Attorney Patty Shlonsky was in the middle of a partners meeting when Margaret Mitchell, YWCA Greater Cleveland president and CEO, entered the room with an announcement Shlonsky will never forget: Shlonsky was named one of the 2020 Women of Achievement Award recipients.
Every year, the YWCA of Greater Cleveland bestow Women of Achievement Awards to Northeast Ohio women who have accomplished goals and reached great heights in their careers, community service, mentorship and leadership, and demonstrated devotion to YWCA’s mission of empowering women and ending racism, according to YWCA of Cleveland’s website.
This year, it was time for Shlonsky, partner-in-charge of Ulmer & Berne LLP’s Cleveland office, and five other women to be honored for their impact.
“I’ve seen over the years the women who have received this award, and they’ve all been very accomplished; they’ve always been people that I’ve admired,” Shlonsky told the Cleveland Jewish News. A resident of Shaker Heights and member of The Temple-Tifereth Israel in Beachwood, she said, “It’s an amazing recognition, and I hope I’m worthy of it.”
One of the reasons Shlonsky will receive the award is for the steps she’s taken for women in law, according to YWCA.
Since starting with Ulmer & Berne in 1986, she worked to become the award-winning, glass ceiling-shattering attorney she’d want to look up to.
She’s the first female partner-in-charge in Ulmer & Berne’s more than 110-year history, let alone at any major Cleveland-area law office. She’s also the first woman to be a part of the firm’s seven-person management committee, overseeing all of the firm’s operations. She also helped establish the firm’s women in law and leadership group years ago to help bring in and promote female lawyers.
Shlonsky noted that breaking into the world of law as a woman is easier as the years move forward – a struggle she’s glad to see lighten up.
“There was a time when I was younger, but still moving into leadership roles, when it was difficult to convince older men that you were the boss,” Shlonsky said. “But I’ve seen it over the years open up and get easier.”
Shlonsky, who also serves as the firm’s group leader of employee benefits and tax practice groups, pushes to make a difference for her firm and to represent women as leaders everywhere, she said.
“I like to think that I’m a good role model for women who want to have this type of a career; I hopefully present that anything is possible,” Shlonsky said. “I didn’t want to just sit back and not have a role in my future and in the future of people that I care about. I don’t look at it as what kept me going, it was just what I wanted to do.”
The other reason she’s being named one of the 2020 Women of Achievement Award recipients is for fighting against sexism and racism in the various positions she holds in the community, she said.
Shlonsky sits on the board of the Cuyahoga County Public Library, where she just finished a two-year role as board president. She’s also a board member and officer of the Center for Community Solutions, board member and officer of The City Club of Cleveland, member of the board of directors of BVU: The Center for Nonprofit Excellence and member of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland’s retirement fund committee.
“I’ve tried to be involved in all sorts of civic-type things that help people across the board, help people have their voices heard and find solutions for them,” Shlonsky said. “That’s been very rewarding certainly, and I think hopefully helpful to others.”
Shlonsky has no plans of stopping her career or the community efforts after receiving the award.
“I intend to continue to be actively involved in the community, and I hope to continue to serve as a role model to the women that I work with,” she said.
Other recipients are: Heather E. Burton, project director for the Institutions Developing Excellence in Academic Leadership – National project; Suzanne Day, corporate senior vice president and chief legal and ethics officer for The Lubrizol Corp.; Mary Kim Elkins, senior vice president for taxes for Eaton Corp.; Constance Hill-Johnson, owner and managing director of Visiting Angels Living Assistance Services; and Stamy Paul, North division vice president of human resources for Airgas.