Hi, my name is Emma Fitzgerald, I'm the Director of Lawyering Space.
It's International Women's Day today. And I'd like to share something vulnerable with you, because my empowerment will lead to yours.
If we have ever met, it is very possible that you have seen me speak publicly at events. You are likely to admit that I seem confident and successful. I know what to wear, what to say and how to say it.
I had the appearance of success. I never rocked the boat, I was an independent woman with a great career working on her public profile by speaking at events.
But I was keeping a terrible secret: despite my outward confidence, on the inside I was terrified. I was in a marriage with a lovely man. He was welcoming to everyone else, he was kind, he was friendly, and to this day: he is a great dad, and my neighbours still like him more than they ever liked me.
But inside our home was a different story. I wasn't allowed to buy coffee or drink alcohol during the week. Some days, I wasn't even allowed to drive my own car. If I bought something that I wasn't allowed to, I became petrified, shaking from fear. I didn't know then, but I know now, this was domestic violence.
I know that unfortunately many of you know all too well what I mean. For those that don't, can you imagine how fear like that impacts each moment of every day? Can you imagine not being able to make any decisions?
I kept the secret of what my life was really like tight to my chest.
But one day, I started asking questions. Do you think this is okay? Is this normal? And then many more questions followed the first.
And then one day I made the decision to leave, when my son was only just over 1 year old.
My son and I became homeless, and I lost my job as I had an unsupportive employer. I experienced social isolation, post traumatic stress and depression.
This was still the most important decision of my life. I do not regret it for a moment.
In amongst the fear and despair, there were also these extraordinary women in my life. One of them was my mum, who had left my dad after 35 years of marriage because he was an alcoholic that refused to seek help. He's left this world now, and strangely he is still one of the most empowering forces in my life, but we can talk about that another day.
I was so fortunate to have other empowered women (and sometimes men, but it's International Women's Day and I'm not centring this on men, sorry!) around me: supporting me, lifting me up and reminding me that what I had experienced what was not okay.
When I started to feel ready, I commenced rebuilding myself. And I took my empowerment fiercely into my career in law. What empowerment now looks like for me in the law:
- I make sure to say something, rather than just speak.
- I am innovative in negotiations: not being another participant in a game.
- I am open and honest with my supervisors and those working for me. I expect this in return.
- I am an advocate, not just for my clients and my peers, but the person I used to forget: myself.
- I stand up, when I can no longer stand something.
- I advocate for my clients against opponents that underestimate me. I do not step back from the challenge.
-I speak openly about my goals.
- I strive, everyday, to be truly empathetic.
- I have made true connections but with less people, and those connections are based on integrity and authenticity.
- I have voted with my feet.
The only moments I regret are those when I kept my head down and acted selfishly for my own benefit, or when I caved in to the fear of standing out.
My experience has been earth shattering. But it has also been enlightening, empowering, and enriching. I am more extraordinary and powerful than I could have ever hoped to be.
Happy International Womens Day
to all the women, empowered or yet to be:
in my life,
those who seek it,
and those that do not yet know they need it.
You are more extraordinary and powerful than they say, and you are more extraordinary and powerful than you know.
I will be running some empowerment workshops for lawyers, with dates to be released soon.
I can't wait to grow together.
Creator of Lawyering Space.