Today I need to talk to you about women. Not just women lawyers, but women in general. Women are getting a lot of attention these days, but let’s make sure that we understand why and what the downside can be unless we are vigilant.
Recently, in an April 6th story, the Associated Press reported that President Obama announced that women are not an interest group. Although that sounds a little off-putting, I am happy with that logic and conclusion. No matter what your politics are—and I do not get into politics in this forum—I think that you will agree that women do NOT want to be an interest group. We might want to be a force, a solidarity group or even some kind of sisterhood, but we do not want to be an interest group. Here is why.
I concede that it is nice and refreshing for women to get so much attention in the race for the White House, but we should not get carried away in the warmth of the limelight just because we are suddenly a priority. We are a priority because women vote. It is as simple as that—something, by the way, that we should be proud of. Yes, there are some more legitimate and substantive reasons for focusing on women today, but none of them is as important as the effect on the electorate in this political season.
But, that does not make us an interest group that can be popular one year and unpopular the next. Simply speaking, women and their issues do not have borders that encase us as other interest groups do. After all, we are not trying to repopulate the planet with the spot-eyed owl. We are not so isolated and discrete that ignoring us has no repercussions beyond our literal and strict definition as women.
Our issues are not just women’s issues. They are family issues, they are educational issues, they are economic growth issues and more. They do not start and stop with women. They extend to the children of women and their needs, the aging parents of women and their needs, the disabled family members of women and their needs, the husbands who have been laid off from jobs and their needs, and the household budget issues and constraints that flow from all of those things.
So, as we go forward, do not allow your identity as women to result in pigeon-holing women’s issues. It is not just about women and the availability of birth control, women and other healthcare coverage, women and the need for equal pay for equal work, women and the availability of work-related retirement programs…..and the list goes on. IT IS ABOUT WOMEN.
It is not simple, by any means, and we should not let anyone convince us that it is. The more complicated it is, the more attention it will receive. Women’s issues have long fingers, and we cannot let our national leaders forget that. We cannot let them dismiss us as simply an interest group when the time is convenient. We want to stay on their radar. That is the only way we will get ahead.
Remember, as women lawyers, you are women first. Think about these things and understand your responsibility to the larger group. The majority of women are trying to move in the same direction, and you, as lawyers, will be in unique positions to help advance the agenda for women.
That reminds me of another quote from the President in that same press conference. “Is it possible that Congress will get more done if there were more women in Congress?”
Duh. I guess that was a rhetorical question!