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Last week I had a bit of an epiphany about the need for more women lawyers to stay in the profession. I was scrolling through some recent news items on women leadership in preparation for a speech that I will deliver at a law firm later this week.
One of those news items caught my eye. It reported the results of the recent Women in the World Summit held earlier this month in New York City. The women who attended the Summit demonstrated, among other things, their understandings of alternatives to aggression and the importance of consensus in solving world problems. They proved once again that women have unique contributions to make and that their value at the highest levels of government and diplomacy cannot be overstated.
As summarized on the web site The Women Worldwide Initiative, “[Women] are creative, strong, compassionate and analytical – among millions of other incredible qualities. We commit to values, are conscious of our evolving selves, invoke passion and courage, arouse the imagination, create community and mentor the next generation. We do it all!”
That article also quoted Alyse Nelson, President and CEO, Vital Voices Global Partnership, saying, “Women lead differently, and that difference is crucial,” and the Honorable Jane Harman, “Men run for office to be someone. Women run for office to do something.”
It was an awesome and diverse group of women, and, like always, I fixated on the roles of women lawyers in this group. Women like Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Legarde, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, California Congresswoman Jackie Speier, former California Congresswoman Jane Harman, and sisters California Attorney General Kamala Harris and Ford Foundation executive Maya L. Harris, to name just a few.
I began thinking about the importance of these women lawyers on both the domestic and the world stage and how that relates to my mission to retain women lawyers. The point, of course, is that we need women lawyers not only to practice law and head corporations, but we also need them to assume other leadership roles, both at home and abroad. So many of our most effective world leaders are women lawyers, and we must protect that talent pool to meet the challenges of the future and to advance solutions that are important to women throughout the world. As we hear about the threats to women’s rights around the world, reported at this Summit, and we also experience issues related to women’s health clinics and women’s access to affordable birth control in our own country, we cannot help but understand the need for strong women’s voices.
So, take the broad view and think about how much good you can do in the world by both getting a legal education and continuing in some role to use it to improve human conditions throughout the world. This particular role for women lawyers may be a small cog in a bigger wheel, but there is no denying that women lawyers are very important to the wheel that makes the world go around.
About the Author
Susan Smith Blakely is the author of Best Friends at the Bar: What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law, a book which includes insights, anecdotes, and career advice from more than 60 contributors with long and distinguished legal careers. She also hosts a blog with the same name that you can visit and her Best Friends at the Bar monthly e-mail newsletter also may interest your firm. Please e-mail Ms. Blakely at firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the mailing list. Susan encourages her readers to forward the information she shares on to the leadership in law firms’ Diversity Committees and Women’s Initiatives, or their equivalents.