International Women's Day: An interview with Elizabeth (Libby) Zinke, Partner, Lee & Hayes
1. Can you name one woman who has inspired you (in your field or other)?
I’m fortunate that I have several women who have inspired me, some in my field and others not. One of my former colleagues, who was a partner at Lee & Hayes when I was a first-year associate, took the time to meet with me and offer advice about navigating the dynamics of law firms. This woman is an incredibly hard worker and has gained trust and respect from male and female colleagues alike. Importantly, she’s done it without losing her ability to be kind. While our practice areas differed, her leadership and professional success has been an inspiration to me, and her insight has proved to be invaluable in my own professional successes.
I’m also a member of a women’s fraternity that I joined in college. While I met many friends during my collegiate experience, my experience as an alumna and involved volunteer for my fraternity has introduced me to many, many women who have inspired me. So many of our members manage successful careers (in various fields), while balancing their commitment to family and continuing to give back to our fraternity to support and promote the next generation of female leaders. These women inspire me and continue to motivate me to follow their lead.
2. What are your top tips for other women to succeed?
Be prepared and be confident. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. Be kind (to everyone). And, don’t lose yourself in an effort to succeed professionally.
3. How do you celebrate successes, your own and those of others?
I am a big fan of celebrations—not just celebrations of successes, but celebrations of life. Success means so many things to so many people. I don’t hesitate to raise a glass (preferably of champagne) when something good in life happens—big or small.
4. What do you do, in your organisation or outside, to inspire the next generation of female talent?
Outside of my professional organization, I volunteer for a women’s fraternity that I joined in college. I believe in the power of women’s organizations and their ability to inspire the next generation of female talent. I believe that our organization, and other organizations like it, give women safe spaces to lead, gain confidence, develop skills, and understand the importance of caring for others. For that reason, I continue to give my time to Delta Gamma Fraternity because I know I would not be where I am without the opportunities the Fraternity has given me. I know that our organizations build the next generation of female talent, and I am committed to doing my part to support our efforts.
Inside my professional organization, I seek out and mentor female associates. In addition to providing technical training, I hope to be a resource for professional development and success within the law firm. To that end, I make efforts to socialize with female colleagues in an informal setting to ensure that I get to know them for who they are, which enhances our working relationships and enables me to identify ways to support them (be it professionally or personally). It is also extremely important to me to lead by example, and to do so with kindness and confidence.
5. How can an organisation encourage gender equality, inclusion and diversity?
I believe organizations can encourage gender equality, inclusion, and diversity by understanding the different needs of all employees. At Lee & Hayes, we have an amazing culture which affords flexibility to all team members. This enables parents to support their children, partners to support one another, and individuals to pursue their passions in their time. This is one initiative that supports gender equality, inclusion, and diversity within our organization. Furthermore, organizations can encourage gender equality, inclusion, and diversity by offering mentorship programs and being conscious of the distribution of genders in leadership positions. While not everyone has the skillset to be successful in leadership positions, it is important to recognize that women often bring a unique or different skillset to the table. These can be of great value on a board or leadership team, however women are less likely to insert themselves into a situation, but when asked, willingly participate. I encourage organizations to reach out to individuals to understand personal and professional development goals and find ways in which they can help individuals achieve those goals within the platform offered by the organization. For instance, if a female attorney is interested in serving in a leadership role and that goal is known to the organization, it is important that the organization reaches out to said female attorney when opportunities that would support this goal are presented within the organization. Oftentimes, that extra outreach can make a huge difference in bringing a female perspective to the table. Furthermore, by having female representation in leadership roles within an organization, junior members are able to observe and see a tangible example of what they may aspire to be.