How to succeed

Ruth Bader Ginsburg offers advice to young women

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Charlie Mahoney/The New York Times)

The most common question asked by school children visiting her at the court, writes Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is whether or not she always wanted to be a justice on the Supreme Court. That they’re even asking that question, said Ginsberg, shows how much progress has been made for women since her youth. “To today’s youth,” Ginsberg wrote, “judgeship as an aspiration for a girl is not at all outlandish.”

In 1956, when Ginsberg entered law school, “women accounted for less than three percent of the legal profession in the United States, and only one woman had ever served on a federal appellate court.” Today, she says, circumstances for women in the legal field are much improved. “About half the nation’s law students and more than one-third of our federal judges are women,” wrote Ginsberg, “including three of the justices seated on the United States Supreme Court bench.”

Despite the “great changes” she’d witnessed in the advancement and employment of women, Ginsberg said that it was also necessary to “acknowledge the still bleak part of the picture.” Women and children make-up the majority of those in poverty worldwide, and women’s earnings continue to “trail the earnings of men with comparable education and experience.” Workplaces, she added, still have a long way to go in order to “adequately accommodate the demands of childbearing and child rearing” and in combating sexual harassment.

RBG also shared advice for the younger generation that she said she received herself on her wedding day from her mother-in-law. “It helps sometimes,” wrote Ginsberg, “to be a little deaf … When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, best tune out. Reacting in anger or annoyance will not advance one’s ability to persuade.” She also shared advice given to her by her longtime friend and colleague, Justice Antonin Scalia, that many young people probably wouldn’t want to hear.

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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