousands of times since I first set foot in the capital in 1979.  I lobbied for over 35 years in the Capital.  What a ride from beginning to retirement!  Are things different today?  Do today’s young women experience the same things that I felt when I began?  Do they achieve the same level of satisfaction that I experienced?  What have been their barriers to success?

As the Maryland General Assembly session neared close this month, I spoke to a handful of millennials who are now in my chosen profession.

Shaivitz with Sen. Brian J. Feldman, D-Montgomery

Shaivitz with Sen. Brian J. Feldman, D-Montgomery

Most became lobbyists by accident, they said.  Either it appealed to their ability to DO GOOD and make the world a better place, or after trying other things in the law, it was a path that eliminated the tedium of everyday practice for a novice attorney and it bridged policy, politics and the law.

They all believe that they’ve advanced thanks to working hard and working collaboratively with a team inside their firms. They are very upbeat and attribute a “bull dog” attitude, along with that team of colleagues, to their success.  (That speaks well of the several firms that they work for). They see a bright future and expect to find more clients, learn more about how the system works, and meet more legislators during the interim between sessions.

So, what’s different?  When I was starting out, there were only a few women at the top of their game, and some were willing to be mentors, which was helpful.  But among my peers, there were not firms hiring women because there were not firms to join—only hot shot guys who were doing quite well without us.  So, we worked alone, too—no teammates to help us along and support our victories and failures. We believed that we could run a firm one day and be in the top 10 of money earners. We could manage clients all by ourselves. We could be leaders. And we were.

Today, not much has changed: As one millennial lobbyist told me, “The glass ceiling may be higher, but there’s still a ceiling.”  But these young women are not pushing for the top of the heap. They want to continue doing what they’re doing, only they want to get better at it and learn more.

As for me, I want to find out how it turns out for them.

Robin Shaivitz is a regular blogger for Your Path. Are you a successful woman in business interested in blogging? Email Jessica Gregg, special products editor, at Jessica.Gregg@TheDailyRecord.com.