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In Search of Equality

Commission says barriers remain after 20 years

Posted Sep 1, 2008 8:25 AM CDT
By Jill Schachner Chanen

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Pamela Roberts
Photo by Ben Asen

The commission on Women in the Pro­fession celebrated 20 years in existence with a Day of Equality at the an­nual meeting to remind mem­bers how far they have come and how much more work they have to do to achieve gender equality.

“The conversation about gender equality has changed over the last 20 years, but we hear an echo,” said commission chair Pamela J. Roberts of Columbia, S.C. “Barriers and impediments to gender equality remain.” One has only to look, she noted, at the dearth of wom­en in law firms as full equity partners, as tenured profes­sors in aca­demia and as corporate counsel to see how elusive the goal continues to be.

But Roberts want­ed the day to serve as a remind­er of all the good work the commission has done in moving the profession toward gender equality. She urged her fellow members to continue having honest and committed dialogue on the issue.

To that end, the Day of Equality offered eight CLE sessions sponsored by eight different ABA sections as a way to focus on gender issues across all practice areas, as well as a luncheon panel with four “nonwomen” lawyers discussing the diversity efforts of their law firms and Fortune 500 corporations.

A reception dubbed Equalitea capped off the day at the Hilton New York to celebrate the commission’s accomplishments over the past two decades and inspire others to continue their quest for true gender equality in the legal profession.

Speaking at the reception was past ABA president Martha Barnett, a partner at Holland & Knight in Tallahassee, Fla. She said that “when the commission was started in 1987, there was a great hope that it wouldn’t be needed in 20 years.”

Still, the work goes on.

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