Women in the Workplace Panel Discussion Recap
Women in the Workplace.
For those of you who missed the “Women in the Workplace”panel discussion this afternoon, here is a little recap of what was discussed.
Our speakers were Bambi Faivre Walters, Professor AngelaBanks, and Shannon Manning.
Bambi Faivre Walters is an attorney specializing in patentand intellectual property law. She earned a B.S. in Systems Engineeringfrom the University of Virginia, with a concentration in Environmental andWater Resources Engineering. She was an engineer with the United StatesNaval Sea Support Services for the Atlantic Fleet (NAVSEACENLANT), and then sheearned her J.D. from Tulane University Law School. She was a productliability associate with McGlinchey Stafford in New Orleans, Louisiana. She currently conducts her solo practice in Williamsburg, VA.
Professor Angela Banks teaches contracts and immigrationlaw at William and Mary Law. She graduated from Spelman College, thenearned a Master of Letters in Sociology from Oxford University. Finally,she received her J.D. from Harvard Law School. After law school, she waslegal advisor to Judge Gabrielle Kirk McDonald at the Iran-United States ClaimsTribunal; an associate at Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering in Washington, DC; andas law clerk for Judge Carlos F. Lucero of the U.S. Court of Appeals for theTenth Circuit.
Shannon Manning is a Newport News Assistant City Attorney. She attended Dartmouth College, and then received her J.D. fromUniversity of North Carolina School of Law. She previously served as theAssistant Commonwealth's Attorney in the City of Portsmouth. Then she wasa Staff Attorney at the Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy, focusingon disability rights law. She's been Assistant City Attorney in NewportNews for nearly 3 years.
Incremental Progress for Women in the Legal Industry
Bambi Faivre Walters kicked off the panel by discussing avariety of statistics from a study done by the Commission on Women in theProfession: http://www.abanet.org/women/ChartingOurProgress.pdf.
The statistics demonstrate that women are making incrementalprogress in the legal industry. Between 1995 and 2003:
· The percentage of law school entrants who were womenincreased from 45% to 50%
· The percentage of women in tenured positions at lawschools increased from 5.9% to 25.1%;
· The percentage of women partners in major law firmsincreased from 12.9% to 16.3%.
· The percentage of women general counsel in Fortune 500companies increased from 4.% or 15%.
· The percentage of women in the federal judiciary at theCourt of Appeals level increased from 13% to 17.4%
· The percentage of women in the federal judiciary at theU.S. District Court level increased from 12% or 16.2%
Despite the progress, disparities still exist between malesand females in the legal profession. The most drastic disparity is in salary level. On average, women make $20,000 less than men for the samenumber of billable hours.
Perceptions of Women in the Work Place:
The legal industry remains a male dominated field—this isespecially true for the most competitive job tracks. The key is for women to dotheir jobs as well as they can, and to demonstrate that they have “the goods”to rise in the ranks.
Panelists cautioned that young attorneys should be carefulabout how they utilize the statistics and stories they hear from seasonedfemale attorneys. The informationshould be kept in the back of your head to help you identify red flags, butshould NOT become a psychological barrier to your success.
Balancing Life and Work: The Unique Demands of Motherhood on Female Attorneys:
The panelists also discussed the importance of balancinglife and work (this becomes increasingly important as women begin theirfamilies). Many female lawyersrequire more control over their schedules. The demands of motherhood make it difficult for femaleattorney to put in the same number of hours as their male counterparts. As a result, you see two trends:
First, there is a disincentive for women to start their ownprivate practices. This isespecially true for those lawyers who wish to have a robust litigationpractice. It is nearly impossibleto be a litigator with your own practice—in order to be an effective advocate,more than one attorney is needed to meet the demands of complexlitigation.
The second trend is a flight to government work. Government jobs offer a limited numberof work hours per week. It is alsoperceived as a more egalitarian work environment. Panelist Shannon Manning also noted that jobs in thegovernment are often better suited for females who wish to work for a causethat operates in the interest of justice rather than in the interest of aparticular client. When you workin private practice, you have to represent your client even if you find hisconduct or moral character deplorable. Manning also argued that there were moreopportunities for advancement in the government. Unlike a large firm, the government is not concerned aboutoutward appearances, political connections, the amount of revenue you can bringinto the firm, etc.
The panelists also discussed the Pregnancy DiscriminationAct, which amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The act makes it unlawful todiscriminate on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medicalconditions. If you are interestedin finding out more information about the act, or pregnancy discrimination morebroadly, please visit: http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/fs-preg.html.
What Female Law Students and Attorneys Can Do:
All of the panelists emphasized the importance ofnetworks—both formal and informal. Keep up with colleagues and law school peers. There are many jobs you can only find out about via word ofmouth. Law Students and youngattorneys should contact their local bar association about mentorship programsfor female law students and attorneys. If your local bar does have an existing mentorship program, suggest thatthey start one (you can look to North Carolina’s mentorship program as a model:http://lawstudentdivision.ncbar.org/).
Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to male attorneys asmentors. It’s also important toknow the politics of your work environment. Oftentimes a male partner might be the best resource fornavigating your firm. You shouldbe open to networking and reaching out to different types of people—the key isthat you feel comfortable and can trust the individual you are speaking to!