Celebrating Women's History Month with Elizabeth Balfour
CEO is celebrating the women leaders who make our work possible. For 14 years, Elizabeth Balfour has served on CEO’s board of directors. We asked Elizabeth to share her reflections on Women’s History Month and her leadership at CEO.
Can you talk about your involvement with CEO?
As a volunteer board member, I work to support CEO’s mission to help people returning from incarceration to access employment and careers that meet their goals. I am the Chair of the Nominating & Governance Committee. It is an important role that allows me to use my professional knowledge as a lawyer to provide guidance to the Board and leadership. The committee plays an important role in CEO’s corporate governance and we work to ensure the board is assessing its work and recruiting other committed individuals to serve.
I live in San Diego and also enjoy engaging with CEO’s San Diego site. It is so important for board members in any organization to spend time with the staff doing the work and with the individuals who trust us to help them. I appreciate CEO’s culture of accountability for results and work to shift the narratives around people who have past convictions.
What does Women’s History Month mean to you?
It is so important for us to reflect on the woman leaders who came before us. They thought outside the box and did not accept the expectations placed upon them. They had a bigger vision of a women’s role in society and the family that helped to create so much positive change for women today. Women’s History Month reminds us of the importance of women to work together and support each other to make the world better, especially for the girls and boys growing up today.
Who is a woman from history who inspires you?
Belva Lockwood was a trailblazing lawyer who broke down barriers that kept women from becoming practicing lawyers in the 19th century. I resonate with her because I share her drive and vision for women’s rights. She came from humble beginnings and had to overcome many barriers to become a lawyer. As a lawyer, she was barred from practicing before the U.S. Supreme Court but successfully lobbied congress and the President. She would go on to run for president twice and to help lead the suffrage movement to secure the right to vote for women. Because of her, I can practice law and vote today.
What advice would you give women who want to follow in your footsteps?
Don't take yourself too seriously. Always have a sense of humor. If the mission causes you to lead, then lead. If the mission causes you to follow, then support the team around you in the best way you can. Learn from mistakes, work hard, and do not confine yourself to the limitations that others may try to impose on you. And lastly, on your road to growth and success, lift other people up along the way.
A little more about Elizabeth
Elizabeth Balfour is a Partner at the law firm of Sheppard Mullin. She obtained her B.A. from Yale University and her JD from Harvard Law School. Elizabeth has received countless accolades. Most recently, she was awarded, along with two other colleagues, the 2022 Bob Gerber Pro Bono Award for her work providing free legal services to asylum-seekers from Afghanistan who fled persecution in their home country. Elizabeth and her husband, David Balfour, live with their 2 children in San Diego.