The Girls Inc. “Women for Girls” program series held a Women in Law Day on Wednesday, hosted by German American Bank.
The purpose of the event was to show girls in the community different aspects of working in the law and hear from women who work in it every day.
Krista Niehaus, regional senior vice president of retail for German American Bank, said the idea for the series began at this year’s ATHENA Awards ceremony when some of the Girls Inc. members began asking questions about positions at the bank.
“One of the girls was asking a lot of inquisitive questions, not realizing there are legal professions outside of a courtroom,” said Mary Moorhouse, vice president of German American Bank. “We started asking if they have ever been inside of a courtroom or met attorneys. The wheels just started spinning.”
LaShay Vera, 14, attended the Women in Law Day event and said she learned that no one is defined by the worst thing they have done, but that there are consequences.
“I feel this was a great female mentorship program that showcased a deeper understanding of the law and what that means,” Vera said. “By spending the afternoon with Judge [Shannon] Meyer, I could feel that she truly has moral character and stands by her words. All the panelists were informative and engaging, and I could tell they were all very supportive of each other in their respective legal careers.”
Niehaus said they want the girls to be able to see themselves having a future in a career like law.
“If they hear one thing that sparks an interest of some sort, then that’s our goal,” she said. “As a company, we support women leaders, and we just want to make sure that they have the opportunity to see themselves getting into a field beyond what they’ve seen or thought of in the past.”
Daviess County District Judge Misty Miller spoke to the girls during a tour of the Judicial Center about her career and path to becoming a judge. She said it is important to teach about career paths that girls wouldn’t generally think about entering.
“I was a prosecutor for about 15 years before becoming a judge,” she said. “I wanted to be a prosecutor for so long. My dad and I would read FBI books together when I was young, and at that time there rarely any women who worked in law.”
Miller said it was refreshing to see the enthusiasm in the girls.
“Sometimes in the court, you sometimes start to not think very highly about humanity,” she said. “It gives me hope for the future. There are some potential leaders in the making.”
The best advice Miller has for anyone wanting to work in the law is to keep their grades up, get involved in civic organizations and be tenacious.
“Sometimes it’s challenging to get young people to understand the concept of the future,” Miller said. “They aren’t going to be a kid forever, and the future is not always ‘doom and gloom.’ There are options, and they create different outcomes, and they have some control over that with the choices they make.”
These events don’t happen without the hard discussion topics, though. Niehaus said they speak with the girls about how women may not have always had a place in some career fields.
“We had a conversation during lunch talking through presenting yourself in the best light and how you’re looked at no matter what,” she said. “We talked about what they post on social media too. Those difficult conversations come out.”
Niehaus and Moorhouse said they have both been impressed with some of the questions they have heard the girls ask during these events.
“Every time we have ever been involved with anything in Girls Inc., we come back more inspired than when we left, because they’re so incredible,” Moorhouse said. “They may not always have a voice, but every time I hear them speak, it’s phenomenal.”
The girls were able to speak and listen to women who work in law during a tour of the Judicial Center and during a question-and-answer panel. Everyone was given a padfolio with a notepad, pens and background information on each panelist.
Karah Wilson, The Messenger-Inquirer