The 50th anniversary of women’s arrival at Union features a year-long celebration of women and their contributions to the College, their communities and the world.
Valerie Hoffman '75 studied history at Union College before earning a J.D. from Boston College Law School. A partner at Seyfarth Shaw LLP, she practices employment law nationally. As counsel to chief executives and management, Valerie advises employers of all varieties and sizes. While she has a broad-based practice, Valerie has a particular focus on strategies to prevent and resolve issues relating to employment discrimination. She is a core leader of the firm’s Pay Equity Group, and founded and is co-chair of the firm’s nationally prominent OFCCP, Affirmative Action and Diversity practices. Valerie has served on Union’s Board of Trustees for 12 years. Also interested in California native plants and habitats, she is vice chair of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, vice president of the Los Padres Forest Association and a Volunteer Wilderness Ranger in the Los Padres Forest. Passionate about Argentine Tango, she frequently visits Buenos Aires, the birthplace of the tango.
What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your career or volunteer activities?
I chose to practice employment discrimination law on behalf of employers across the U.S. because I wanted to see more fairness for women and minorities in their work lives. While we have made significant progress since I began my practice in 1978, there is more progress that must be made. My work these days is focused on pay equity, glass ceiling issues and people analytics designed to help large employers ensure fairness and support employees’ growth.
Who inspired and/or inspires you, both professionally and personally?
I’m inspired not by any particular person but by a desire to understand why and how prejudice and perceptions persist that are not truly based in reality. And how we, together, might be able to change this.
What advice would you offer today’s women students, not just at Union, but across the country?
Think critically<, question what you don’t understand or what doesn’t seem to make sense, speak up, be bold and support each other. Question “tradition.” Practices justified as “traditional” are not usually supportive of achievement by women, especially women of color. Don’t be afraid to leave them behind. You may pay a price but it will be worth it.
What was your most formative experience at Union?
I was a tutor in the Academic Opportunity Consortium summer program for three years. This experience deepened my understanding of others, their circumstances and achievements, and the joys and challenges they encountered by entering a highly competitive academic environment at Union.