As part of the Trotter Distinguished Leadership Series, the Trotter Multicultural Center hosted University of Michigan Law Professor Barbara McQuade and Kathryn Dominguez, public policy and economics professor, for a discussion on Women in Leadership on Wednesday night. About a dozen students gathered in Palmer Commons for the second event of the speaker series focusing on political issues and public service.
McQuade previously served as the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan after being appointed by President Barack Obama and was the first woman to hold the position. Dominguez is a published author, research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and director of the Honors Program in the Department of Economics.
Moderator Arnessa Garrett, assistant business editor of the Dallas Morning News, began the discussion by asking the women about what sparked their interest in public service and what advice they would give to women interested in entering this field.
“Don’t be afraid to ask people … to ask about learning more about what they do,” McQuade said. “They will say yes far more than you think they will.”
When asked about obstacles they faced in their careers, Dominguez and McQuade discussed battles with self-confidence in their abilities as women.
“In many ways, it was my own kind of … nervousness about not really having particular characteristics that were needed for particular jobs that held me back more than even other people,” Dominguez said.
They discussed the need for extra self-confidence, as the men around them seemed more confident in their leadership abilities. Especially when applying for jobs and internships, McQuade said women tend to underestimate their ability to get a position, and encouraged audience members to have more confidence in themselves.
“Before women will apply for a promotion or position, they will feel like they have to meet 100 percent of all the qualifications on the list, whereas men apply for the job if they meet 25 percent of the qualifications on the list,” McQuade said. “Don’t let the fact that you don’t check all of the boxes cause you to eliminate yourself. You might bring something to the table that other applicants don’t, so don’t eliminate yourself.”
LSA junior Emma Hess said in an interview with The Daily after the event that McQuade’s point resonated with her.
“That’s always how I look at internship applications,” Hess said. “I think, ‘Oh, I meet like one of these out of the seven that they have there, I’m never going to get this, I shouldn’t even apply.’ So that was like really good advice to know that I should just take the chance and express my interest in a cover letter and hope that they are willing to listen.”
McQuade also spoke about workplace harassment as an obstacle that most women will have to experience. McQuade said while these situations may not always constitute the “legal definition of sexual harassment, they could be described as biased incidents.”
As a woman in a male-dominated and, at times, competitive field, she discussed needing to decide ahead of time how to respond to these situations.
“What are you going to do when the moment comes, when this happens, because it’s going to happen,” McQuade said. “And there’s certainly some things that are absolutely intolerable and you need to stand up and call it out the way it is.”
The speakers discussed the women who inspired them, speaking to the importance of speaking their minds, having integrity and remaining “calm in the face of a storm.”
The discussion concluded with audience members asking for advice on career paths and law school. McQuade offered guidance on recovering from failure.
“It is not who you know or what you know, it is what other people know about you,” McQuade said. “So you need to understand your skills and what you can bring to the table … and making sure people know what you can do.”