Celebrating women in law while working toward the future
June 3, 2021
If you’ve spent time on social media this week, you’ve probably encountered some posts observing International Women’s Day Celebrated on March 8th, International Women’s day is described as “…a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.”
Huge strides have been taken towards gender equality since the first International Womens’ Day rallies in 1911. Women in the United States can vote, work, and lead independent lives in a way that our foremothers could have only dreamed; in fact, Smokeball’s own US leadership team is 75% female. To quote Smokeball US President, Ruchie Chadha:
We know diversity is an institutional strength. It is essential that we create an environment where underrepresented thoughts, experiences, and the institutionally marginalized are equitably represented, valued, and nurtured.
But there is still work to be done.
Women’s careers have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with millions of women leaving the workforce due to the demands of caretaking or the pandemic’s devastating effect on frequently female-dominated industries such as hospitality.
Countless others have been struggling to juggle the burdens of childcare, online schooling, and working remotely for over a year now with little relief. The loss of in-person school and childcare has affected single mothers most heavily, but even those co-parenting have frequently found themselves taking on the brunt of household responsibilities even as their partners may also be working from home.
The legal industry has been fortunate in its ability to persevere during the pandemic – by trading in-person court appearances for Zoom hearings and moving entire law firms to cloud-based practice management software and legal apps, many attorneys have found that they truly can work from anywhere. Disruptions have been overcome.
But from a gender parity standpoint, the legal industry could use a little more disruption. According to the National Association of Women Lawyers’ 2020 Survey women make up 47% of law firm associates but only 21% of law firm equity partners. The same NAWL survey found that “Law firms remain reluctant to engage in the processes most likely to reduce biased decision-making, instead preferring activities that signal a commitment to diversity, but that aren’t guaranteed to produce it.”
It’s important to reflect on the achievements and abilities of women this International Women’s Day, Women’s History Month, and beyond – but we also need to look towards the future and imagine a world where women have access to true gender equality. Smokeball Director of Product, Mary Ellen Kelleher, says it best:
I hope that years from now, women in leadership roles isn’t even a topic of conversation because it will be the norm. But for now, we should celebrate it, because it’s not the norm and the women who have made it have frequently dealt with a lot to get to their seat.
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