Amplifying Women’s Voices

This segment was created to highlight the challenges and triumphs of incredible women in their careers.  It contains valuable advice and words of wisdom.  The purpose here is to allow women to learn from one another’s experiences.  Use this priceless advice to reach your own goals.

Tina Odjaghian TBI Lawyer

Name:  Tina Odjaghian

Occupation:  Founder & Managing Attorney at Odjaghian Law Group

Instagram:  @tinaodjaghian

Facebook:  OdjaghianLawGroup

1.  What is it like to be a woman in your professional field (the good and the challenges)?

Although I think we’ve come a long way in the legal profession, and we are graduating 55% women from law schools today, I think only a fraction of them are in the courtroom trying cases. And as such there still is sometimes a subconscious stereotype that exists particularly in the mindset of some male colleagues. I had a situation recently where I had a record month with six seven-figure results and reported our firms results on my social media page, a group of male colleagues apparently had a discussion about this and found it to be offensive. Those same male colleagues were high-fiving one another for very similar postings on social media of similar results they had obtained. At first, I took this very personally and was deeply hurt by it particularly since I always celebrate their successes as though they are my own. Nonetheless, after giving it some thought it occurred to me that this was not a deliberate reaction to my success, but rather it was a reflection of the fact that, unfortunately, they are not accustomed to seeing these types of results regularly from female firms as proportionally as we see from our male colleagues, and so some are not accustomed to seeing their female colleagues in this light. Over the years, I have let these types of things roll off my back so that I can resume my efforts with a positive mindset, which then helps me attain more great results for my clients. Originally, I was taken aback, but now I realize that the only way that this mindset will change in time is to have more of my female colleagues elevated to positions of power within their firms or in solo practice, and achieve outstanding results so that our results can be proportional to the number of women we have in the profession.

2.   If you have been stereotyped as a woman in the workplace, how did you deal with it?

Although undoubtably a glass ceiling exists within the legal profession where career advancement and pay are discrepant between my male and female colleagues, I have never seen my femininity or the fact that I’m a woman as a barrier to my success in any way. To the extent it has caused me to be underestimated, I am grateful for that. Despite the stereotypes in my profession, triers of fact are clear that they love hearing a female perspective and hearing from women in the courtroom, as we have a distinct yet equally powerful way of presenting our clients story that is unfortunately underrepresented in courtrooms today. I broke away from the corporate structure early on in my career and started my own firm because I was well aware of the disparity that exists between male and female attorneys in the law firm setting, and I wanted no part of it. Again, not to generalize as there are law firms that are extremely fair and conscientious with their hiring and compensation practices. Nonetheless, I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit and wanted to start my own firm early on.  Although I have faced great challenges as a female trial lawyer, I have always embraced my femininity and appreciate the perspective and the different approach that it has afforded me, and have in no way felt disadvantaged because of my gender.

3.  What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?

Be yourself. Be true to yourself. Trust your gut instincts. Focus on the positive feedback, take the negative with a grain of salt and let it roll off your back. Seeking validation and respect from your colleagues is natural. However, don’t be dependent on it to feel great about what you do. There will be many supportive and wonderful people in your path. Appreciate them. As your success grows, you may be perceived as a threat by some who may try to undermine your position. Expect it. Be ok with it. Don’t be distracted by the noise. Focus on your hustle, stay your course and know that you are the maker of your own destiny. Lastly, maintain your word and your integrity above all, because it will precede you and open doors for you more so than any advertisement ever can.

4.  Have you ever been afraid of being judged because of your gender at work and how did you overcome that fear?

I absolutely feel more susceptible to judgment, criticism and scrutiny as a woman by virtue of being a woman, and even more so because I am a successful woman. As a result, in the past, I carefully considered my every move as strategies at trial, word choice, and even choices with wardrobe and appearance. In my profession, if men are aggressive, they are regarded as being strong, whereas females are regarded with a lewd name that starts with a ‘B’. Indeed, there are seminars about how women should dress and present themselves in a court room. After being in this profession for over 16 years and building my practice from scratch, I have finally learned to trust my instincts and be myself even if it means defying the norms. I learned that I am most effective when I am being authentic and true to myself, which in turn makes me feel confident in my own skin and most effective in my role as an advocate for my clients.

5.  How do you balance work and personal responsibilities as a female?

Being a female trial lawyer is demanding, but amazing and rewarding. The best parts of the job are that I get to help people at the most difficult time in their lives, and that I set a great example for my sons of what a strong woman looks like, and I am able to do so while making a great living. Like any profession, it has its challenges, but it’s really been a blessing in my life to feel like I can positively impact other lives at a time when it really counts. The word “balance” is really overrated and misunderstood. Juggling two kids, a very busy law firm, family, social calendar, nonprofit responsibilities, and my own self-care hardly leaves room for balance. I feel like at any given time something has to give and often it does. Through the years I’ve learned to accept that as part of the process and not strive for perfection. I really enjoy every day for the challenges and adventures it brings. I am mindful of the blessings and grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given, and I don’t take any of it for granted.

Robyn Symon

Name:  Robyn Symon

Occupation:  Filmmaker


Facebook:  donoharmthefilm

Twitter:  @DoNoHarmFilm

1.  As a female leader, what has been the most significant barrier in your career and how did you overcome it? 

Women account for only 12% of directors working on the top 100 grossing films in 2019. Those directors and studio executives (mostly men) tend to give opportunities to those they’ve worked with in the past, so it’s a big challenge to break through and find opportunity as a woman.  I’ve found my own path. After working as a TV news reporter and producer at the PBS affiliate in Miami, I’ve been making independent films that have been important to me. Support for them comes from individuals that are passionate about a topic or investors. When you build a track record and awards such as winning a couple of Emmy’s, it gets easier to build confidence that you can be successful. But every project, every film, seems to have its own unique challenges.


2.  What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?

I would gain experience as early as possible – seek out internships, work on low budget or no budget films, volunteer with nonprofit groups – just get in the game and build relationships.

3.  Have you experienced resistance when leading men and how did you overcome it?

Most crews are male dominated so when a female producer or director shows up, some men embrace it but there seems to always be one or two that have a problem with women in leadership roles and these people can poison an entire crew. I understand this is learned behavior for those men, they were conditioned at some point, but I tolerate it. The best advice I’ve gotten to diffuse the situation is to be very prepared, professional and fair. It’s a shame, but it’s also good to enlist another strong male on the set or location to have your back.

4.  While getting into your field, what challenges did you run into as a woman?

Women in television news is widely accepted especially on the local level. We see a lot of female reporters on the news. This was how I built my skills and credibility as a journalist. It’s how I got a job at PBS and started to build a reputation and body of work. The biggest challenge is that there are so many women trying to make it as filmmakers, documentaries or narrative film. Everyone has ideas but no money and the grants available are ridiculously competitive. Sometimes thousands of applications for one grant. It can feel like an insurmountable goal. That’s why I say you’ve got to be able to show your work by doing, working inside successful companies to learn and make lasting connections.

5.  What is the best piece of career advice you have ever received?

The best advice I’ve been given is more of a philosophy- don’t give up your passion or your dreams. Money will follow if you pick the right projects and rise to the challenge. 

Felicia Mead

Name:  Felicia Mead

Occupation:  Horror Film Writer-Producer-Director

Instagram: felicia_mead

1. What advice would you share with women entering a male dominated profession?

My recommendation is that you should ensure you have crocodile skin. This is an extreme business and you may encounter getting your sentiments injured, dissatisfactions, and counterfeit companionships and these feelings will cause you to feel like you need to surrender. What’s more, this is the point at which you become your greatest team promoter and push your self much harder.  


2. As a woman, what are the challenges in career progression in your field?

A portion of the difficulties that I face are postponements and duties.  A specific deferral may be not having enough financing for a task.  Also finding a submitted group who has confidence in your vision.


3. How do you balance work and personal responsibility as a woman?

First, I create and organize a timeline for myself. I consider all the things that I need to do during the week. I’ll go into my weekly organizer and set dates and times for the things that I need to get done. Writing actionable items into my planner is key.  This has been an incredible path so that I don’t overlook anything.  As a writer I tend to get caught in my mind, therefore, before composing, I ensure that my timeline is clear.


4. What is the best piece of career advice you ever received?

The best piece of career advice I received was from the actor, Jay Hunter.  He messaged me saying “keep up the great work, you will keep growing as a writer”.  This has proven to be true. The harder I work, the more I grow, and the more success I come across. 


5. Have you experienced resistance when leading men and how did you overcome it?

There have been instances where men have tried to dominate my vision with their own vision. When that occurs, I discreetly pull them aside and remind them that they are working on my project and that I am in charge. In some cases, we’re unable to see eye to eye in which case I supplant them.

Name:  Jovita Oriwari MD

Occupation:  Oncologist Breast Surgeon 

Instagram: lifewithdrjovita_O

1.  What advice would you share with women entering a male-dominated profession?

As a woman in a male dominated profession, I would say make sure you have a seat at the table. A lot of decisions that impact you and your causes will be made by people at the table and you want to make sure your voice and your views are heard. 

2.  As a woman, what are the challenges in career progression in your field?    

The major challenge to career progression in my field would have to be being a mom. Mind you I don’t believe this to be a barrier but a lot of women feel they cannot be effective in their career as well as be a mom. In my experience this can be a strength. It is not impossible to have it all- you just have to learn to prioritize, delegate and outsource. 

3.  What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?

My advice to the next generation of female leaders is to be yourself. Don’t dumb yourself down for anyone. Let your brilliance shine through always.

4.  Have you experienced resistance when leading men and how did you overcome it?

I have not personally experienced resistance or if I did I have probably ignored it. When you are a leader, the people under you (men and others) are looking for any sign of weakness or a crack in the armor. Your job is to lead with confidence and that comes from knowing your work and your worth. 

5.   While getting into your field, what challenges did you run into as a woman?

The main challenge I ran into especially as a minority woman is always being underestimated. She can’t possibly get into medical school. She can’t possibly make it through medical school. She can’t possibly be a surgeon. For me these were non factors as I had behind me massive support in the form of my village- parents, siblings, husband and various other family members. These people never doubted me!