Nine Questions with Hanson Bridgett’s Teresa Pahl
Welcome back to our Women in Tech blog series! As you may know, Aragon is gearing up for its second annual Women in Technology (WIT) Awards, so we are highlighting the extensive contributions of last year’s winners.
This interview with Teresa Pahl, Partner and Head of Corporate Practice at Hanson Bridgett, dives into women’s underrepresentation at conferences, the power of upbringing to shift gender bias, and leaning in.
1. Please describe yourself in three words.
Tenacious. Determined. Caring.
2. What do you find most interesting about the technology field in which you work?
The speed at which new developments are emerging. There’s just no standing still in technology; it’s constantly moving, and nobody accepts anything but rapid development and rapid improvement.
3. How do you find work-life balance? Do you believe in it?
I raised four kids and worked full-time as an attorney the entire time in private practice. Sometimes, I felt like I had some balance, and other times, I felt like I had no balance. How do you find it? I think you find it by making sure you have childcare that you’re very comfortable with, that you have a spouse that’s as invested in the balance of work and home life as you are, and that you realize that when you’re home, you need to turn off work and when you’re at work, let’s hope you can turn off some of home life. But I think that this was easier 25 years ago, or 20 years ago than it is today, primarily because today, we are so constantly connected to work and we are expected to be constantly connected to work. It’s really difficult when you’re at home with your family to not feel like you should [quickly] check to see what emails look like before dinner, or before doing things. When it was more difficult to stay in touch with the office, it was—to me—easier to turn off work and fully immerse myself in home life than it is today.
4. Do you ever have times when you just walk away from your phone while at home?
I walk away from it—I have to. I totally have to, just not as easily or as frequently as I used to, but there’s definitely those times where it’s all-in family time.
5. What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career and how did you overcome it?
I’ve been really fortunate in the firms that I’ve worked at so that I can honestly say that I’ve had very supportive colleagues and I felt like I was encouraged to develop and move up the ladder. I think the biggest personal challenge has been developing my own book of business. I overcame that by focusing on really caring about my clients, sincerely caring about my clients, doing the best work possible, and getting out and networking as much as I can [by] doing things that I enjoy.
6. Are there enough opportunities for women in tech? How would you assess the progress women have made in the tech industry?
I don’t think there’s enough opportunities for tech and I won’t think there is until I see [that] at least half the room at a conference is attended by women. And I’m not talking about Women in Tech lunches. I’m talking about standard events and I want to see more women there. It’s still really tough. It’s better, but it’s hard.
7. What are some things you think should be addressed on peer and educational levels to encourage women to feel empowered in the tech industry?[I have] a funny story on the educational side. I have three boys and one girl—my boys are oldest and my daughter is the baby. My middle boys were maybe eight years old and I used to try to take my kids to the office with me just so they knew where I was all day and they felt like they were a part of it. One time, we were having dinner and I asked them what they want to be when they grow up, and one of my boys said, “When I grow up, I want to be a lawyer because now men can be lawyers, too.” So, it was that sense of in his mind, oh yeah women were lawyers, but it was an exception to see men as lawyers. I think it starts with the role models in the family and because I was a pretty strong role model with what I was doing, I think my kids have no bias whatsoever toward working with women and fortunately, my husband’s the same way. So, I think [my boys] grew up in that atmosphere where it was just a given, there was no difference, and as a matter of fact, women frequently held better jobs than men and men needed to catch up. At least, when they were younger, this was their view of life and I think that’s really critical.
8. Please provide a WIT call to action.
I hate to steal someone else’s term, but it just feels like the right one is “lean in.”
9. For someone who isn’t familiar with the book or the implications of that term, how would you describe it to them?
It means don’t compromise your value, your worth, your knowledge, [or] your expertise. Be out there with demanding equal time and opportunity and proving it, proving that you deserve it.