Women Who Inspire

In celebration of Women’s History Month, Steptoe & Johnson PLLC will be presenting the “Women Who Inspire” series, featuring our female leaders who will share reflections on women empowerment, opportunities for professional women now and in the future, and the women who they have looked up to throughout their careers.



Women Who Inspire – Dr. Stephanie Urchick


Dr. Stephanie Urchick

Dr. Stephanie Urchick has worked for many local Pennsylvania colleges and universities. After retiring from positions in higher education she founded and managed several consulting companies including Doctors at Work LLC, which provided training and business development consulting for collegiate and corporate clients in Western Pennsylvania. Additionally, she has served as Executive Director of the Southpointe CEO Association and the Southpointe Property Owners’ Association.

Urchick has been active in numerous community organizations and boards, including Leadership Washington, United Way, Washington County Symphony, the Greater Washington County Food Bank, and Rotary Club. She joined the Rotary Club of California, Pennsylvania in 1991 where she held various club, district, and regional and international level positions. In August 2022, Urchick was selected to become President of Rotary International for2024-2025, making her the second woman to hold this position.

Urchick received her B.S. degree in international studies from the University of Pennsylvania, her M.S. in education from Duquesne University, and her Ph.D. in leadership from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

What do you consider to be your greatest career success?

Without question, it is being selected to become President of Rotary International for 2024-2025. Rotary is an international organization, and we operate in more than 200 countries and geographic regions with over 1.4 million members. What makes it greater is that membership for females in Rotary only occurred in 1987. Women started advocating for membership in 1912 at one of the very early conventions, and just kept pushing and showing up, and eventually, the Supreme Court suggested that because Rotary has a business purpose, it did need to be open to both genders. The message behind this is perseverance and never giving up.

What advice would you give young women?

My first piece of advice is that I would encourage younger professional females to show up and keep showing up. Don’t shy away from leadership opportunities and don’t shy away from responsibilities. My second piece of advice is that by and large women really aren’t ever taught how to negotiate. We need to develop negotiation skills because it becomes critical as we move through our profession. Making a wrong decision when it comes to negotiations can compound year after year after year.

What organizations do you support that empower women?

Rotary International is one. We have developed a program called Empowering Girls that is in its third year now to improving girls’ futures. At Rotary we’re of the opinion that when we empower and educate young women, they grow up to become empowered ladies. On a local level, there are some organizations that I’ve been involved with. One is Dress for Success because it is a professional-oriented organization, and it helps women who are interested in furthering their careers. But in general, I love supporting anything that shows girls and women how to power up. I tend to shy away from using the word “empower” because it suggests that women don’t have the power to begin with, and I don’t think that’s true. We have the power, but there are obstacles that are in our way. So, our job as leaders is to help women get around those obstacles and to help them find the power that already resides inside them.

What are your thoughts about the issue of pay equity and how do you think it can best be addressed going forward?

When people are doing the same kind of job and are producing the same kind of results, there needs to be an appropriate method for ensuring pay equity. Keep in mind that equality and equity are two different words for a reason. Equality suggests that the same opportunities and the same resources are given to everybody, but equity takes into consideration that people have different circumstances, so it allows for accommodations or opportunities to be put forward to reach that equal outcome. To address pay equity, I’m of the opinion that the squeaky wheels get the grease. We just need to keep talking about it, keep advocating for it and we need to keep bringing it to people’s attention.

What do you think are some of the biggest opportunities for females in the business profession?

Leadership positions are the biggest opportunity and again I encourage women to step up and apply for those roles. Entrepreneurship will also be a big opportunity for women in the business field. As more and more women enter the workforce, it is important for us to help women understand that they have resources, power, skills, and talent, and when put together, they can become entrepreneurs and move forward in the business world doing their own thing.



Women Who Inspire – Marilyn McClure-Demers


Marilyn McClure-Demers

Marilyn McClure-Demers serves as Vice President and Associate General Counsel at Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company where she is responsible for strategic legal leadership of employment, corporate, intellectual property, class action, and financial services litigation. She also serves as the law department’s diversity professional for Leadership Council for Legal Diversity and is a member of Nationwide’s Social Justice Task Force. Prior to Nationwide, Marilyn served as Employment Law Counsel at Rite Aid Corporation after more than 12 years of complex trial and business counseling in private practice.

Marilyn is an active volunteer and advocate of justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in the legal profession and in the community. She is the Past President of the Ohio Women’s Bar Association and currently serves on the board of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Tiffany Circle National Council for the American Red Cross.

Marilyn earned her bachelor’s in political science and her law degree from West Virginia University where she serves on the WVU Alumni Association Board of Directors and College of Law Visiting Committee.

What do you consider the greatest success in your career?

I have had the great benefit to work with incredible C-suite clients over the years, and my greatest success is to have earned their confidence establishing myself as the ‘go-to’ for the most complex and challenging strategic legal issues. It is extremely rewarding to be their trusted advisor and be in a position where they routinely seek me out to help solve problems and provide guidance. It is something that I do not take for granted.

As a leader, I leverage my platform to benefit others and go beyond my core technical work responsibilities. It is rewarding to make a difference in terms of culture at the organization, while positively impacting our profession and my community in the work of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI), employing a holistic leadership approach.

What do you see at Steptoe & Johnson that embodies our support of women in the legal profession?

Steptoe & Johnson has a strong history of great lawyers and leaders who produce great work. I respect organizationally your continued commitment to JEDI through programming, sponsorships, and curriculum development.

I have tried cases and worked alongside some of the top female lawyers at Steptoe & Johnson and they are among the very best in the practice of law. Steptoe & Johnson is a consummate supporter of advancing women into leadership and partnership positions within the firm. There is also tremendous support for women leaders to share their time and talents to positively impact communities.

What would you tell younger female professionals that they should think about as they navigate their careers?

Hone what I call “patient persistence.” In other words, take the necessary time to build skills and necessary sponsorship while remaining focused and reaching higher. Realize that persistence defines your character, makes you strong, improves other skills, and helps you discover talents you may not have realized that you possess.

My other piece of advice is to learn and grow from mistakes. It is often said, don’t be afraid of failure, which is true. However, I say focus on learning how to avoid making the same mistakes while not fearing failure or setbacks along the way.

It is also critical to celebrate milestones. Pause and recognize your accomplishments while highlighting and lifting those of others. Take time to take care of yourself and recharge for the long haul. Reflection helps remind us why we are in this profession.

What do you see as the biggest opportunity for women?

Female leaders are defining today’s business world and have proven to be capable and successful in any leadership capacity. This is opening all sorts of new opportunities with unlimited career paths for those who distinguish themselves, collaborate, and think strategically. Women also have a terrific opportunity to showcase how well they can lead and develop others.

A hallmark of any great leader is recognizing the positive career growth and impact on others around them. Female leaders can embrace this challenge and go beyond simply being accepted in the workplace to transforming how the world identifies the very best.



Women Who Inspire – Patricia Roberts


Patricia E. Roberts

Patricia E. Roberts serves as the Dean of St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio, TX. She earned her law degree from William & Mary in Virginia and practiced law for eight years before returning to her alma mater as a clinical professor of law, director of clinical programs, and vice-dean. She became the dean at St. Mary’s in 2020.

Roberts’ leadership has encouraged innovative programs and increased the law school’s national reputation. In the fall of 2021, St. Mary’s Law became the first law school in the nation approved to offer a fully online J.D. program accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). The law school has increased its national ranking among the best advocacy programs to 14th and 11th, according to U.S. News and the ABA respectively, and applications have reached historic record highs.

She was the inaugural president of the board of the National Law School Veterans Clinic Consortium and is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation, the Virginia Law Foundation, and the San Antonio Bar Foundation. She also hosts the legal education podcast, “Aspen Leading Edge” and is the St. Mary’s School of Law Charles E. Cantú Distinguished Professor of Law.

What do you consider to be your greatest career success?

Every student who graduates from our law school and helps people in their community through the practice of law or the adjudication of cases, contributes to my career success. Every one of our graduates who goes on to do great things, leading in their communities and serving others, is a ripple effect impossible to measure.

What advice would you give young women?

The most important piece of advice I can give to young women is for them to be their authentic selves, and above reproach in their integrity. Secondly, make yourself indispensable. I’ve said that to all sorts of students I’ve taught. Whether you start as a volunteer, or in a job you hadn’t planned, if you make yourself indispensable, positions get created, money is found for salaries, and advancement opportunities presented. My final piece of advice would be to support each other and make opportunities for one another, this is not a competition or a race. We’re all in this to make a positive difference in our world, and we can do that best when we work together.

What organizations do you support that empower women?

At St. Mary’s Law School, we have something called the Lawtina Network started by one of our law students, Brianna Chapa. She saw a need for Latinas who were new to law school looking to find networking opportunities and mentors because there is such a small number of Latina members in the legal profession, despite the increasing number of Latinas among the population overall. To support those efforts, we hosted a conference and this past August we had 150 attendees from across the country attend, made up of current law students, judges, practitioners, and future law students, all Latina, or allies of Latinas. It was amazing to see them together, to watch them connect and learn from one another. Their energy and enthusiasm were palpable, and we will convene at the Lawtina Network Summit again in October 2023.

What are your thoughts about the issue of pay equity and how do you think it can best be addressed going forward?

Pay equity is still a problem and the only way to address it is through transparency. Institutions, whether public or private, should do a salary audit and see if there are disparities that cannot be explained for other than gender or racial differences, and if there are any such inequities of pay, proactively correct them.

What do you think are some of the biggest opportunities for females in the legal profession?

Women are inclined to lead with more empathy and compassion. This approach can make the world better and be better for business as employees and colleagues derive increased sense of purpose and satisfaction when led with emotional intelligence. These soft skills inherent in many women will open up a lot of opportunities for females in the legal realm. Women tend to have a more collaborative approach to working with team members and treating clients and future colleagues with that same empathy and compassion can be very rewarding personally and make for a more positive working environment. Employees and clients or litigants who are more satisfied are happier in their work or in their dealings with your firm, business, or the courts.



Women Who Inspire – Sandra Harper


Dr. Sandra Harper

Dr. Sandra S. Harper is the president of McMurry University in Abilene, Texas, where she has served in that position since 2013. Prior to that, she served as the president of Our Lady of the Lake College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana from 2006-2013 and as the provost and vice president for academic affairs and professor of communication at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi from 1998-2006.

She chairs the Educational and Institutional Insurance Administrators, Inc. (EIIA) board, is the former board chair of the Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas (ICUT) and serves on the boards of the North American Association of Methodist Schools, Colleges and Universities, the Abilene Chamber of Commerce, and the Abilene Industrial Foundation. She also has been on the United Methodist University Senate since 2017.

Harper received her B.S. degree from Texas Tech University and her M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of North Texas. Harper also completed the Harvard Management Development Program and the Governor’s Executive Development Program at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas.

What do you consider to be your greatest career success?

My greatest success would be developing the servant leadership program at McMurry when I was a new Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. I was still teaching upper-level communication classes at that point but my colleague from the history department, Dr. Robert Sledge, introduced me to the concept, so we started the first servant leadership class at McMurry in 1990, and it is still going on.

What advice would you give young women?

I have talked with a number of my younger colleagues at McMurry and what they are interested in is work/life balance for women because either in our culture or in ourselves, women primarily still tend to have the bulk of the childcare, elder care, and family responsibilities. They always said you can do it all, but I’m not sure you can. You need to prioritize and focus on one goal. My advice to women would be that if you are in a situation where you have young children and you’re building a career simultaneously, recognize that it is a difficult thing to do and try not to get burned out. Try to take the long-term perspective and don’t try to do everything at once.

What organizations do you support that empower women?

We have a women’s leadership luncheon at McMurry that I support. The purpose of the luncheon is to develop endowed scholarships for women. We give a $5,000 scholarship to both a traditional and non-traditional student. The American Council of Education has a women’s network, and I am one of their presidential sponsors. I also support the Alliance for Women and Children in Abilene.

What are your thoughts about the issue of pay equity and how do you think it can best be addressed going forward?

We’ve come a long way on the issue of pay equity and there’s more awareness of it from men and women. But even though we have made some progress I think it’s kind of incumbent on whoever is leading an organization, male or female, to do a deep dive into their salary structure. It can sneak up on you if you’re not paying attention to it.

What do you see as some of the biggest opportunities for females in the academic world?

The upcoming decade is ripe for women leaders and people of color as well. I think the more that organizations realize they do better when they have diversity in leadership, we will see more opportunities come open. Whether an organization is populated with all women or all men at the leadership level, it doesn’t do as well as a mixture, and a lot of the successful organizations are moving in that direction. Certainly, higher education is one area that we can see this move in the direction of supporting diversity. You can see the change and the acceptance of women in higher education leadership. Take me for example, I was the first female dean at a previous organization as well as the first female president at another. I want to encourage the young women of today to seek out these opportunities that will be coming up because, if they can be resilient and not get discouraged, the world is open to their leadership.

One of the things young women have to recognize is that they will be turned down for more jobs than they will get, so do not get discouraged and say that they are not meant to be managers or vice presidents if they don’t get selected on their first couple of attempts at seeking leadership positions. Pick yourself up and learn from the experience and keep applying.




Women Who Inspire – Marchelle Moore

Marchelle E. Moore

Marchelle is the Senior Vice President, Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary for Encova Mutual Insurance Group. Moore leads strategic and tactical legal initiatives and provides the executive and senior leadership teams with legal advice on company strategies and their implementation. Moore also leads regulatory affairs and industry relations.

Prior to joining Encova, Moore served as Central Ohio Transit Authority’s (COTA) Vice President of Legal and Government Affairs and General Counsel. Before joining COTA, Moore worked at the Franklin County Common Pleas Court, and was responsible for conducting extensive research and pre-trial hearings for a wide range of civil and criminal cases. Prior to her work at the Franklin County Common Pleas Court, Moore was an Assistant City Attorney for the Columbus City Attorney’s Office.

Moore has accomplished numerous professional achievements and highlights, including recognition in Savoy Magazine’s 2019 Most Influential Women in Corporate America; The Ohio State University Michael E. Moritz College of Law’s 2018 Community Service Award; United Way’s 2016 Emerging Leader Award; and as a Game Changer in Who’s Who in Black Columbus. She is a fellow of the Young American Leaders Program at Harvard Business School and the African American Leadership Academy and former Co-Chair of the City of Columbus Charter Review Commission. Moore resides in Blacklick, Ohio and enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, outdoor activities and community service.

What do you consider your greatest career success?
While there are several career accomplishments over the years that I’m particularly proud of, the greatest success in my career is when I was named to my current role of Senior Vice President, Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary for Encova Insurance. This role affords me the greatest breadth of responsibility of my career and the opportunity to work on large scale, complex transactions which is very rewarding.

What advice would you give young women?
Be willing to ascend as high as your talent and ambition will take you. There are a lot of messages, both internal and external, that once you have a family, you can no longer fully pursue your career ambitions; and that simply is not true. I, along with countless other women, have built successful careers, while simultaneously being loving, present, and fully engaged mothers. For me, particularly as a single mother, it has taken extraordinary planning, but it can be done, and it is very gratifying to fully live out your professional dreams while also experiencing the unparalleled joys of being a mother.

What do you see as opportunities for women in the business world?
To take our seat at the big table and lead. It is well documented that diverse teams deliver greater results, and the time is now for more women to take our rightful place at the highest levels of leadership. It’s been disheartening to read that women are currently exiting the workforce at alarming rates due to the multifaceted impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic – a trend I hope will soon reverse. We need them!

Who were those women pioneers that you were inspired by?
There have been so many women who’ve inspired me. But no one has inspired me more than my mother – Gloria Wooten. She is smart, she is strong, and she is courageous. I have spent my entire life trying to emulate her character and fortitude. I am who I am because of her.



Women Who Inspire – Christi Lee

Christi Lee

Christi Lee is Chief Legal Officer at Appalachian Regional Healthcare, Inc. (ARH), a not-for-profit health system operating 14 hospitals in the Appalachian regions of Kentucky and West Virginia. In addition to her legal duties, Lee serves on the ARH Strategic Plan Steering Committee and leads the Greater Good Goal Committee dedicated to improving health and wellness and expansion of mental health services in the communities served by ARH. Ms. Lee also oversees the pursuit of philanthropy funding sources for the ARH Foundation for Healthier Communities. Lee, a native of Whitesburg, Kentucky, is dedicated to diminishing the disparity in the health of Appalachians and the nation as a whole. Lee received a B.A. in psychology, summa cum laude, and J.D., cum laude, both from University of Kentucky.

What is the greatest success of your career?
Early in my career, my goal was to work as hard as possible and make as much money as possible during working hours, so that I could enjoy life outside of work. So, any kind of fun was based outside of work. At that time, I just spent a lot of time overwhelmed and unhappy. We spend too much of our lives at work to only focus on enjoyment outside of work, and if you do that, I am a firm believer you can’t be fully happy in life. That’s too much unhappy time if you’re always unhappy at work. I constantly struggled with time spent away from my children and my family, and even though I enjoyed what I was doing, I just couldn’t get there. Based on that, I would say the greatest success of my career is to be in a position where I’m excited to wake up in the morning and go to work. I know my work is important and that I’m good at my work.

What advice do you have for younger female professionals who are trying to navigate their own careers?
You have to set your own goals, and work diligently and patiently to reach those goals. Society is always telling women what we need to be, what we need to do, what we need to wear, when we need to have kids. You have to put all of that noise out of your mind. My advice is to throw all of that out the window and figure out what’s important to you.

What organizations do you support that empower women?
There’s so many out there that are worth the time, attention, and contribution, but the one I spend the most time with – and the one I’m most passionate about – is the one that I’m part of, Appalachian Regional Healthcare. In the U.S., women represent 47% of the workforce, but only 21% of senior leadership positions nationwide. Only 8.2% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women, and the article I read was bragging about that 8.2% because we had come so far. This year, for the first time in history, ARH has a female CEO, a female Chief Medical Officer, a female Chief Legal Officer, and a female Chairwoman of the Board of Trustees, and women make up just over 50% of the executive leadership team at ARH. So, I think that that’s really a testament to the value that ARH places on the empowerment of women and the promotion of women in the workplace.

Who are women who have inspired you?
Certainly, my grandmothers and my mother. Both of my grandmothers were working women. My grandmother Grace was about as strong as they come. She was postmaster and valued her career at a time that it wasn’t looked upon as a good thing for a woman to have a career. She worked hard at work and at home. My mother was a kindergarten teacher for 30 years, and she valued her career in a time where society sent the message that it’s okay for women to work, but your duty is to your family. My 9-year-old daughter also inspires me. Right now, she’s completely undeterred by expectations and hopefully that never changes. I’ve promised her that I won’t stop until that she has the same advantages and opportunities that her brother has. I think we’ve moved the bar, but I don’t think we’re there, and I don’t have any intention of stopping.

In your experience with Steptoe & Johnson, what have you seen that embodies our dedication to the empowerment of women?
In a leadership position, I see all kinds of companies that offer products and services, and I will say that I place great importance on a diverse leadership team. The team I work with at Steptoe is diverse, and it’s full of women, and the thing that I notice about Steptoe is that it’s not just women at the associate level, which is frankly what you still see in a lot of law firms. Maybe that’s improved some since I was in private practice, but you would see a large concentration of women at the associate level but not at the leadership level in firms. And by leadership level, I mean Partners and Of Counsel and people in positions able to influence change. At Steptoe, I see women and men in leadership, and I enjoy working with a diverse group. I think that both genders bring something to the table, and I like that Steptoe has a diverse group, and I like that there’s female leadership.



Women Who Inspire - Amanda Wilson

Amanda Wilson

Amanda Wilson is the owner of A+X Puzzles and is a Raleigh-Durham based businesswoman who has taken the toy/game industry by force. Amanda founded A+X Puzzles in February 2019 and is the mother of twins, Adric and Xola (the inspiration for the name of the company). Amanda was inspired to create her own puzzle company because she noticed a glaring absence of diversity in puzzles or games. Amanda has grown her company over the last two years into the best-selling diverse children’s puzzle company, selling in over 1,700 Target stores nationwide.

Amanda coined the phrase “puzzles with you in mind” because one of the core values of her brand is representation and the company’s products provide opportunities for children to see characters that look like them, while developing key fine motor skills, such as hand eye coordination, shape recognition, and concentration. Amanda also founded a Facebook group called Black Moms of Twins which has over 3,500 members. This group provides resources and advice for twin mothers.

What do you consider the greatest success in your career so far?
As the owner of A+X Puzzles, I would say obviously expanding into retail stores as quickly as we did. We just celebrated our third anniversary and we have expanded into many retail spaces, even Target!

What advice do you have for younger female professionals who are navigating through their career?
My biggest advice for all women professionals is to go after everything with reckless abandon, and I always say that you have to be like a dog with a bone when it comes to digging holes because you’re going to hear a lot of the word “no” and you’re not going to see a lot of female representation in a lot of the career fields that you may be interested in. As a young black woman, it can also be intimidating when you know there is a man telling you “no” or closing a door and then you have to take off your woman hat and put on your business woman hat and get the job done; you have to get the job done.

What do you see as the biggest opportunity for females in the business world?
I think the biggest opportunity is to really decide what you want to do in your life, and when I say that it doesn’t always mean career wise, but it also means do you want to get married? Do you want to have children? If so, you need to prioritize what’s more important to you. You can have everything you want in life; it just might not be all at the same time. I don’t think a lot of women realize that you do have to be almost a little bit calculated when it comes to things like this in your life. It’s unfortunate, but you do have to be little calculated.

Who are some of the women who have inspired you?
Well, of course, Michelle Obama. She’s my girl crush and an example of having your career, having your family, and still reaching great success.

In your experience with Steptoe & Johnson, what have you seen that embodies our dedication to the empowerment of women?
I will say I have never received an email from a man at Steptoe & Johnson. I’m like “is it all women that work there?” I think in my mind, I’m thinking, maybe this is a woman ran firm and awesome if it is, but if it isn’t, thank you for putting the women in the forefront.



Women Who Inspire - Amanda Stevens

Amanda M. Stevens, MBA, FAHP, CFRE

Amanda M. Stevens is the Chief Strategy Officer for Hill Country Memorial (HCM) and Executive Director for the Foundation for HCM. After taking a position at the Foundation, she quickly found a love for philanthropy and helping community members meet their philanthropic objectives through support of local health care. Prior to her work at HCM, she worked for an international non-profit in Chengdu, Sichuan, China.

Amanda is a Fellow in the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy and has been recognized by the organization as one of its 40 under 40 leaders in healthcare development. In 2020, she was named Outstanding Woman of the Year by the local Chamber of Commerce. An avid volunteer, Amanda spends much of her free time volunteering for local nonprofits and community organizations.

What do you see is the biggest opportunity for women in the business world?
I think our biggest opportunity in the business world stems from the fact that we, as women, see things so differently. Our perspective is different and unique, and I think we have a great opportunity in the business world to welcome in those new and unique perspectives. And we as women are also very fierce, and if we see something that needs to go a certain direction or that needs to change, most of the time we go after it. I think partly because we want the world to be better than we found it. We want it to be better for our daughters and for our younger colleagues that are coming up in our footsteps.

What are some of the organizations that you’re involved with that either as part of their mission or just part of their practice, really empower women?
I serve as the board chair for the Gillespie County Economic Development Commission. We are a strong economic development commission and as the chair, I have the opportunity to help promote a strong business culture in our community and strong female-owned businesses. I do believe that, as women, we need to support local women-owned businesses and I make it a point to shop at those businesses. The kids’ clothing store that is owned by a mom and her mother is a staple for me. The local caterer that’s owned by a woman is such a great inspiration for her young daughter. Wineries that are women owned or women led are critical to the fabric of our community. It may seem like a small thing, but it makes a tremendous difference in the lives of those female business owners that we support them and support their work.

Who are some women who have inspired you?
I have two daughters, Meredith and Margaret, who inspire me to leave them a world better than I found it. I watch the way these girls treat other people with kindness and give a perspective that I don’t think we take the time to appreciate as much. I want for them to look back at my career – because I am away from home quite a lot – and the work that I did, and for them to feel like it was worth it. So, they inspire me to come to work every day and leave the world a little bit better for them and their future. And particularly when it comes to rural health care - It's critical. So many of the people in our country live in rural areas, and if we don’t have incredible health care there, that’s a huge swath of our population that’s missing out on life sustaining care. And so, I want my girls to feel proud that the work I did mattered and that they can, if they choose to live in rural America, feel confident that there will be great health care for them, in part, because of my work.

In your experience with Steptoe & Johnson, what have you seen that embodies our dedication to the empowerment of women?
I was so impressed that Steptoe & Johnson chose to do take this brave step and highlight women who make a difference. Not every organization is courageous enough to celebrate the people who make our world better. The other thing that I was impressed by is that nine members of the Steptoe & Johnson leadership team are female. That is a huge number compared to other businesses of similar work in a male dominated industry.



Women Who Inspire - Susan Hasseler

Dr. Susan S. Hasseler

President Susan Hasseler began her tenure at Muskingum University in 2016 and has a deep commitment to the transformative power of an engaging and high-impact liberal arts education. Dr. Hasseler holds a Ph.D. from Northwestern University's School of Education and Social Policy, an M.A. in Special Education from the University of South Dakota, and a B.S. in Elementary and Special Education from Calvin College. An active participant in the community, Dr. Hasseler serves as a member of the NCAA Division III Presidents Council, the Council of Independent Colleges NetVUE Advisory Council, the Park National Bank (EAS), Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges, and Ohio Campus Compact Boards and the Wilds Advisory Committee. She also belongs to the Zanesville Noon International Rotary Club.

What do you consider the greatest success in your career?
My career has been shaped by a strong calling to create educational spaces and places that effectively serve all students, but particularly those who are historically marginalized in society and schools. I began working directly in K-12 schools, moved on to educating new and experienced teachers at the college level, and now carry out this passion as the leader of a university. My greatest success is student thriving i.e., creating better educational programming and a positive culture for all students. When I see students succeed, I know I am fulfilling my calling.

What advice do you have for younger female professionals who are navigating through their career?
Be fearless! Never underestimate your experiences and expertise and do not hesitate to take on leadership positions. Keep your eyes open for opportunities and take them. Identify your strengths and offer to share them. Listen to positive feedback and build on it. The world needs you. Take it on!

Be purposeful! When you focus on significance, success follows. Focusing on a specific purpose, with a clear idea of how to accomplish your goals will help you avoid getting derailed with details. Know the connections between your deep passion and the world’s deep hunger (Frederick Buechner) and look for the opportunities that allow you to have a meaningful impact.

Stay connected! You will meet many people along the way who can help you learn, grow and stay the course. Take the time to nurture those connections, both personal and professional. They will give you strength when you need it-and allow you to encourage and support others when they need it.

What do you see as the biggest opportunity for females in the business world?
Women have an exceptional opportunity to build on their gifts and bring their unique perspectives to the world of work, whether that is in business, industry, public service, education, health care, or any number of leadership areas. The unique ability to collaborate, balance competing demands, create solutions and lead inclusively make women a formidable force in the workplace. Being who we are and shaping the workplace, accordingly, is a great opportunity for women to have an impact on organizational culture and societal well-being.

Who are women who have inspired you?
My grandmothers, mother, and daughter all inspire me.

My grandmothers both pursued an education beyond their generational expectations, and were educators and lovers of poetry and music, instilling all three of these loves in me.

My mom, who is 97, fully embraces life, continuing to lead with compassion and conviction in her current living space. She inspires me with her persistence and energy every day.

My daughter, who also fully embraces life, inspires me to constantly evaluate purpose, meaning, and values. Her emphasis on balance, relationships, sustainability, and joy are a constant inspiration to me.

I have also had many female mentors who continue to inspire me to live into my full potential and to embrace the new challenges and opportunities that come my way.




Women Who Inspire - Susan Deniker

Susan Llewellyn Deniker

What advice do you have for younger female professionals who are navigating through their career?
Stay confident, focused, and strong!  There will certainly be days when juggling everything seems like an impossible mission, but if you lean in and get through those days, there are always rewarding days ahead. Find a community of supportive friends and good mentors who will have your back when you need them!  Importantly, have confidence in yourself and let go of the need for perfectionism.  Your office might be messier than you like, your suit may have baby food on it, and you may not have made the best cupcakes for the school party - well, mine were always super cute! ;) - but know that you are doing an amazing job and be proud of that!!

How has Steptoe & Johnson been a platform for you to be a successful leader and lawyer?
I cannot imagine a more supportive and wonderful place to practice law than Steptoe & Johnson. Our firm commitment to mentoring and training helped me to grow as a new lawyer, and I was given incredible opportunities to be on my feet and to learn by doing by selfless partners who truly invested in me.  As I progressed in my career, S&J has provided me with opportunities to serve as a leader in the firm, in business and trade organizations and in the community.  Most significantly, not only have firm leaders and my mentors contributed to my professional development, they have provided unwavering support to me as an individual.   Members of my Steptoe & Johnson family have danced at my wedding, celebrated the lives of my daughters, laughed with me over countless meals, and thrown some incredibly fun parties.  The professional and personal support I have received is a true testament to what a special place S&J is.

What do you see as the biggest opportunity for females in the business world?
I think that every opportunity is an opportunity for females in the business world.  Our society needs to stop stereotypically defining roles by gender instead of qualification.  And, as women, we need to understand and believe that we are on an even playing field and get out there and play on it!  I am proud that S&J recognizes the importance and value of all types of diversity in our organizational leadership.  Our commitment to diversity must continue to be one of our most critical priorities.

Any other final inspiring words?
Take it one day at a time. Try as we might, no one is going to conquer the world in a day.  So, my goal is to start fresh every day and try to be a loving parent and family member, a loyal friend, a committed lawyer, and a supportive colleague.  It’s just a little bit to balance (and it’s not always a pretty scene on my end), but it really is true that with hard work and commitment comes great reward.  And, for me, the reward continues to be more than I could have possibly expected or deserved.


Women Who Inspire - Lori Dawkins

Lori A. Dawkins

A litigator with more than 25 years of courtroom experience, Lori Dawkins is the Managing Member of Steptoe & Johnson’s Denver office and a member of the firm’s Executive Committee, Strategic Planning Committee, and Diversity Committee. Prior to joining our firm in 1995, Lori was an officer in the United States Air Force, during which time she served in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm. She was named Strategic Air Command’s Military Manager of the Year and received the Medal of Commendation, the Air Force Achievement Medal, and the Southwest Asia Service Medal.

What advice do you have for younger female professionals who are navigating through their career?
First and foremost, work on becoming an outstanding lawyer. Learn those skills from the senior attorneys you work with and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Make the most out of every opportunity presented to you and be fearless.

Women need to support other women and dispel the old stereotype that women traditionally compete with each other. We all benefit from collaboration over competition. Be a supportive team player who is secure enough in yourself to praise others when praise is due.

What do you see as the biggest opportunity for females in the business world?
The sky is the limit. Any glass ceilings that were previously in place have pretty much been broken. Steptoe & Johnson has been ahead of others in this area. We had a female CEO when it was unheard of in other firms; we have had multiple females on the Executive Committee; and now, three of our four Department Heads are female. I truly believe the opportunities for women are endless in practically every industry in the business world.

Who are women who have inspired you?
I like this question because I’m kind of a history buff and one of my favorite women in history is Eleanor Roosevelt. She wasn’t the typical First Lady of her time. She stepped out of the mold and became a political figure herself – independent of her husband. She had her own radio show, she held her own press conferences, and she devoted countless hours to promoting civil rights. With respect to women I know personally, Susan Brewer is at the top of my list. I’ve known her since I started with the firm and she has been a fabulous leader, role model, and friend. Susan possesses the unique ability to be a strong, decisive leader; focus on the bottom line; and communicate to her team that she truly cares. That is the most effective way to instill loyalty.


Women Who Inspire - Tammie Alexander

Tammie C. Alexander

Tammie Alexander is a member in the Morgantown office of Steptoe & Johnson and the Leader of the Business Department of the firm. Tammie, an entrepreneur at heart, is the perfect combination of a thinker and a doer and clients love her spirit of collaboration, her ability to manage multiple pieces of projects, and her drive and desire to help them become and stay successful.

How has Steptoe been a platform for you to be a successful leader and lawyer?
When I first started at the firm as a paralegal, I interviewed with then Office Managing Member Susan Brewer, and I remember her saying that there’s two things you need to be successful here: you need to be a team player, and you need to put your family first. This made a tremendous impact on me, because as a single mom it was always a struggle to figure out how to divide my time. A lot of times I would have my daughter with me. After picking her up from school, I would take her to the office, where she’d do her homework at the board table and eventually fall asleep and I’d carry her to the car. Having that flexibility of being able to be a good parent with a successful career was eye opening to me, and I knew it was the place I wanted to be. Fast forward to now and it’s still the same. No matter what I need, whether it’s support at home or support at work, everyone here tends to lift each other up, rather than push people down.

What advice do you have for younger female professionals who are navigating through their career?
Embrace your strengths, and it’s true about passions as well. I went through that personally and I remember thinking, “I’m not sure I’m cut out for this job,” and I literally took inventory and asked myself “If I could carve out my perfect job, what would it look like? What things do I really enjoy doing? What are my strengths? What are my weaknesses? What do I hate to do?” I laid it all out and was surprised when I realized that there are little aspects of each part of my job that I really enjoy and am good at, and maybe it’s just a little, but it’s there. I took ownership of that and put more focus in those areas, and I would volunteer to do the things that I loved. At the end of the day, it was really figuring out what is it that I really loved, and how I could do more of it.

What do you see as the biggest opportunity for females in the business world?
I think it comes down to finding your tribe. We as women in business can support each other, and I think we do a pretty good job of that. There was a time where maybe women didn’t necessarily feel comfortable supporting each other, and you felt like somebody was your adversary, when actually they weren’t. Being in the legal profession, sometimes we battle it out against one another, but still come together to support one another when it really counts. We have an opportunity, and I know it sounds cliché, to change that mold of the “good ol’ boys” network to women empowering women and supporting women.


Women Who Inspire - Susan Brewer

Susan S. Brewer

Susan S. Brewer has spent her 40-year legal career at Steptoe & Johnson and is its Immediate Past CEO, a position she held from 2009-2020.  She spearheaded efforts to create the firm’s diversity and inclusion program and appointed its first director, and created women, parents, and veterans affinity programs. Her focus on building the firm’s client feedback, business development, succession, and emerging leadership programs complements her efforts to increase communication and protect the firm’s collegial culture of teamwork.

What organizations do you support that empower women?
The Girl Scouts, and now also the Boy Scouts, first and foremost. I was lucky enough to be asked to serve on the board of review for the very first female Eagle Scout in West Virginia.  The Boy Scouts, now The Scouts – just started allowing women to join back in the Spring of 2019, so she had a really compressed time to join and become an Eagle Scout.   She did a great job and put on a wonderful presentation, and she’s one of the first-time female Eagle Scouts in the nation. I was so impressed with what she achieved. So that’s an organization that, suddenly, is empowering women too.

What advice do you have for younger female professionals who are navigating through their career?
Don’t be afraid to step up. We all need to know our strengths and be brave enough to say, “I’m good at this” or, “I can be good at this,” or “I’m going to teach myself to be good at this.” I remember when I won my first trial, the judge wrote a letter to our then managing partner, the late Herb Underwood, to tell him what a good job I did at trial. Herb made a copy of the letter and left it on my desk early in the morning and at the bottom of the letter, he wrote “Don’t hide your lamp under a bushel.” I think one of the things that women are often guilty of is hiding their light – hiding the lamp, under the bushel. The advice from that experience is to know your strengths and recognize them and don’t hide them – use them – for the benefit of your organization and for yourself.

Who are women who have inspired you?
I have personal and professional inspirations. This may sound odd because neither my mother nor my grandmother worked outside the home. Yet somehow, they both taught us, beat it into our heads, that we needed to be able to take care of ourselves, to support ourselves, and have a fulfilling career. My grandmother was an incredibly resourceful problem solver. My grandfather was in the Navy, so they were constantly moving. With three kids, she frequently had to figure things out as they moved to new places. I remember her saying “Look, you can do anything you want. Just figure it out for yourself, but always know that you need to be able to take care of yourself and take care of your family in whatever it is you choose to do.”

Professionally, Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman Supreme Court Justice, has been an inspiration to me. She’s a scholar, a consensus builder, and a really accomplished woman, but she was also so much fun. She had a great sense of humor and was the first person out on the dance floor, in fact, that’s how I met her. We were on the dance floor, and we crashed into each other, and that was how we were able to be introduced. She was all these wonderful professional things, yet she had a great personal story and a great love of life. Happy and positive all the time, she’s just been one of those people I remember and think, “Oh wow. I hope I’m sort of like her.”


Sharon O. Flanery

A renowned leader in the energy industry, Sharon Flanery, Chair of Steptoe & Johnson’s Energy & Natural Resources Department, has witnessed the opportunities for professional women grow exponentially over the course of her career. Sharon was the first female graduate in petroleum engineering at West Virginia University. Sharon’s career as a lawyer, executive and engineer in the energy industry brings real-world experience to her work with clients.

What advice do you have for younger female professionals who are navigating through their career?
My first piece of advice is that you have to work hard and learn what interests you in the career path you've chosen, then you have to put in the time to be good at it. In addition to finding what you like to do and learning your skills you also need to know how to really work well with people. For example, to be successful as an attorney, you have to provide quality legal services – that's a given – but you have to know how to relate to your clients and be able to work on a team that includes your clients as well as others. Lastly, be kind and treat everyone with respect, not just the professionals you work with but everyone around you…it is the right thing to do.

What do you see as the biggest opportunity for females in the business world?
Right now, the opportunities for career growth are huge for women in the business world. There are so many doors open in so many areas for women professionals. Again, if you discover what you like to do and you enjoy it, and you find an organization that fits well, your opportunities to grow in your career are wide open. Leadership representation in many organizations is still out of balance by gender and other areas of diversity, but each year we continue to make progress. Steptoe & Johnson is a prime example of an organization with a commitment to providing women with leadership opportunities. Currently, three of our four legal departments are led by women and our immediate past CEO, Susan Brewer, led the firm for many years and was the first female Managing Member of a major West Virginia law firm.

Who are women who have inspired you?
My mom is a first-generation daughter of an Italian immigrant and was  born in West Virginia. She graduated from high school, worked hard, and liked to be around people. Both my parents were big believers in education. Watching her and my dad work at mostly minimum wage jobs and still be able to put three kids through college, instilled in me the importance of working hard. I was also inspired by the late Kim Wakim an attorney I met at the first firm I worked at out of law school in Pittsburgh. Kim was from Philippi, West Virginia and was successful as a bankruptcy expert, in firm management, and as a public company board member. Finally, Susan Brewer, Steptoe & Johnson’s immediate past CEO, has been a big inspiration to me over the years. Susan is a very gracious and compassionate leader that has the courage and strength to make the tough and right decisions for the organization, while encouraging firm attorneys and professional staff to grow. Susan has set a good example for all of us.