Georgia Rep. Stacey Godfrey Evans visited the University of Georgia on April 18 to address the Law School’s 34th Edith House lecture, an event created to commemorate the accomplishments of UGA School of Law’s first female graduate and co-valedictorian.
Evans recently donated $500,000 to the University of Georgia law school to create a scholarship for first generation college students in July of 2015. Evans said in her address that as a college student, she depended on the HOPE Scholarship and Pell Grant in order to pay for tuition and worked as a waitress to pay for housing and other expenses.
Rep. Evans earned a dual degree in economics and political science from UGA, and later graduated cum laude from the UGA School of Law. After graduating and becoming an attorney, Evans would go on to begin her own law firm as well as be elected to the Georgia House of Representatives.
As a Cobb County Democrat, Evans has authored and passed bipartisan legislation, which has expanded previous cuts to the HOPE Scholarship for technical college students.
At the Georgia Law School event, which was sponsored by the Women Law Students Association, Evans delivered a speech entitled, “The Voice of a Woman Lawyer: Why it Matters and How to Use it.”
Evans said she wanted to used her speech as an opportunity to speak directly to the female law school students in the room and provide them with her tips for success in the field.
“Obviously, there are really good men in this room too that I’m speaking too as well,” Evans said. “We need to work together to do this.”
Evans said gender inequality persists in the field of law, saying 39 percent of the Georgia’s lawyers are women. In addition, Evans said women comprise 19 percent of congressional seats in each house and that none of Georgia’s 14 House of Representative seats nor its two Senate seats are currently held by women.
“Women are still very underrepresented in leadership roles,” Evans said “This makes societal change difficult. There are more female lawyers today, but we also need to be leading lawyers.”
Evans lectured students on “ways to use the woman lawyer voice” and urged the women in the room to support and challenge their female peers.
“We have to be cheerleaders for each other. Please, let’s start encouraging each other to stop stressing out about the word balance … Don’t let the idea of balance stress you out,” she said.
At one point, Evans shared the reservations she had when she learned that she was pregnant several months after starting her own law firm. The temptation, Evans said, was to quit, but if she had, she would not be the success that she is today.
“It’s okay to be scared.” Evans said, “It’s okay to be overwhelmed and want to quit, just don’t.”
Evans also said women should not be afraid to take risks, whether it be by discussing a controversial topic or running for political office.
“You might not want to make hay on an issue because someone might call you a feminist” said Evans “Don’t shy away from discussing controversial topics.”
The representative shared how she had recorded an address about abortion to the House of Representatives hours before having her daughter, because she felt she had a unique voice and opinion on the issue.
At the end of her speech, Evans concluded by noting that many women do not run for political office because they have not been asked to do so. Consequently, Evans extended an invitation to all of the women in the audience.
“The woman lawyer voice helps not just women lawyers, but all women and in turn all families … Let’s speak loudly, with our women lawyer voices,” she said.