In a year already too full of sad news, the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg hit hard. She was an icon, a champion of gender equality, a small but mighty voice of reason and fairness. She was Notorious RBG, a rockstar and unlikely superhero for our times, an 85 pound grandmother in lace collars, fighting injustice with tireless resolve and steely intellect. This tiny octogenarian jurist captured our attention and woke us up -- reminding us of the critical importance the court plays in protecting (or dismantling) the rights we take for granted.
As a lawyer, she used strategy and careful selection of cases to persuade the all-male Supreme Court, one case at a time, to start recognizing a constitutional bar against discrimination on the basis of sex. As a justice, her thoughtful decisions and fierce dissents left an indelible mark. Her dissents, particularly those she announced from the bench, received widespread attention and, more importantly, effected real change. For example, her dissent in a case rejecting a woman’s pay discrimination claim opened the door to legislation - the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act - named for the woman whose claims had been rejected in that case.
Much has been written -- and will be written -- about her work and impact. For now, the question is how to make sure the gains she made are not undone. On a personal level, too, there are many lessons for us as women. For one, how do we channel this superhero-like power in our own lives? Here are 3 simple ways:
Be Deliberate. RBG’s early legal strategy targeted cases involving men and sex-based inequality. In this way, she built a foundation for later barring all gender-based discrimination. So be strategic. Look at the long game. Find solutions that leave all parties better off.
Dissent. RBG’s dissents were legendary, made all the more powerful by her reading them aloud from the bench (something that wasn’t often previously done). So put on your “dissent collar,” speak up, use your voice. Look for solutions, and seek out allies -- other people, institutions or organizations to help solve the problems you’ve identified.
Leave Tracks. That was RBG’s advice to a graduating class at Brown University in 2002 -- “as you pursue your paths in life, leave tracks …. do your part to help move society to the place you would like it to be.” So leave tracks. Do what you can to move society in a more positive, more equal, more fair direction.
Want a more powerful voice? Start by gaining control over the most essential areas of your life -- personal finance, legal health, and mind/body wellness. Want to be part of a community of empowered women? Register now for Woman’s Compass Forum. Our next 3-month online course starts Oct 6!