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Lawyers Club of San Diego is a specialty bar association committed to advancing the status of women in the law and society. We use this space to share articles written about Lawyers Club events and programs and items of interest to our members which are relevant to our mission. The opinions outlined in content published on the Lawyers Club of San Diego blog are those of the authors and not of Lawyers Club. All members are encouraged to participate respectfully in discussions regarding the topics posted on the blog. Guest writers are welcome. Guidelines for writers may be found on the Leadership Resources page.

 

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Life Imitates Law: Feisty Boys, Hysterical Dudes

Posted By Bobbi-Jo Dobush, Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Feisty Boys, Hysterical Dudes

 

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how the words used to describe migrants – words that evoke a sense of fear, of disaster – stay with us as we learn about issues of migration and color our perception thereof. The post sparked some conversation and questions about the words typically used to describe women, including professional women, and how language choice affects each of our lives (including our careers). I’ve been doing some digging on this and I want to share these resources, which range from scholarly to smile-inducing:

 

Adult Female Humans = Women.

  • To paraphrase actress Mayim Bialik’s video, one can normally recognize a girl by the fact that she is under 18 and may live with her parents. Being CEO of a company or a mother is a decent indicator that the person in question is, in fact, a woman, not a girl. In line with my previous post, Bialik gets that “language sets expectations.” This is a fun watch. 
  • Gina M. Florio’s 2016 Bustle Article posits that calling women “girls” is infantilizing, creepy, and perpetuates an obsession with female youth. On top of that, we rarely call men “boys” and calling women “girls” prevent us from treating each other as equals. 

Feisty Boys, Hysterical Dudes. 

Gendered Language Bias in the Workplace.

  • In a study analyzing the language of hundreds of performance reviews from professional and technology services companies women were 2.5 times as likely to be called out for aggressive communication styles as men and twice as likely praised for their teamwork or collaboration than men.
  • This problem is not confined to the law: a 2016 Nature Geoscience article found that women are about half as likely as their male counterparts to be described as excellent in recommendation letters, whether the letters are written by women or men. 

Additional Resources:

Please comment and let your fellow Lawyers Club members and me know what you think: Are we perpetuating sexism by refusing to recognize it in its daily forms? Have you ever called anyone groomzilla? (I have, for the record.)   

 

Bobbi-Jo Dobush believes that sharing our diverse passions—for example the arts, the ocean, or salsa (the condiment)—can positively influence our practices. 

Tags:  art  awareness  bias  discrimination  equality  girl  language  LCB 

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Life Imitates Law: Words Can Convey or Destroy Dignity

Posted By Bobbi-Jo Dobush, Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Life Imitates Law: Words Can Convey or Destroy Dignity

 

Bombastic litigators, craftsman brief writers, and shrewd contract drafters all stake their clients’ best interests on choosing the right words in the search for just outcomes. So, as much or more than to anyone else, lawyers should care how we refer to other humans, especially those most vulnerable.

 

Flood, wave, swarm – these words evoke a sense of fear, of disaster. Reading headlines with such words, I struggle to remember if should get under the desk or into a door-jam.  But these aren’t headlines about tsunamis, earthquakes, or hurricanes. Instead, a quick news search of articles in recent months comes up with titles like “Flood of Illegal Immigrants Continues at Texas Border,” “Illegals Pour Across Border Before Trump's Inauguration,” and “Illegals Swarm in.” After reading those, who wouldn’t be scared of migrants?

 

Helen Zaltzman, that’s who. Zaltzman fearlessly confronts language on a bi-weekly basis in her word-nerd podcast The Allusionist, Small Adventures in Language. (Catch me on my morning commute soaking in some etymology.) Allusionist Episode 53, The Away Team, is all about how terms used to describe migrants have become increasingly negative over time. The episode focuses on Britain, but is equally applicable to our side of the Atlantic. 

 

Zaltman and I are both offended by the misuse of words in the migration context. Many of us refer to fellow humans by category (refugee, asylee, unaccompanied minor). Propaganda and migration specialist Emma Briant opined that doing so gives “preference [for] how officials are sorting [people] over their very basic humanity.” To make matters worse, terms that were once neutral have become negative. Since when do “refugees” or “asylum seekers” (people who are, by definition, escaping persecution) invoke skepticism and not sympathy? Also—and this should really trouble us as lawyers—the term illegal gets tossed about lightly in this context. Most migrants have broken no laws, and even those who have are not “illegal” because, to quote Briant again, “people cannot be illegal.” 

 

Zaltzman, interviewing novelist and editor Nikesh Shukla, further highlights how often migration status is used as a proxy for race. All over the English-speaking world, wealthy or middle class whites who have chosen to live abroad are “expats” not “immigrants.” We never talk about a “swarm” of wealthy white people (well, maybe talking about Coachella, but that’s a conversation for another time.)

 

The Away Team ends with a reminder that most words in the English language are themselves immigrants (French, Latin, Germanic, Greek, and Scandinavian). Zaltzman warns that without such immigrant words, “you lose at least 60% of modern English plus most scientific and technological vocabulary.”   

Many Allusionist episodes are about fun stuff like sex (Episodes 50-51, Under the Covers) or manners on either side of the Atlantic (Episode 33, Please); however, there are other great listens with a focus on equality like Episode 12, Pride, or Episode 52, Sanctuary.

Bobbi-Jo Dobush believes that sharing our diverse passions—for example the arts, the ocean, or salsa (the condiment)—can positively influence our practices. 

 

Tags:  art  awareness  bias  discrimination  equality  immigration  language  LCB  podcasts  word choice 

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Chasing the Last Wave: "Taking Networking to the Mat!"

Posted By Molly T. Tami , Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Taking Networking to the Mat!  

 

Do you play golf? Personally, I am not a fan of the sport for several reasons that I will address below. I recognize, however, that many people enjoy golf, and some find themselves obsessed with it. Most of those people are unquestionably men. Should more women be encouraged to “hit the links?”

 

Lawyers and other professionals often cite golf as the best networking opportunity out there. For that reason, women lawyers are urged to take up the game. In a commentary on why more women should play golf, the CEO of the Executive Women’s Golf Association states: “Golf has been deemed the sport of business. Few, if any, activities can duplicate the power of golf to boost one’s career regardless of gender. The game provides unmatchable networking time with clients, prospects and colleagues, including coveted access to senior management.” Recognizing this, the Lawyers Club and other professional women’s organizations have facilitated golf lessons for their members.

 

Perhaps golf is great for business, but there are good reasons why women don’t play this male dominated sport and frankly, don’t want to. Firstly, many women never had the opportunity to learn to play the sport while growing up, and thus, never developed the skills or the interest. Moreover, most women who have children or other family commitments do not have the time or inclination to spend hours on the golf course on weekends or evenings. I have witnessed many marriages severely strained by the husband’s obsession with his weekend golf game while his wife stayed home to take care of the children and oversee the family’s weekend activities. (I hope this phenomenon was more prevalent with my age group of the baby boomers, than it is with younger couples.)  Finally, I know many women who would rather be pursuing other activities for exercise, enjoyment, networking, and connecting in a meaningful way with other people.

 

For example, let’s consider yoga. It’s hugely popular these days given its many health benefits and accessibility.Yoga for Everyone, a recent New York Times piece, extolls the virtues of a yoga practice. Yoga really is for everyone, and both men and women can practice together in a variety of settings. And in my experience, great connections can be forged before, during and after a yoga class!  

 

So here’s my idea. As we chase the last wave of feminism and work to advance women in the legal profession, I propose that we strive to make yoga the sport of business and networking. I would argue that the non-judgmental and reflective nature of yoga aligns well with the goals of making meaning connections and reaching agreement with others. If others came to recognize this, then perhaps we would see great interest in participating in yoga retreats, not just in golf outings.

 

Networking and making connections is an important part of my job, but don’t look for me on the golf course. Instead, you will find me sitting on my yoga mat breathing, stretching and connecting with my fellow yogis. Why not join us and help make it a movement!   

 

Molly Tami, who serves as the Assistant Dean for Career & Professional Development at USD School of Law, is passionate about advancing women in the legal profession.              

Tags:  business  Chasing the Last Wave  connections  equality  feminism  feminist  gender  golf  LCB  legal profession  networking  women  yoga 

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Chasing the Last Wave: "Now More Than Ever"

Posted By Molly T. Tami , Monday, January 30, 2017

Now More Than Ever

 

Shortly after last year’s presidential election, The American Lawyer featured an article in which well-known lawyer David Boies reflected on the election results. He offered many interesting observations, but one stood out for me and continues to give me pause. As “bad news,” he noted the fact that women are not as invested in their own progress as other groups that have suffered discrimination. Because women are in the majority, he thinks they may have a sense of complacency and remain subject to environmental influences like tradition, marriage, and the views of their husbands. I don’t find his complacency observation accurate with respect to women lawyers I know, particularly those in Lawyers Club! But, does his observation ring true for women as a whole in this country? I’m not sure.

 

What I am sure about, is that environmental influences, social norms, and structural barriers prevent women, (lawyers and others), from achieving gender equality in our society. This notion was underscored at the recent Lawyers Club luncheon where the results of the Annual Equality Survey were released and discussed. While there was some good news in the survey, the data confirmed the bad news we already knew: women are not being treated equally in the legal community. The panel discussion at the luncheon addressed a number of strategies and solutions devised by law firms and public sector agencies to address gender inequality in San Diego’s legal community.

 

The strategy that got the biggest applause was an employer-paid nanny for two women associates at a small law firm. While I also applaud this employer’s effort, it reminded me that childcare policies in this country, (or the lack thereof), create a huge structural barrier that exacerbates gender discrimination in the workplace. Unlike in many western-European countries, childcare in the U.S. is a purely private concern to be addressed by parents, and most often by mothers. Making childcare a collective responsibility should be a crucial initiative in the quest for gender equality.  Ensuring that day care is available to families (of all incomes) will ensure that women can equally participate in the workplace and advance to their full potential. Asking women to compensate for the biases of tradition or social norms should no longer be acceptable.  

 

Although the current political winds may not be with us on these issues, we must nevertheless commit ourselves to increasing awareness of these barriers and continuing the dialogue for eventual solutions. Now, more than ever, we need to chase the last wave of feminism.         

    

Molly Tami, who serves as the Assistant Dean for Career & Professional Development at USD School of Law, is passionate about advancing women in the legal profession.             

Tags:  Chasing the Last Wave  childcare  discrimination  equality  feminism  feminist  gender  LCB  legal profession  now more than ever  structural barriers  women 

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Chasing the Last Wave: "Finding Hope in a Tee Shirt...And in the Next Generation"

Posted By Molly T. Tami , Tuesday, October 18, 2016
"Finding Hope in a Tee Shirt...And in the Next Generation" 


Over a decade ago, I gave a presentation on the topic of “Women in the Law: How Gender Shapes the Experience” to the women’s network group of a large Midwest law firm. The audience included women of various ages, from the first woman partner in the firm (who boasted of how she played the men’s game), to mid-level women attorneys who had negotiated their own creative work arrangements with the firm, to the young women associates who expected the firm to address and meet their needs for flexible work arrangements and family-friendly policies. During the “sticky” discussions that followed my presentation, I was reminded that the language of feminism is not embraced by many women, and I experienced firsthand how the perspectives and expectations of women lawyers of different generations are not necessarily aligned and may at times be at odds.

Many of us have benefited from the enormous gains of the feminist movement while recognizing that gender barriers still exist for women in our profession, and for women generally. Given that perspective, we naturally get discouraged at times when we perceive that some women (lawyers and others) do not see the need to embrace the feminist cause and continue the movement to ensure equal opportunity and advancement for women. We may even find ourselves losing hope for future generations of women.

Nowadays, we often hear young women eschew the importance of feminism and decline to identify as a “feminist.” They say they don’t see the need for the movement or the relevance of the label. Although I don’t have poll results to prove it, I suspect that many women law students today do not see their gender as a potential obstacle to their advancement in our profession, nor do they see an urgent need to continue the fight for gender equality. Notable exceptions include members (male and female) of women law student organizations across the country. The USD Women’s Law Caucus student organization at USD Law is a perfect example.

The USD Women’s Law Caucus recently tabled at our law student organization fair and sold tee shirts to support their events and activities. I excitedly purchased one for myself!  The front side is branded with the group’s logo while the back has the following in bold lettering:

Feminist:/Fem-en-ist/: A person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.

Simple but powerful language. I hope to see many USD Law students sporting this shirt and spreading the message. 


Given the recent climate on gender issues and the sexist rhetoric we've heard during the current presidential campaign, my fervent hope is that many young women and men will realize that we are clearly “not there yet.” We have a long way to go and we must fully commit ourselves to chasing the last wave of feminism.  I have hope that all generations will join the chase, and now I have the tee shirt to prove it.   

This blog was authored by Molly Tami. 
Molly Tami serves as the Assistant Dean for Career & Professional Development at USD School of Law.  She previously designed and taught a course on Law, Gender and the Work/Family Conflict and is passionate about advancing women in the legal profession

Tags:  Chasing the Last Wave  equality  feminism  feminist  gender  generation  hope  law student  LCB  legal profession  movement  organization  women  women’s law caucus 

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Chasing the Last Wave

Posted By Molly Tami, Wednesday, July 6, 2016
Updated: Wednesday, July 6, 2016
Gloria Steinem contends that gender is probably the most restricting force in American life. Many believe that it is certainly the most restricting force in the legal profession. To be sure, we’ve come a long way since former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor graduated third in her class at Stanford in 1953, but the only job she was offered was legal secretary.  And since Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Notorious RBG!) received not one offer from a law firm despite tying for first in her graduating class from Columbia Law in 1959. (She instead accepted a clerkship with a federal judge.) Those were definitely not the good old days for women in the law. As a result of the feminist movement, we’ve come a long way, but we all agree that we are not there yet. We need the “last wave” of feminism to get us there. 

 

A very short history lesson on the feminist movement in the U.S. sets the stage. Feminism, in its different waves, arose to achieve political, social, and economic equality for women.  First wave feminism, in the late 19th to early 20th centuries, focused on suffrage and other legal rights. Second wave feminism, which began in the 1960’s and continued in the 1990’s, was a reaction against the renewed imposition of domesticity on women after WWII, and focused on women in the workplace (as well as sexuality, family and reproductive rights). Third wave feminism, dating from the early 90’s to the present, found a more diverse group of women with a diverse set of identities challenging gender stereotypes and continuing to fight for many of the causes of the second-wavers. Some feminist scholars are now envisioning a fourth wave to reframe the movement.

 

A pivotal moment on the road to gender equality occurred in 1972 with the passage of Title IX.  As the result of that groundbreaking law, the doors to law schools and the legal profession were flung wide open. Benefiting from that development and riding the second wave, I graduated from Berkeley Law in 1983. I never imagined at that time that gender would shape my experience in the profession. While by many measures I have enjoyed a successful legal career, I have no doubt that gendered work arrangements and gender roles restricted my potential just as they continue to restrict the potential of many women lawyers today.   

 

In my current role, I advise both men and women law students about their careers and professional development.They graduate from law school on generally equal footing. But when I consider the various statistics on the current status of women in the profession, I worry that their paths will diverge. So I plan to explore in this blog various aspects of the state of women in the profession along with the challenges that prevent women from being equal participants in all sectors of our profession. I’ll tackle issues like wage disparity, lack of women’s retention and advancement in law firms, the work/family conflict and the like. I won’t be presenting anything novel nor will I necessarily have solutions. But we must keep talking about these issues if we are to ever solve them.  


When it comes to gender equality in the legal profession, we are definitely still “chasing the last wave.” Let’s chase it together.  

This blog post was authored by Molly Tami

Tags:  advancement  career  challenges  Chasing the Last Wave  equality  feminism  feminist  gender  last wave  LCB  legal profession  Title IX 

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