When I was admitted as an
undergraduate student into The
University of Texas at Austin
(UT), my high school counselor
begged, “Please don’t attend that
racist school.” While sitting in my
freshman biology class at UT, a
visiting Harvard professor said,
“Blacks are genetically inferior.” I
cried and begged my dad to come
and get me. Dad refused and said,
“Looks like you are learning some
At my first post-college job, a re-
spected mentor said, “Women who
are height/weight appropriate get
into the C-suite. You MUST lose
weight to have a fighting chance.”
Later, when I decided to go to law
school, a valued mentor said, “Law
firms want young subservient folks.
THAT IS NOT YOU.” When I was
up for equity partner the first time,
another valued mentor said, “Don’t
get your hopes up. No one is elevat-
ed the first time up.”
Lo and behold I graduated
from UT in four years with a BBA;
my Caucasian suitemates both
flunked out (no shade, just true). I
was recognized as a high-potential
employee destined for the C-suite
during my first career. I was the
first African-American female on
law review and am currently a
member of the board of directors
for my law school. I was one of a
handful of African-American fe-
male equity partners at Jones Day,
my prior firm, and was elevated
the first time up. I am one of a
handful of African-American equi-
ty partners at my current firm and
a member of the advisory commit-
tee to the board. I chair the legal
ministry at my church. I’m afraid
you may not like this article, but
sincerely hope that you do.
I move beyond my fear by using
it as a motivator. I ask you to consider the following:
It is okay to be afraid and brave at
the same time.
Fear does not show up without a
reason. If you can describe it, you
can overcome it.
Confront the fear. Courage is just
fear that has said its prayers. I connect with my faith (Isaiah 41: 10).
Do what works for you.
What is worth having is worth
fighting for. Use your goals to motivate you and not what others think,
say or do.
Surround yourself with supporters
who recognize your value and celebrate your accomplishments.
Devise a plan to stop fear in its
tracks. Failure is not an option.
Overcoming fear over and over
again leads to growth and confidence. The type of confidence
that makes you humble from the
lessons learned and a great leader
and motivator. ■
RUTHIE WHITE (ruthie.
The Benefits of Fear
com) is managing
principal at Jackson
Lewis P. C., exclusively
management in labor
and employment matters.
DIVERSE PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT BY RUTHIE WHITE
I AM THE MANAGING PRINCIPAL of the Houston office of Jackson Lewis, P.C., specializing in labor and
employment law. I believe you cannot lead and motivate others if you cannot motivate yourself.
I cried and begged
my dad to come and
get me. Dad refused
and said, "Looks like
you are learning some