The ballerina bulldog

Autumn 2016
Avery Blank '08

Photo by the Daily Record

Avery Blank ’08

A self-described “ballerina bulldog” (graceful in diplomacy, yet also strong and persistent), Avery Blank ’08 is an attorney, business and career strategist, and women’s advocate. She got her start at the University of Maryland, earning her JD while also gaining skills through high-profile internships: conducting legal and ethics research for the White House, testifying before the Maryland Senate Committee to ban flavored tobacco products, and fighting childhood obesity by forging a partnership between the Maryland Commission for Women and the University of Maryland, Baltimore president. From 2012 to 2015, she was a senior law and policy analyst with the University of Maryland Center for Health & Homeland Security. Blank then decided to establish her eponymous consulting firm, through which she helps clients “strategically position and advocate for themselves.” In addition, she writes career advice and women’s leadership articles for Forbes (among others). Blank recently spoke with the Scene about always sticking up for herself, her first female role model, and her secret weapon.

Young justice. “Starting [as a child], I would speak up when things were unfair,” Blank said. She recalled a seventh-grade math test question that she answered correctly, but did not receive credit. That night, Blank went to the library and found the evidence to support her answer, which she presented to her teacher the next day. Not only did Blank receive the credit, but her classmates who answered similarly did, as well. “Fairness is a core value of mine,” she said. “My legal education helped me to refine my advocacy skills and have greater influence.”

Aiming high. During law school, Blank discovered an internship opportunity with the Executive Office of the President. Initially doubtful that she would beat out the other candidates without having any White House connections, Blank put off applying. “At the eleventh hour, I realized that if I didn’t apply, then I definitely wouldn’t get it,” she said. Taking a chance paid off.

Women’s work. “Years ago, reflecting on why I’m drawn to women’s leadership, I started to realize that I had seen my father — while moving up in the ranks as a pharmaceutical executive — support my mother’s career in academia and into the high ranks of federal government [she was a nursing professor at Emory and Rutgers, as well as a branch chief at the National Institutes of Health]. I saw an influential, powerful woman supported by a just-as-successful man… I advocate for women and on related issues because I want others to have that opportunity to achieve their potential and not be held back by societal, cultural, or policy constraints. I work with clients who demonstrate a commitment to the advancement of women.” For example, Blank advised a team for the Women in Law Hackathon (sponsored by Bloomberg Law and Standford Law School) on how to recruit, retain, and promote women. She’s also given talks on leadership, diversity, strategy, and policy to groups at the U.S. Department of State, the American Bar Association, and the Women in Strategy Summit.

Swim lanes. “Writing is one way I can amplify my voice,” said Blank, whose work has appeared on websites such as Fortune, Time, and LeanIn.org; in major newspapers like the Washington Post; and in peer-reviewed journals. At Forbes, Blank explained, each contributor has a “swim lane” (an area of focus in which they can write). “I help people advocate for themselves and leverage opportunities,” she said.

A big surprise. Being petite, Blank has on occasion been perceived as younger than she is, and was once mistaken for a law student instead of a lawyer. “People don’t expect me to be as knowledgeable and prepared as I am,” she said. “Being underestimated can be a winning strategy.”

— Brianna Delaney ’19

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