Last week, another door opened for women. Women in the military can now serve in combat, an arena where they technically have been prohibited from performing to date. Whether you are in favor of this or not, it undeniably opens up new opportunities for women. I have had a lot of indoctrination about this over the years because I am married to a retired Marine officer, now lawyer. He certainly has his opinions on the subject, but he is reasonable enough to recognize that two sides to the argument exist. Good for me because I am not always “on his page.”
You would be wrong to assume that all of the opponents of this recent decision are men. In fact, I commend to your reading an opinion piece in the Washington Post by Kathleen Parker—you know, the conservative columnist with the awesome red glasses!—addressing the reasons she opposes the new rule. http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/parker-military-is-putting-women-at-unique-risk/2013/01/25/33d9eca6-6723-11e2-9e1b-07db1d2ccd5b_email.html That article, “Combat Puts Women at Unique Risk” is thought provoking and makes some distinctions that I did not know existed.
But, no matter how you line up on women in combat, there are some indisputable facts involved that deserve your attention. In particular, I found an article on Inc.com to be very interesting. http://www.inc.com/bill-murphy-jr/4-ways-women-in-combat-will-change-business.html Among other thoughtful observations, the author opined on the effect of this ruling on the opportunity for women as business entrepreneurs after they leave military service. The article pointed out the statistic that 10% of the small businesses in the US today are owned by US veterans and the perception that military training at the command level is comparable to a top-ranked MBA program. Although I can imagine myself more comfortable getting my business acumen at Wharton, it is all in the eye of the beholder.
What does that mean for women lawyers? Nothing if you do not connect law with business. However, law is business, and there is a lot of opportunity for entrepreneurship in law. Many of the women coming out of the military will go on to law school. (After combat, even law school looks like a piece of cake!) They will go on the GI Bill to boot, a real advantage in these days of over-the-top law school tuition. Those women lawyers may be the ones to set up women-owned law firms to respond to the work-life struggle of the traditional law firm setting. Those women may be the ones to establish virtual law practices out of their homes. Those women may use their legal backgrounds to start small businesses, and some of those women may end up like me one day founding a new mentoring program for women lawyers and treading new ground.
If you are in favor of women in combat, you can rejoice because you got your way. For the rest of you, look at the cup half full, find the silver lining or indulge in whatever cliche or metaphor that works for you. Women have many opportunities ahead, and this is just one of them.
You go, girls!