Susan Smith Blakely

High Cost of Childcare Affects Options for Women Lawyers

You heard it from President Obama in his State of the Union speech last week, and it is not good news.  The cost of childcare for one child in 31 states is comparable to the costs of tuition to send that same child to college.  This is shocking, and it can serious affect how women lawyers view their career options.

We do not have subsidized childcare in this country.  We also do not have equal pay, mandatory paid maternity leave, and now Congress is playing around with abortion rights again.  This is serious stuff, and all young women need to think about it.  It's not yesterday's news.  There is still a lot to be accomplished to improve the professional and personal lives of women, and women lawyers are no exception.  There is just too much evidence that women and the value of the work that women do are still undervalued in our society.

So, I think about these things when I review the messages that I have been sending to young women lawyers for years through my books, my blogs, and my speeches.  I have been a fierce advocate for the "on ramp" choice for women lawyers and the value of staying in the profession one way or another to protect future options.  Although I do recognize that there are some circumstances where that it just impossible, I advocate for it under most circumstances.  And I have joined forces as an advisor for the OnRamp Fellowship to further that message.

I will keep advocating for women to stay in the profession because I know it is good advice and in their best interests.   As pointed out in Petula Dvorak's recent column in the Washington Post, "The mommy-track penalty ends up with huge, long-term costs.  Two years off usually means a complete career rebuild.  One year away from some highly-skilled jobs is like a 10-year hiatus."  However, if women are losing money going to work because of the high costs of child care, that is a serious issue.

As President Obama said in his speech last week, "It's time we stop treating child care as a side issue, or a women's issue, and treat it like the national economic priority it is for all of us."  I agree. 

Think about it.  Advocate for it.  It is hugely important to your future.

Susan Smith Blakely is the Founder of LegalPerspectives LLC and a nationally-recognized author, speaker and consultant on issues related to young women lawyers, young women law students and young women interested in careers in the law.  She is author of Best Friends at the Bar:  What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers 2009), and Best Friends at the Bar:  The New Balance for Today's Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business 2012), which addresses the work-life struggle for women lawyers and includes twelve profiles of women who have successfully transitioned from one practice setting to another.  Her new book, Best Friends at the Bar:  Top-Down Leadership for Women Lawyers, will focus on the responsibilities of law firm leaders and will be released by Wolters Kluwer Law & Business in 2015.

Ms. Blakely frequently speaks at colleges and universities, law schools, law firms and law organizations, and she has been featured in media including the LA Daily Journal, National Jurist, Washington Examiner Newspaper, Forbes Woman, DC Spotlight, Daily Muse and Huffington Post Business.  Ms. Blakely also is a frequent guest speaker and panelist at conferences on women's issues and the law profession, and she has been a featured speaker at the US Department of Justice, Civil Division.

Ms. Blakely graduated from the University of Wisconsin with distinction and from Georgetown University Law Center where she was a teaching fellow. She is a member of the CoachSource global network of leadership coaches and a career coach for the Indiana University Marshall Goldsmith Leadership Development and Executive Coaching Academy.   For more information, please visit 

Write a comment

Please login to comment

Remember Me

Become a Member

FREE online community for women in the legal profession.



Subscribe to receive regular updates, news, and events from Ms. JD.

Connect with us

Follow or subscribe