Annual Meeting

Day of the Woman celebrates gender equity victories, but 'our work is not over'

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Laurel Bellows toasts progress at Day of the Woman Rally
Photo by Tony Avelar

You’ve come a long way, baby, but not far enough. That was the resounding message of the Day of the Woman on Friday at the ABA Annual Meeting.

The day, which commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Commission on Women in the Profession, marked the progress women lawyers have made and the work still to be done.

“In 25 years, the legal profession has come a long way from the days when women were approximately 13 percent of the lawyer population,” said Mary Cranston, a retired senior partner and past chair of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman in San Francisco who chairs the Commission on Women in the Profession. “Today, the number of women lawyers has more than doubled, but despite this, women attorneys disproportionately experience a lack of opportunities for advancement and at the partner level. For instance, they often have dramatically disparate pay. As a result, women lawyers are leaving the profession in greater numbers than their male peers.

“The Day of the Woman is an opportunity for women lawyers to challenge these inequities while celebrating what has been accomplished.”

Friday’s activities included a full-day of programming and a midday rally to support the progress of women lawyers. ABA President Laurel Bellows toasted the gathering of women lawyers at the rally, raising a glass of sparkling wine to the changes that have occurred and to the work that still remains. “Our work is not over,” Bellows said.

The day’s programs included a variety of panels offering practical advice to women, men and minorities on career advancement, rainmaking and leadership skills as well as substantive programs on the Violence Against Women Act, women’s health care issues and cybersecurity.

A CLE program on pay equity highlighted the continuing disparity in pay for women in virtually all professions and jobs. Philadelphia lawyer Roberta Liebenberg, who chairs the ABA Gender Equity Task Force, noted that women still make, on average, 23 percent less than men. Law firms are slightly better, but a pay disparity still exists.

Pay equity is one of the many important challenges that women lawyers still have to overcome, Cranston said. “The commission will continue to be at the vanguard for providing tools, solutions and strategies for effectuating positive change in the status of women in the legal profession.”

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