Pulling Back the Curtain on the 16%

It's easy to get complacent about women's progress in the profession. It's easy because on the one hand things aren't so bad - after all you look around and see amazing women filling the junior ranks of the profession ready for advancement and success. And it's easier than not being complacent, because nothing ever seems to change anyway - we've been at the same 16% of equity partners, professorships, GCs, etc. etc.  for more than a decade.

And then you have lunch with a friend. And you hear about blatant acts of discrimination inflicted with no other purpose but to curtail the horizons of women lawyers simply because they are women. And you watch complacent fade in the rear view mirror as you realize that behind that 16% is an army of deserving but disappointed women.

So what you ask was the story that got my blood boiling? I'll tell you. After the jump ...

What's got me seeing red is a story of a talented, hard-working senior associate I know. She checks off all the boxes: fancy academic pedigree? check. track-record as a hard working team player? check. good experience in a range of litigation settings? check. good rapport with partners and clients? check. encouraged in one associate review after another that she's on partner track? check check check check.

Actually promoted to partner? nope.

Obviously not the happy ending we all hope for, but plenty of reasonable, non-biased explanations could have justified the decision, right? nope again.

Here's what's got me typing with extra forceful keystrokes: the reason this promising associate didn't make partner was because she took two maternity leaves while she was an associate. This is what was actually provided to her as an explanation for the partnership decision. Just a flat out admission of bias with no attempt to masquerade behind any lawful or equitable justification.

A bald-faced, taunting declaration from one male-dominated firm to one hard-working woman that the deck is stacked and the options for reshuffling are painfully limited.

These are the moments I'm most grateful to have Ms. JD. It was because of Ms. JD that this story was told to me in the first place. And Ms. JD allows me to direct my anger over stories like this in a useful direction. And it was because of Ms. JD that the story can be published to a wider audience, hopefully motivating readers to be aware and active in the elimination of bias and the advancement of women. 

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