Last week was hot on the east coat for a number of reasons. Yes, the mercury was off the charts, but things also were “hot” at the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL) conference at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in NYC. There were hot topics from some leading authorities on issues affecting women in the law. You can imagine my excitement to discover that all of the topics discussed are included in my book, Best Friends at the Bar: What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law, and are expanded on in my new book, which will be released in 2012.
However, my books have twists that go beyond just reframing the issues. I actually propose some solutions! Novel, indeed! Stay tuned for more on the second book. It addresses the New Woman Lawyer—Gen Y. They are not their mothers’ lawyers! Not by a long shot, and we should be happy about that. What is that definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result? We need a different approach and a different result.
The conference focused on implicit bias and had some interesting perspective from Jerry Kang, Professor of Law and Asian American Studies, UCLA Law. I was particularly interested in his comments, and those of fellow panelists, about the implicit bias that some senior woman lawyers have against some younger women lawyers. This can be based on appearance, dress, demeanor or just because the young women have a different approach to practicing law and living their lives at the same time. These biases exist even when the young woman lawyer is doing an excellent job and meeting all of the deadlines. This is not exactly Women Helping Women, a theme I stress in both my book and the new manuscript. I really hope that one day soon we will become enlightened and able to stop talking about this over and over.
Too often the senior women lawyers show bias toward their young, dynamic women colleagues with attitudes that are shocking. The senior women seem to be saying, “We worked for you to have these opportunities, but we do not want you to take advantage of it.” One of the panelists pointed out the irony that the Baby Boomer women lawyers have raised their daughters to be powerful and independent women, and many of their daughters now are lawyers. However, no matter how much those senior women support their own daughters, they cannot tolerate other similar young women in the workplace. It reminds me of what I tell young women about having children. Yes, you may not think that you like little kids–in fact they may annoy the heck out of you– but that does not mean that you should not have some of your own. It is ALL different when they’re yours. You cannot get enough of them!
You will be happy to know that I spoke up for you. I suggested to the group that young women lawyers are deaf to our haughty conversations about how it was “in the day” and are offended by the wagging of fingers while hearing that we can tell them “a thing or two.” Yes, we have a lot to share that will help you, but we need to find voices that will appeal to you and that you will listen to. Those voices cannot be judgmental. Those voice scannot be condescending, and those voices cannot be preachy. Those voices must be authentic. Those voices must be sincerely caring, and those voices must be helpful. You young women know the difference, and you have a right to more.
Young women lawyers today are expanding the model and redefining who they are. They are NOT willing to hinge their success on being “men in skirts”. Rather, they believe that there is a wider range of behavior attributes that can be defined as professional. They are young women modeling success while pushing the limits to fit their own generation and lifestyle. However, they too often are met with resistance from the very women who should be cheering them on.
You know that I am your biggest cheerleader, as long as you use your femininity appropriately, always act professionally, and be the best lawyers you can be. I think that there are actually many more senior women lawyers just like me. They just need to take the time to think it through!