Today is International Women’s Day. I hope you are celebrating being a woman or having a wonderful woman at your side.
Today we remember that we have come a long way, but there is still a long way to go in terms of equal opportunity, equal pay, implicit bias, and respect. Even equal protection comes to mind as we are reminded of the recent disclosures by Senator Martha McSally — women are not protected adequately within the military ranks any more than they are protected in society at large. Sexism is still baked in the cake of our culture, and we must keep our eyes on the prize of eliminating it.
Equal Pay is an important part of the goals for advancement of women. It is key to women taking their places in the top levels of leadership and management. Women at the top of organizations have a lot more opportunity than women at lower echelons to have significant influence on improving policies for women at law firms and in the public sector, as well.
And women must prove to be supportive of each other and push for the changes that are necessary. Women cannot afford to be competitive and envious of each other. We all must join together for the changes that are needed to take our profession forward and to bring about the equality that women deserve — no matter what our individual experiences have been. Women supporting women is the only way it will happen.
We also must be careful not to make our male colleagues the enemies. We must understand that it gets us nowhere. We cannot do to them what they did to us, and we cannot assume that they did it intentionally. But we will know that, if we discriminate against them today, we will be doing it intentionally — because we have benefited from years of education about discrimination and bias that many of them did not have. I have written about this recently in the ABA Journal, and I recommend that article to you.
And, we need to be practical. As the leaders at the top of most law firms and law organizations, our male colleagues are still in control of our opportunities and upward mobility. We will gain nothing by playing into our desires to win the battle without caring about winning the war.
As we hope for greater advancement for women lawyers, we also must have perspective. We must understand that we are part of a historical narrative that goes back a long way. Those of us who entered the law profession as long ago as 40 and 50 years past, have needed to keep perspective to survive. We are happy that women lawyers today are not forced to forfeit opportunities because male lawyers do not want to travel with them. We are happy that women lawyers today do not forfeit partnership because they want to take time off to spend with a newborn, and we are happy that women lawyers today are not called “little girls” by judges at all levels of the judiciary. That happen to many of us. We do not forget it, but we also know that it was part of a historical narrative.
So, I hope you will celebrate women today and remember that we have come a long way, but we have a long way to go. Keep your eyes on the prize.