NovemberReport - page 4

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November 2013 CBA REPORT
president’s brief
I
I
’d like to talk with you about a
critically important (and admit-
tedly personal) issue — the status of
women in the legal profession.
As I sat down to write this article, I
re-read and reflected upon several items
that I’ve collected over the last several
months — a copy of Princeton University
professor Ann-Marie Slaughter’s widely
discussed
Atlantic
article “Why Women
Still Can’t Have It All,” the transcript
of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s
14-minute-and-58 second TED Talk on
“Why we have too few women leaders,”
and the June 2013 edition of the
ABA
Journal
, which features an article about
six “Women in Charge” — one of whom
has “has her own schedule for work-life
balance” and succeeded by “proving
her ability to ingratiate herself with the
lawyers and clients of her small-town
firm with a dogged work ethic and . . . by
cementing her worth with subtle mus-
cle;” another whose colleague, upon her
promotion to managing partner of her
firm, “offered some words of guidance
to her fellow female lawyers: The reason
[she] was so successful,
he
said, was be-
cause she practiced law like a man.” ?!?!?!
All three are worthy of a read or listen,
for very different reasons.
Make no mistake, women lawyers’
issues are complex. Indeed, I can’t pos-
sibly do them justice here. But my goal is
much more modest — to get you think-
ing and start a dialogue.
First, the good news. Women now
account for more than one-third of
the nation’s lawyers and roughly half
of the nation’s law students. In the last
By Jean Geoppinger McCoy
two decades, the number of women law
partners, general counsels and federal
judges have more than doubled. Women
hold one-third of the seats on the U.S.
Supreme Court. On the flip side, how-
ever, just under 20 percent of law firm
partners, nationwide, are women. Of that
disappointingly small percentage, only 15
percent are equity partners, who earn 89
percent of what their male peers earn —
even though they perform similar work
and generate similar revenue. Of those,
a mere 4 percent are in top-level man-
agement positions. Women comprise a
meager 23 percent of the federal judiciary
and only 27 percent of the state judiciary.
And women are leaving the profession in
droves.
How do we change the dynamic?
How can we stop the mass exodus?
Sheryl Sandberg, who is also the
author of
Lean In: Women, Work and the
Will to Lead
, offers three pieces of advice:
(1) sit at the table, (2) make your partner
a real partner, and (3) don’t leave before
you leave. Ann-Marie Slaughter — who
“still strongly believe[s] that women can
‘have it all’... at the same time,
[b]ut not today, not with the way Amer-
ica’s economy and society are currently
structured” — posits that “[y]ou should
be able to have a family if you want
one — however and whenever your life
circumstances allow — and still have the
career you desire. If more women could
strike this balance, more women would
reach leadership positions. And if more
women were in leadership positions, they
could make it easier for more women to
stay in the workforce.”
I believe that we’ve made a good
start here in Cincinnati. The Women
Lawyers Committee of the CBA tackles
these issues regularly through its quality
programming. Several local firms have
also recognized the issues and taken
steps to address issues unique to their
female attorneys. Frost Brown Todd
was at the forefront of the “women in
the workplace” movement. As one of
the first programs of its kind, the FBT
Women’s Initiative looked at the root
cause for the high dropout rate of women
in the legal profession and developed
programs aimed at increasing retention
and promotion of women attorneys at
the firm, as well as increase their visibil-
ity for advancement inside the firm and
throughout the community. Dinsmore
& Shohl has also established a Women’s
Initiative, which “is designed to increase
retention of women associates through
an environment of support opportunities
for advancement.”
We are also blessed to have many
strong women in the Cincinnati legal
community that have blazed the trail,
chief among those being Beth Schneider
Naylor, who founded the FBT Women’s
Initiative in 1999. Beth, whom you met
briefly in the June edition of the
CBA
Report
, has graciously agreed to share her
thoughts with us next month as a guest
columnist. I, personally, can’t wait to
hear her advice on “leaning in” and “hav-
ing it all.”
Geoppinger McCoy is the 2013-2014 president of the
Cincinnati Bar Association.
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