It is true that women lawyers were among those who left the profession over the past two years because quality childcare was not available during the threat from COVID-19 when quality daycare centers and schools were closed. Although many legal commenters and legal consultant groups stressed very high attrition rates for women lawyers due to these circumstances, I was very pleased to see one the most reliable legal commenters, Vivia Chen of Bloomberg News, jump into the conversation recently to set the record straight.
In making her case against the oft-repeated narrative that, when push comes to shove, women bail out of their careers, Ms. Chen cites the most recent statistics supporting the conclusion that women remained in the workforce during the pandemic and stayed on their jobs, as much as they could and persevered. Reporting additional statistics showing that those in the most privileged positions were able to keep their careers going, Ms. Chen concluded that most female lawyers “stayed in the game.” They may have left large firms for a downsized version that afforded more flexibility or transitioned within the profession, but they did not leave in large numbers. They did not quit in high numbers as had been reported earlier. They did not run for cover. For more on this article, read it at https://news.bloomberglaw.com/business-and-practice/she-cession-myth-busted-women-didnt-quit-law-during-pandemic.
Indeed, there are challenges for women lawyers and male lawyers as well, especially those with young children. But young lawyers should not let their career planning be derailed by them. Young lawyers are smart and capable of protecting both their personal and professional goals, and the advent of programs like flexible hours, working from home, and changing law practice cultures are giving them the additional help they need.
It is all possible. Not easy. But possible.
I take a detour from legal-related matters today to draw attention to Earth Day. It always has been important, but the level of importance has risen significantly in recent years due to the recognized threat of climate change.
We all need to get involved to combat this change, which will raise the level of the seas, destroy creatures who depend on certain habitats, and affect humanity in so many disastrous ways. Farmers will see their livelihoods disappear, and diminished food supplies will be unrecognizable. Landscapes will be changed dramatically by wildfires and floods, which also will destroy homes and cause human carnage.
My contribution to this cause is as a board member of a conservation trust in my area of the country. The trust, a 501c(3), holds easements and performs stewardship on mostly private properties to protect open spaces and forested areas, which trap carbon dioxide before it becomes part of the atmosphere, and provide natural settings like parks and trails to improve the health and well-being of our residents. It is very satisfying work.
What will you do to make your mark on combating climate change? It can be a small effort or something larger. It can be a dedication of your time or a contribution to a recognized conservation group.
Every gesture, every contribution counts.
Those who have heard me speak or have read my books will recognize this quote, “There is a place reserved in Hell for women who do not help other women.” I refer to it often because it embodies so much of what I believe about women lawyers and their responsibilities to one another.
The woman responsible for those words died recently. Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State, was a force, who never forgot where she came from and who had supported her. In response, she reached out helping hands to so many people in her life — especially women.
I met Secretary Albright a few years ago and discussed her famous quote with her. She completely understood the applicability of her words to the legal profession. She and I lamented the still-existing practice of some established women lawyers to pull the ladder up after they have reached the top. Known as the “Queen Bees,” they have done so much harm to the progress of young women lawyers. As I have written recently, the only good news is that most of them are retired or will be retiring soon. I hope that ends the reign of their negative influence.
Here is the link to an article written about Secretary Albright from someone who knew her well and benefited from her kindness and her support. It is worth the read.
I am thankful for the life and example of Madeleine Albright and the inspiration she was to my work. May she rest in peace.