“A smile is a curve that sets everything straight.”
“Labor to keep live in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.”
You know that I support equal pay for women. I have written on it in this blog before, and I published a comprehensive article on it recently. You also might have noticed that I don’t typically get into politics in my work, for a lot of good reasons, but I consider equal pay to be a very important policy decision. So, here is an update on gender pay equality — an opinion that likely is held by more than just this one political operative. Heed it as a warning.
In a letter criticizing a bill that addresses the pay gap in the workforce in Utah, a Republican operative, James Green, said that men have traditionally earned more than women and, citing “simple economics,” argued that things should stay that way.
Green’s comments were directed at Utah Senate Bill 210, which proposes changes to laws related to employee pay. The bill would commission a study on whether there’s a pay gap between male and female workers in the state and would require certain employers to adopt a uniform criteria to determine whether an employee should get a raise based on performance. It also would create a pay index that establishes the average pay range for each occupation based on years of experience.
Mr. Green said in his letter to the editor, published last week in several Utah newspapers, that men make more than women because they’re “the primary breadwinners” of their families, and paying women equally would somehow ruin the makeup of a traditional family where “the Mother” remains at home raising children.
He continued, “If businesses are forced to pay women the same as male earnings, that means they will have to reduce the pay for the men they employ. If that happens, then men will have an even more difficult time earning enough to support their families, which will mean more Mothers will be forced to leave the home (where they may prefer to be) to join the workforce to make up the difference.”
He concluded by saying that equal pay is “bad for families and thus for all of society,” calling it “a vicious cycle” that would create competition for jobs, “even men’s jobs.”
Yes, in 2017, those views are held. Don’t let anyone tell you that you do not have to worry about things like equal pay and women controlling their own lives because it is the 21st Century.
Don’t become complacent. Keep your radar up. Take your place at the table to correct the wrongs that limit opportunities and choice.
The time to get active is NOW.
OK. Many of you are too young to know much about Mary Tyler Moore and the characters she played on TV sitcoms. So, I am here to tell you about her and what generations of women before you learned from her.
Mary Tyler Moore became a household word in the 1960’s when she starred as Laura Petrie, the wife of Dick Van Dyke on The Dick Van Dyke Show. She played the typical housewife/stay-at-home mom who was popular in the day. She was quirky and smart and got herself into trouble about as often as Lucy Ricardo on the I Love Lucy show. She was beautiful, smiley, looked great in capri pants, could dance up a storm — AND all while she cooked dinner and waited on her man. We loved her, and she entertained us, but she did not necessarily inspire us. It was her next role that took women’s admiration for Mary Tyler Moore to the next level.
In her role as Mary Richards, TV news producer on the 1970’s Mary Tyler Moore Show, she created a vision of the new independent woman we all wanted to emulate. She was single, in her thirties, confident, and she wanted a career — and she knew she was entitled to one. In fact, she wanted a career over everything else. She saw no reason why she could not compete on an equal footing with men, which she did with grace, charm and humor. She was seen and she was heard on issues that were hardly talked about in those days, like equal pay and birth control. More than fifty years ago, she helped shape the thinking of young women today in terms of their ambitions, their capabilities and their sense of personal and professional value.
We all owe Mary Tyler Moore a great debt of gratitude for her pivotal roles in our coming of age as young women in America, and that is why there were so many public tributes to her when, sadly, she died earlier this month. Her death left holes in the hearts of many who loved her and admired her. I am one of those, and I still get a thrill from watching footage of the opening scenes of each episode of the Mary Tyler Moore Show where she throws her girlish beret up in the air in downtown Minneapolis with great gusto that said it all: This is my town, and I will succeed.
We all need a role model like that — especially young women lawyers who continue to buck the odds at each turn as they are challenged with survival in what is still a man’s world. Women lawyers, as smart and accomplished as they are, still represent fewer than 20% of the law partners in America, and, according to a recent survey, women partners make considerably less than male partners for performing the same work. Women lawyers are still passively excluded from many of the important client development events in their firms, and flexibility to meet the work-life demands so many women experience is still far from a given.
More than anyone who ever has graced a TV set, Mary Richards was your “gal,” as women were referred to in her day. More than the female TV lawyers, who often are too dramatic and too unrealistic, Mary Richards was the real deal.
She always kept her eye on the prize, and so should you.
Paul McCartney & John Lennon
I started talking about the importance of “True Grit” for women lawyers as long ago as 2012 when my second book came out. In Best Friends at the Bar: The New Balance for Today’s Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business), I included a chapter titled “You Really Need True Grit,” and in 2014 I wrote more on the subject in a blog addressing the value of true grit for women lawyers.
So, you can imagine how happy I was to see that the ABA’s Commission on Women in the Profession is taking grit very seriously as well. According to a recent article in the ABA Journal, the ABA’s Grit Project was introduced in 2014, just two years after I first wrote about it, and was based on research by Milana Hogan, the chief legal recruiting and professional development officer at Sullivan & Cromwell. She first discovered a statistical link between grit and successful women and then applied it more broadly to women lawyers in 2016.
Ms. Hogan defined “grit” as “behavioral persistence in the face of adversity” and “sustained, passionate pursuits of goals,” as shared at the recent ABA Midyear Meeting in Miami, where the soon-to-be-released ABA book titled “Grit, the Secret to Advancement: Stories of Successful Women lawyers” was introduced. The book will include 45 letters from women who used grit to advance their careers. Look for it in August.
Although I was not able to attend the Miami program last Friday, I was delighted to see that one of the panelists was the Honorable Patricia Seitz, Senior U.S. District Judge, Southern District of Florida. She is a great role model for women lawyers, and she did me the honor of attending the program that I presented for the judges and law clerks of the Southern District of Florida in 2011. I believe I talked a little bit about grit that long ago, and I keep talking about it.
This is important stuff, and you need to pay attention to safeguard your career and improve the overall quality of your work experience. The chapter of Best Friends at the Bar: The New Balance for Today’s Woman Lawyers (2012) provides concrete examples of what “true grit” means and how to implement it. I invite you to take a look —for your own good!