Susan Smith Blakely

More on the Vanishing ??? Women’s Movement

In the last blog I gave you some information about current attitudes on the women's movement, as reported in an article in More magazine, and I asked you what you thought.  Before you make up your mind, consider these facts:

Yes, women are earning undergraduate and graduate degrees at an impressive pace; and
Yes, women CEOs and other public figures are talking openly about the importance of their personal lives and what they need to achieve a satisfactory work-life balance.

Does this mean that women have achieved their goals and that there is nothing left to talk about?  Does it mean that women are now in positions of power on par with the men and that issues of work-life are not women's issues at all but really issues for all high-achieving individuals?

It might seem that way when you are competing side by side with men and it is an equal playing field.  Today, with the achievements of the last 50 years, it can feel like gender does not matter.  If you think that, consider these additional facts:

Full-time working women earn 77% of what their male counterparts earn;
Women with children are seen as less desirable employees than men, according to a recent study at Cornell University cited in the More article.  The results showed that childless women were six times as likely to be recommended for hire as mothers with similar qualifications;
Women make up less than 20% of the members of Congress, the lawmakers on matters near and dear to the hearts of women, who want choice about issues affecting their personal lives like abortion, contraception and paid family leave;
Women lawyers make up less than 20% of equity partners in law firms today; and
Over her lifetime, the average American woman is paid $464,320 less than the average American man.

So, the author of the More article, Jessica Grose, says that it is tempting to look at the progress that has been made on women's issues and be satisfied with that.  But, she also posits that as unwise, and she produces facts about regression on issues like abortion and access to contraception to support that opinion.  She is glad that young women feel empowered, but she knows that there is much left to do.

As a women's advocate, I know that we cannot take any of our progress for granted.  As a woman, who studies the profession of law and the challenges to women in that profession, I absolutely know that we must keep the forward momentum going.

Call it feminism, or do not.  What is in a name, as Shakespeare pointed out so eloquently?  It is all about choice --- having it or not.

What do you think now?

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 www.bestfriendsatthebar.com. 

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