nominated by The Women’s Fund
By: Star Staubach
From an early age, Denise Mirman remembers feeling frustrated because she didn’t get to engage in the same activities the boys did. Instead of learning the outdoor readiness tools like the Boy Scouts did, she and her Girl Scout troop were inside doing crafts. “I wanted to build fires too!” Denise shared.
As a young girl, she loved to play outside and would play baseball with the neighborhood kids. At age 10, when organized sports were forming, Denise found herself left out of the sport that she loved. There were no baseball teams set up for girls. “People looked at me as if something were wrong with me because I wanted to play alongside the boys.”
The gender gap extended to the classroom. As the daughter of a librarian and social worker, Denise had the value of education ingrained in her. She excelled at academics, but again found herself outside of what was expected of a girl — it wasn’t cool for young women in her school to be smart.
The gender gap fueled Denise even more. At the time she decided she wanted to become a lawyer, women received only 30% of the law degrees conferred. Denise was ready to raise that bar.
As an attorney, Denise once again found herself face-to-face with gender bias when, as a trial lawyer, her partner removed her from a case for fear of “exposing her to content unsuitable to women”.
When asked about her greatest accomplishment, Denise answers with ease, “My son. He was raised with the awareness that if a boy can do something, so can a girl, and vice versa.”
Denise’s life changed when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the time, her son was 3 months old. She cut her hours and worked from home as much as possible. A couple of years later, her son shared with her, “Only girls can be lawyers!” Imagine his surprise when he learned that his father was a lawyer also. Denise tells the story with affection and a bit of cheek, adding what she shared with her son when she approached him about his perspective, “Yes son, today even boys can be lawyers in this world.”
Denise is a giver in her community, her law firm, and The Women’s Fund, where her experience with gender bias comes full circle as she works with those less fortunate than she was. Going through cancer treatments, Denise had the support of her family, law firm, insurance, and friends. “How do those without these resources get ahead?” She recently helped a young girl fill out the FAFSA. Frustrated by it, she wonders, ‘‘WHY is this so complicated? It’s very expensive to be poor.”
Denise works to bridge the gender bias gap. And she seeks to bring resources to those who are born with a struggle, through no fault of their own. “I want women to have the same opportunities men have.”
The Women’s Fund works for gender equality and influence that effect social change for women. Denise is proud of her firm supporting The Women’s Fund, where they conduct gender bias research to support the broader community.
If you could change one thing in the world what would it be?
“A good start would be for there to be much more tolerance of differences and much less cruelty”
What’s your favorite quote?
“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate the beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Women’s Fund of Central Ohio
As a leader of social change, The Women’s Fund of Central Ohio is a public foundation committed to advocating for and convening voices to create gender equality and influence. Economic Self Sufficiency is the core of our work, and is supported by Lifeskills for Girls, and Leadership for Women. Underpinning this work is the effect and implications of Gender Norms. Our work is guided by research, which informs our programs and partnerships, grant making, and advocacy efforts; all while growing women’s philanthropy to influence change. We achieve social change through collaborative efforts, by developing new models, and building on those that have already proven effective.
We, as a community, can make change a reality.
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