By Rigel S. Massaro • June 24, 2007•Other Issues
Each of us brings to our job, whatever it is, our lifetime of experience and our values.
Sandra Day O'Connor
If we are to achieve a richer culture--one rich in contrasting values--we must recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities, and so weave a less arbitrary social fabric, one in which each diverse human gift will find a fitting place.
Last month I completed my first year of law school at the University of Arizona, where 50% + of the student body is female and all of our deans are women. I am currently interning at Consumers Union, where the 90% of the office is female. Just today I attended the annual luncheon of Equal Rights Advocates, where 850 supporters celebrated the 35th anniversary of Title IX. Today is a great time to be a woman entering the legal profession: the way has been paved by amazing women leaders (heroines abound!), and there is still much work to do.
I am lucky. Women before me have fought hard so that today, for me, being a female law student is not a struggle. I am inspired by the women in my cohort, the women leaders in the Tucson legal community, the amazing attorneys at Consumers Union, and by my female law professors and deans.
Women in the legal profession are creating a paradigm shift which can be understood through three avenues of contribution. I believe that women empowered with the law empower society at large. This empowerment can be seen in women's families and communities. Regardless of the kind of law they practice, female lawyers are likely to take their skills out of the office, infusing their families and communities with critical thinking skills, creative problem-solving strategies, and a sense of balance between personal and professional commitments.
Female lawyers also contribute to our culture from within the nation's law offices, governmental buildings, and advocacy organizations. While stereotypes are dangerous and wrought with exceptions, I cannot help but think that women in all legal realms have the potential to affect the way our legal system works. Women's influence can be seen at the legislative level, in the justice system, in executive positions, in legal education, and in the treatment of those who dedicate their lives to the practice of law. As powerful decision makers, women in the law create and implement the policies that shape the workforce and the society at large. Women are forcing the legal profession to alter its practices in the workplace to accommodate families and communities. Slowly, but surely, the glass ceiling is being cracked. Gains created by women have and will continue to expand the definition of family so as to empower families built around adopted children, active fathers, and domestic partners. I see these examples of recognition of family at work in Consumers Union, a trusted nationwide organization that trains and recruits long term employees for high-caliber performance for the public good. I believe that when an organization formally recognizes the importance of family (in all its forms) in its everyday administration, this recognition permeates the moral fiber of the organization and affects the way it interacts with clients and communities.
Women, with their diverse life experiences and commitments, enter the legal profession and the effect is immeasurable. I am honored to be part of this movement.