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Valerie D. Lewis

Posted By CMCP, Monday, April 30, 2012
Updated: Thursday, February 26, 2015
Untitled Document
Valerie D. Lewis, Assistant Vice President & Assistant Secretary | Safeway Inc.
by Tambry L. Bradfor, Fulbright & Jaworski LLP


A
fter many years of practice, Valerie D. Lewis is just as passionate and enthusiastic about the practice of law as she was when she graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law. Valerie chose a career in law because she believed the legal profession would provide her with opportunities to learn new things. She was correct. To this day, Valerie still experiences what she fondly refers to as "aha moments” on a regular basis. According to Valerie, the key is taking the time to recognize and appreciate these moments. If you don’t, each one that passes you by is a missed opportunity.

Valerie is currently an Assistant Vice President and Assistant Secretary with Safeway Inc. Valerie’s love of science helps her manage her corporate-wide responsibility for food, health, safety, consumer protection and labeling issues, environmental and other regulatory compliance and litigation, as well as Proposition 65, commercial, product liability and general litigation for Safeway. Valerie takes great pride in her role at Safeway. Because she, her family and her friends shop at Safeway, Valerie is personally invested in ensuring that Safeway delivers the best products and services possible.

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In addition to her responsibilities at Safeway, Valerie finds pleasure in dedicating her talent and experience to her community. Valerie serves on the Boards and Advisory Committees of various organizations, and is the Secretary and Governance Chair of the Executive Leadership Council. She is also a Trustee of the 10-facility Alameda County Medical Center Hospital Authority, where she chairs the Governance Committee and sits on the Executive, Finance and Quality Committees.

Valerie has received numerous recognitions throughout her career, one of the earliest of which occurred in 1987, when Ebony Magazine recognized Valerie as one of its "Future Leaders 30 and under 40.” While Valerie has certainly lived up to that prediction, as an African-American woman, the journey there was not always easy.

Valerie specifically recalls one of her first client meetings as a first year associate at a large private law firm. Valerie remembers being surrounded by men at a conference room table one evening, some of whom were very prominent and well-known lawyers in the community. Valerie was dutifully taking notes of the meeting, knowing that motions would need to be filed the next day, when one of the lawyers for the other side slid his coffee cup across the table towards her and said "more coffee please.”Valerie was speechless. The male partner she was working with responded by simply saying there was no more coffee. This is one example of many demonstrating the disparate treatment and additional challenges faced by women in the legal profession. But, as demonstrated by Valerie, these hurdles and challenges can be overcome. In October 2011, Valerie attended the investiture of her undergraduate roommate and law school classmate, who became the first African-American woman to sit on the Virginia Supreme Court. Progress has undoubtedly been made, and our mothers and grandmothers (and fathers, too) are proud of our achievements. Yet, there are still a lot of "firsts” to be had for minority and women lawyers.

According to Valerie, success is achieved by acknowledging that it is more important to win the war rather than the battle. If you work hard and learn your craft, you can do the job. Excelling in the job as a woman of color, however, requires an ability to effectively deal with the additional and unique challenges posed by politics, personalities and implicit biases. For example, a minority attorney displaying confidence may be perceived as overly aggressive. A woman, when confronted with criticism, is more likely to blame herself for the perceived problem rather than the environment. Valerie will tell you to be true to yourself. Set your own expectations. Don’t be adverse to reasonable risk. Bring a large part of yourself to the table, and make sure that you are at a table where you are appreciated for the person that you are, rather than the person that somebody else thinks you should be. Take the time to tend to the care and feeding of your family and friends, and of course, learn and grow from each of your "aha moments.”

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