Today we’d like to introduce you to Bridget Lambert.
Bridget, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I was first introduced to mediation through a summer class in law school in the mid-‘90s. The next semester, I did an internship at the San Diego Mediation Center (SDMC), now the National Conflict Resolution Center (NCRC) and took the life-changing Introductory Mediation Skills training. I was hooked! Using dialogue to resolve conflict instead of advocacy? If only I had known about this before, I signed up for law school!
I ended up finishing law school, passing the bar exam and practicing with some really cool lawyers, but I always knew that my path was meant to be promoting alternatives to court; and alternatives to violence in some cases. So when a position came open at the Mediation Center in 1999, I left the lucrative career behind and followed my heart.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I was pretty lucky to join an organization led by strong female role models. SDMC was small, less than 20 staff, and was led by Liz O’Brien and Barbara Filner, two incredibly talented women who modeled equity and drive. And because mediation was (and is) my passion and life’s purpose, I was oblivious to any gender barriers.
I suppose there may have been cases that the clients may have disregarded my skill sets based on gender, but that’s the thing about mediation – I’m not sitting there as a judge or arbitrator, I’m empowering the clients to control the outcome – my gender, or age, or religion, etc. is irrelevant!
Now, the organization is much larger, but the culture is still very collaborative. The current leadership of president Steven Dinkin and the director of NCRC’s Training Institute, Lisa Maxwell keep staff grounded in the same values and practices.
Things I would recommend to young women entering the workforce:
“Never stop learning” – take the chance, the job, ask the questions, make decisions after you have given it a serious go. If it gets stagnant, make a change, either by changing the position or changing positions.
“Take care of yourself” – it’s easy to put self-care on the back burner, especially if people are depending on you to help them. Find your balance and set your boundaries – don’t sacrifice the goose that lays the golden egg!
What should we know about the National Conflict Resolution Center? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I am a strong believer in the capacity of humans to use their heads and their hearts to find solutions to the conflicts that will inevitably arise in our lives. I believe we have some good systems in place with our civil courts, but we lose the nuance and opportunities to really get to the bottom of things when we let the attorneys do all the talking for us. Mediation addresses this by structuring a dialogue to identify the underlying needs and interests of the people involved.
Similarly, our restorative justice work is producing stronger outcomes than our traditional criminal courts. A restorative community conference can better heal the harm to the victims of crime and get the offender back on track to become a lawful, productive member of our society. The National Conflict Resolution Center has been working with City Heights community members and juvenile justice system partners since 2013 to prove the model, and the results confirm that this is more effective and cost-efficient than the outdated punitive approach. I am most proud of the collaborative manner that we were able to discuss, design, build and implement the model as a team. It’s a huge system to change, and sometimes I feel like a tug boat turning a cargo ship, but it is important to work with the potential to positively impact thousands of lives each year.
What do you feel are the biggest barriers today to female leadership, in your industry or generally?
I’m glad to say that the arc seems to be bending towards equity, and the issues regarding lack of respect and trust in female leadership are declining, at least from what I have observed. Finding the balance between work and family, especially when there are kids involved, has been a challenge for me. Luckily, NCRC is very supportive, allowing flex time and work from home opportunities while I was raising my twins.
Pay equity will most likely continue to be the biggest challenges for women in the workforce, in leadership positions or not. I think our society still has a lot of room for growth in this area. I need to spend more time understanding the “whys” before I can get to the “how to disrupt” ideas, hopefully before my girls enter the workforce!
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