The Untold Journeys with Gabrielle Gay
Happy International Women’s History Month everyone!
Welcome to the second chapter of The Untold Journeys, a series where I will be exploring the lives of black professionals within the fields of international human rights, criminal justice, law, development, and humanitarian issues through a series of interviews.
This series summarizes their thoughts and experiences from their perspective and own words.
Innovating Your Passion During a Global Pandemic
I am incredibly passionate about justice for women globally and ensuring that our gender-specific challenges are heard. So by giving future lawyers/politicians/policymakers access to quality mentorship, entrepreneurship, and internship opportunities: we then revolutionize education and create certified and more competent leaders to navigate the real world and solve the pressing issues. As a final year student [law student] in the height of the greatest pandemic to hit the world in recent times: I, along with my contemporaries, dealt with volatile transitions and a considerable change in reality. We were basically locked in our homes while still required to perform academically.
In reaching out to my peers to see how they were doing, I noticed the disproportionate way the pandemic affected students who were women: they were generally tasked with more household duties than the men. Additionally, we were still expected to perform well academically while maintaining [our] mental health. The pandemic served to exacerbate an already existing problem for career women and women law students alike: navigating academia or a career along with the stereotypical expectations placed upon women (and more so, women of colour). This is how the Femme Lex Cohort was formed and actually born out of the pandemic through this experimental backdrop! God gave me the name and the idea, and I got started with the proposals and [creation of the program] in 2020. And in 2021, we made history as the first-ever fully certified Legal Entrepreneurship and Mentorship Programme of its kind in the Caribbean Americas, in collaboration with the Barbados Youth Business Trust!
Without a doubt: being a young black woman in law and advocacy is one of the foundational reasons I began The Femme Lex Cohort! I’ve recognized that individuals of other races, while they can be amazing allies: are not privy to the lived experiences of Black people. They observe from the sidelines. Too many times to count I’ve been the only Black person at the meeting, in the boardroom. And that’s terrible in 2022! Career-wise it’s made me tougher as you go into situations automatically being underestimated: by being Black, a woman, and from a small island simultaneously. So, I learnt early on to always show up with my A-game-excellence is a requirement. What other races can make mistakes on, we can not. And until we are taking up equitable space in the top tiers of leadership this will always be the case. So, it’s definitely shaped me to be driven, tough, and non-compromising on quality and performance throughout my career. However, with The Femme Lex Cohort and all other programmes of the Erline Bradshaw Foundation we intend to do our part to promote equity in the career space, so this won’t be the reality for the generations to come.
I remember when I had to attend a meeting, and I was the only woman there. The discussion became heated and one of the partners looked across at me and literally asked me to leave the meeting, as “things were getting heated between the guys.” I looked him right in the eyes and asked him if he doubted my capacity to handle situations because of my gender. He was quite taken aback but quickly agreed that I should stay. That incident has stayed with me throughout the years because it was such a fluid, reflex action. He thought nothing of it and seemed genuinely surprised that I was correcting him on it. And that is just one of the many instances of male privilege that I’ve had to navigate. The key is always to keep a professional poker face and handle yourself directly and diplomatically.
Developing Your Craft
I’ve had to develop the art of organisation and fluid adaptation to change. Both are mandatory for excellent leadership. My day can be planned in a certain manner, but it’s always subject to change due to the nature of the many projects I work with. So my digital planner is my best friend, along with a healthy appreciation for the flux of life. I’ve successfully and thankfully gotten to the point where I adapt to changing circumstances. And it’s a must for every leader; you won’t survive without it!
Be okay with being yourself, be RELENTLESS in your authenticity.
You see, as you surge forward as a leader, there will be many voices, opinions and noise on who you should be. Numerous voices will seek to shape and mold you, and even intimidate you, trying to force you out of the space that is rightfully yours. However, you become impenetrable when you are solid within yourself. Remember why you started, and keep a tight-knit support system. For me, it’s God and family. And even if you don’t have that, you have yourself and (shameless plug) The Femme Lex Cohort is a welcoming community of like-minded leaders, so join us!
My mother, Margaret Gay, always quotes Jeremiah 29:11 to me. It says “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” And it’s so true! Even when things are tough, it may seem cliché, but I’ve thankfully been around long enough to see the Lord provide so much better for me than whatever I was disappointed about! Every disappointment was a U-turn back to an amazing blessing! And that’s what keeps me going when things are turbulent. I have had to learn to be ruthless about my self-care. I’m taking care of literally thousands of students, being in law school, projects, programmes, meetings, the Foundation, working-it’s so much. Too much for one person if not handled directly. So I’ve learnt to make the best of digital automation tools and be extremely intentional about getting to the gym, filling my body with as much healthy nutritious foods as I can, and getting to bed for those eight hours- no negotiation! Most importantly, I cherish my early morning or late nights talking with God and taking time to simply meditate and think. We must take time to think and relax into the moment. We are only as effective as the standard of productivity we can put out into the world: so let’s continue to make time for us, so we can continue to change lives positively and perpetually, forever.
Connect with Gabrielle and The Femme Lex Cohort!