2023 Women Who Inspire: Friends of the Firm

Published: March 1, 2023

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

2023 honorees include:

Shannon Rudy

Shannon Rudy is a Senior Region Director Portfolio Advisor at Premier Inc. where her role covers Premier’s Medical and Surgical Portfolio. Rudy was a nurse for nearly 30 years and her expertise spans both clinical and financial arenas and includes contract penetration, savings initiatives, conversions, and market intelligence.

In addition to 15 years with Premier Inc. in varied supply chain and clinical roles, Shannon has 15 years of hospital-based experience in perioperative business management, sterile processing, value analysis, nursing leadership and pediatric intensive care.

Shannon earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from West Virginia University and her master’s degrees in both Nursing and Business Administration from Waynesburg University.

What do you consider to be your greatest career success?
Even though I no longer practice at the bedside, being a nurse is my passion, and seeing personal success is less about career goals and more about feeling like I have made an impact. As a nurse, I have had the opportunity to touch the lives of many patients and families but more so, they have touched mine. That being said, my biggest success or contribution would be Camp Mountain Heart. It is a week-long summer camp, which is primarily for children who have had heart surgery. The ability to gather a group of kids who are faced with so many obstacles in life and allow them to feel normal and experience a normal summer camp is empowering. We have grown the camp over the past 25-plus years from 6 kids to 60-plus. It is an all-volunteer staff and it is free for the kids.

What advice would you give young women?
My advice would be to find a mentor or trusted advisor and embrace their advice. My oldest daughter has a mentor who has become a part of our family, and the mentor shared with my daughter that your first job will be in your chosen career field, but after that most of your job opportunities will come from those you know. So, make connections and find what you are passionate about and don’t be afraid to step out of the box in terms of your career path.  Also, do not compromise yourself in the process. It is important to make a difference but find balance and always do the right thing.

What organizations do you support that empower women?
I am a Rotarian and that allows me to support local volunteerism and activities in my community. In the early days, Rotary was only available to men, and it was not until the late 1980s that women became part of Rotary. Today Rotary at all levels continues to promote women in leadership positions inside the organization and in their respective organizations.

What do you think are some of the biggest opportunities for females in the business profession?
Women advocating for themselves. I read a study not long ago that a sizable percentage of women do not apply for a job if they do not meet every single job qualification.  They just give up and say this is not for me. Whereas men, if they meet one qualification, they apply for the job. So, women advocating for themselves and putting themselves forward for positions they may think they are not fully qualified for is the biggest opportunity I see for us.

What women have inspired you?
I once worked with a nurse executive named Michelle Janney, and at the time, I was a new nurse manager and had only been a nurse for three years.  What impressed me is that she was the first nurse I knew that had a Ph. D and she garnered so much respect in the organization. She was so organized, and, in all things, she just presented as if she had everything under control. She encouraged me to say, “I want to be the chief nursing officer who has it all together” and she really shaped my career goals.  I still follow her on LinkedIn today, and she is still doing amazing things in nursing and in the organizations where she works. She continues to be an advocate for the nursing profession, while also advocating for herself.

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 for 2024-2025, 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

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.


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 Dr. 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.

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