Take Five with Kit Addleman

 

The T.D. Jakes Foundation (TDJF) is a proud sponsor of the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas’ 2021 Women of Distinction, which honors female leaders—from high schoolers to adults (including our own president and CEO Hattie Hill)—who have blazed a trail in their fields. In advance of the celebration, we’ve asked these extraordinary women and young women to share their experiences and offer advice for how to further advance equality in the workplace.

Kit Addleman, Partner at Haynes & Boone LLP

1. When did you first become interested in giving back and how did your formative experiences influence your charitable work?

 I grew up in Oklahoma where my mom was my Girl Scout leader. We moved after college and law school to live in a number of different places, including Colorado where my two older girls were Girl Scouts in the Mile High Council. That’s where I really got my first taste of the wonderful things that Girl Scouts can do for middle school and older girls. Being a champion for girls and women has so many different components to it in terms of saying, ‘I’m going to be there to support you when times are tough, to give you kudos and accolades and really brag on you. And I’m going to be there to protect you when things are not going the way that you want them to.’ Within the practice of law, it’s taken a long time for women to get to a place where they can become partners at a law firm—equity partners—and so it’s important to make sure that we champion the efforts of our young female associates and talk about all the great work that they do, help to get them in front of senior management, for example. It’s important, I think, to instill values about supporting other women. Right from the beginning, a lot of women, myself included, have this nagging voice in our heads that says we’re not enough. Some people call it imposter theory, and what we need to tell ourselves and each other is that you are enough, and what you’re doing is great. And if we can start that mantra, if you will, at a very young age we don’t grow up with the same insecurities.

2. How has your business leadership experience impacted/informed your work building nonprofits and supporting communities?

I’ve been involved in mentoring a couple of girls through Girl Scouts. I always talk to them about the importance of embracing their passion and putting themselves out there without doubting themselves, which is something that I experienced.  Now, both Kennedy and Lauren, who I’m thrilled to call mentees, are about to start college. They’re girls who were probably going to succeed without me, but I hope I’ve given them some ideas on how to strategize or think about where they’re going to go with their lives.

3. We know how important exposure and role models are to women and underrepresented communities. Who was one of your most important early role models and why?

 My story about mentorship starts with a man that I worked for when I was a law student. He was a general counsel at First National Bank of Oklahoma, where I grew up, and I had plans to stay on as a lawyer after passing the Bar exam.  During my final semester of law school, John told me a couple of times that the best time to work for the SEC is right out of law school. I was nervous because I had already accepted a job to work at the bank, but I applied to the SEC and ended up getting a job. Ironically, while studying for the Bar exam, I found out that the bank was declared insolvent by the FDIC and taken over by a public bank in California. In that situation, there were only two people who would have lost their jobs—the general counsel and me.  So, I was fortunate to have an opportunity to work my way up at the SEC. Years later, when I was the regional director of one of the SEC offices, I ran into John who said, ‘I made you what you are’ and I said, ‘you know what, you’re right; you’re absolutely the person who was my best mentor.’ Without John, I wouldn’t be where I am today. One of the things people talk about a lot now, as opposed to mentor, is a sponsor. I think that’s even a better word for it, which is to say—put my credibility at stake for you; I’m going to use my connections for you, and I’m going to sponsor you, not just tell you how to do it, but actually help you and put you out there with my name attached to it. I think that is a wonderful tool to help young women, particularly older Girl Scouts.

4. To create diversity, equity and inclusion at all levels, businesses need to lead by example. How do you lead by example and how can we advocate for women and ensure we are represented in leadership positions and on corporate boards?

It’s important to show girls, and not just tell them, how to take ownership and how to take on all things. In my professional life, there are ways that I think that I’ve improved the quality of my practice. We have a women’s leadership academy, which is focused on young female associates. And when I first joined the law firm more than 10 years ago, the program was only two years old. We decided to create new programming and come up with a design that would help those young women to become better at business development, relationships and just being better lawyers. It’s hard to brag on your own capabilities but easy for me to reach out and say, ‘have you met my partner? She’s amazing, and here’s what she does around this particular area of law.’

5. How should companies think about charitable giving? How can they ensure that they’re directing their dollars to organizations that will remain accountable?

I think I’ve contributed to making the world a better place through Girl Scouts. The program has a focused series of programmatic pillars, particularly for older girls, that are focused on financial literacy, entrepreneurship and all the engineering and technology careers. It also has a healthy-living emphasis, which is important, as well. Being a Girl Scout, having experiences that involve change and recognizing that life isn’t a straight line is so meaningful.

 

Back to News & Insights