I never have met Swanee Hunt or, more accurately and respectfully, Ambassador Swanee Hunt. She is the former US ambassador to Austria, the founder of the Women and Public Policy Program at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and the founder of Seismic Shift, an initiative dedicated to increasing the number of women in high political office.
We share a mutual very good friend, but I keep missing Ambassador Hunt at events. I hope that changes one day soon because we both are dedicated to advancing women in positions of leadership. And I would like to thank her for her work.
In a recent piece for CNN News, Ambassador Hunt discussed the advances that women are making in increasing their collective representations in Congress and state legislatures in this country and in national representations in countries across the globe — countries like Iceland and Rwanda and New Zealand, where the female Prime Minister is shaking things up Down Under.
The message is that female leadership matters and not just for issues affecting women. New organizations are springing up all over the US to encourage women candidates and to build on the momentum. Women demonstrate remarkably effective leadership skills, and they work hard and relentlessly for positive change. Women, especially those with children, are incredibly efficient and productive on the job. They have the assembly line down pat. They multitask with perfection, and they are unflappable under fire. You can’t show them emotions they have not addressed and overcome.
However, before we get too comfortable with the rise of women leaders, we need to understand that, according to research by Bright Horizons, more than forty percent of employed Americans (a combination of men and women) consider working moms to be less devoted to their work. And the unfortunate reality is that women fall behind in earned wages once they have children, and they never catch up. The Motherhood Penalty is still very much an impediment to the advancement of women in the workplace, and the law profession is no exception.
Many more of you than ever before will become law firm partners, but many of you will remain non-equity partners because of your family choices. You will watch your male colleagues overtake you in salary and opportunity — in many cases not because of your lack of skills but because of perceptions.
This is the way it is — but not the way it needs to be. Hopefully the trends in the leadership of women that Swanee Hunt writes about and has witnessed all over the world will make a difference.
Let’s hope so. And soon.