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Lawyers 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.

 

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How Many Freakin’ Pronouns?

Posted By Ari Hornick, Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Last year, Laci Green posted How Many Freakin Genders, and How Many Freakin Genders, Part 2. If you’ve never thought about issues surrounding sex and gender, her videos are a good introduction. However, Green makes a common mistake when she says that biological sex has basically two options (male and female). To this point, scientific research has found that the genetic switches determinative of your biological sex are not binary like an on/off switch. They're more like dimmer switches with an infinite number of settings between extremes. How many freakin’ biological sexes? Possibly infinite.


Even if there were only one gender for each biological sex, there would be an infinite number of genders. If different genders use different pronouns, how many freakin’ pronouns? He and she don’t come close to covering infinity, so people have come up with a variety of first person, singular pronouns to fill the gap. There is some resistance to the new pronouns, but remember, we learned how to say “Ms.” We learned to say “African-American.” If a friend changes their name when they get married or divorced, we adapt to the new name. If we know a judge personally, we don’t forget to call them “your honor” in court. We can definitely learn which pronouns people use.


How do you know which pronouns a person uses? They tell you. Until then, stick with gender neutral pronouns. Perhaps the easiest path is to start with the familiar: Use “they” as a singular pronoun. “They” has been both singular and plural (like “you”) since, at least, Chaucer, and we still use it that way. (See e.g. “If a friend changes their name…”). If you don’t want to take my word for it, check out the Motivated Grammar post “Singular ‘they’” or Grammar Girl’s “Gender-Neutral Pronouns” and “Singular ‘They’.”


How do you tell someone which pronouns you use? It’s easy to insert this into your introduction, “I’m Ari—they, them—nice to meet you.” Include your pronouns in your signature block. My signature block says “Pronouns: they, them, their” right below my phone number. If someone uses an incorrect pronoun for you, just give a mild, matter of fact correction as you would if someone used an incorrect pronoun for your pet. “I use they.” If the person looks confused, follow up with “not she” or “not he” as the case may be.


What if you say the wrong pronoun by accident? Don’t freak out. Correct yourself, or accept the correction, in a mild, matter-of-fact tone, and move on. For example, “…she—I mean they—…” The key is to be respectful.


To make your pronouns known, the convention is to list them in the following order: subject, object, possessive, possessive pronoun, reflexive. “I’m Ari—they, them, their, theirs, themself.” You don’t have to list all five all the time, but do include any nonstandard parts. “I’m Ari—they, them” is sufficient, but “I’m Ari—phe, phe, phes” (pronunciation: fē, fē, fēz). I would stop there because the listener will probably assume the last two correctly (phes, pheself).


An easy way to be an ally is to include pronouns in your introduction and signature block even if you’re cisgender. This will help everyone feel more comfortable asserting their pronouns, and you’ll be less likely to use an incorrect pronoun if everyone includes them in their introductions and signature blocks. Win-win.

 

Ari Hornick, who wrote this for San Diego Lawyers Club’s LGBTQ Committee, is an ethics attorney in downtown San Diego.

 

Tags:  binary gender  cisgender  gender  introductions  LGBTQ  pronouns  signature blocks  trans 

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Chasing the Last Wave: Reclaiming My Name

Posted By Molly Toronski Wescott, Friday, December 8, 2017

Chasing the Last Wave: Reclaiming My Name

 

Although I have been absent from the Lawyers Club Blog (LCB) for some time, I have nevertheless been chasing my own last wave on the path to realizing my true, feminist self. My journey recently culminated with a legal name change, as reflected by my new last name. I have come to think of my recent experiences as “reclaiming my original name.”

 

When I married young decades ago, I took my husband’s last name without giving it a second thought. That is what women (or at least the vast majority of women) did at that time. That married name became my professional name as well as my personal/family name. At one point, I recall pondering the question of why women continue to take their husbands’ names, a tradition rooted in patriarchy and property rights, as we lawyers know. It is, of course, more convenient for couples/parents and children to have the same last name, but why in heterosexual marriages do couples always assume the man’s last name? (I recognize that some couples join and hyphenate their names, but that can be problematic in many ways.) If men took women’s names in equal share, then the practice of a shared last name would seem fairer and more in line with my feminist thinking.

 

When I found myself starting a new chapter of life in San Diego (no longer married), I began to think about not retaining my married last name. I was not eager to retake my maiden name (which I had been using and continue to use as my middle name), as it is not the easiest name to spell or pronounce. Moreover, that name harkens back to who I was at a much younger age, and I’m not that person anymore. I then began to think about taking an entirely different last name. I read an article about women divorcing later in life and taking a new last name entirely of their own choosing. One day it came to me that I would take my mother’s maiden/adopted last name of “Wescott.” I had always loved that name and when I mentioned the idea to my mother who just turned 94, she felt honored and thrilled.

 

And so I began the legal process of petitioning to change my name. After filing the petition and arranging publication, I was required to appear for a court hearing on a Friday morning calendar. While I was not sure what to expect at the hearing, I found a diverse group of people changing their names for various reasons and a judge who treated the proceedings as wholly celebratory! I walked out of her courtroom feeling happy and complete, and feeling like I had somehow reclaimed my original name. The process of then changing my last name (and email) on numerous accounts and in every place that my name exists has been a time consuming one, but not as daunting of a task as I had feared. The process proved liberating, and it is now essentially complete.

 

We assume many different “names” and titles during our lives, and many are temporary. Often it is necessary to let go of one form of name or one chapter of life in order to move on with life in a deeper way. Letting go of my former last name and assuming a name once held by my mother has allowed this new chapter in my life to take hold in a much deeper way while allowing me to reclaim something I had thought lost.    

 

As we chase the last wave of feminism, I hope we will figure out a better solution for “naming” ourselves, our spouses and our children, so that we can all retain our original name. 

 

 

Molly Toronski Wescott, 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  equality  feminism  feminist  gender  LCB  name  women 

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Chasing the Last Wave: Trashing the Guilt ​

Posted By Molly T. Tami, Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Trashing the Guilt

 

Many women lawyers suffer from guilt over working too much (or not enough), shortchanging their kids and families on quality (and quantity) time, and in general, failing to be the perfect partner, mother, daughter, friend, worker, etc. Most of us have been there at one point in our lives. As we chase the last wave of feminism, isn’t it time we trashed the guilt and lived our lives on our own terms?

 

To further explore this, let’s revisit the topic of networking. In my last blog post, I urged lawyers to pursue yoga (as opposed to golf) for networking and making meaningful connections. How about we embrace other traditional women’s activities as great opportunities for networking, while trashing the guilt we’ve been conditioned to feel over taking time from the workday to enjoy such things? 

 

For example, would you feel justified attending a non-work related “hat luncheon” to support a philanthropic cause?  New York City women lawyers and business executives did just that at the annual Central Park Women’s Committee luncheon. And in doing so, they embraced the idea that “We’re Ladies, We Lunch and We Like It.” As one female lawyer attendee noted, "Men have their golf outings, we have this.” Another attendee noted that men would never apologize about leaving the office to go play golf and they don’t feel uncomfortable blurring lines between pleasure and business. So why should women?  (Be sure to click on the link and read the article to see the fabulous hats worn at the luncheon!)

 

I recently discovered that I too am a lady, who lunches, and likes it! I became a new member of ZLAC Rowing Club here in San Diego, (the oldest women’s rowing club in the country), and I attended the club’s annual Terrace Luncheon. (Disclaimer: the luncheon occurred on a Saturday so I did not have to miss work to attend.) I’m not much of a hat person, but in keeping with the club’s traditions and inspired by the ladies of NYC who attended the Central Park Women’s Committee luncheon, I donned a (borrowed) hat, put on a summery dress and enjoyed a spectacular Saturday afternoon luncheon on the club’s lovely terrace in Pacific Beach.

 

So ladies, let’s continue to chase the last wave and like the women at the NYC luncheon, feel no more guilt for guilty pleasures!

 

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  connections  equality  feminism  feminist  gender  golf  hat luncheon  legal profession  networking  women  yoga  ZLAC 

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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: "Notorious RBG to the Rescue!"

Posted By Molly T. Tami , Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Notorious RBG to the Rescue!

 

Like many of you, I’m feeling disheartened these days by all the negative news and nasty rhetoric out there, particularly as it relates to women and our place in society. The founding mothers of feminism must surely be rolling in their graves just as we modern day feminists are shocked by what we are witnessing in the presidential election campaign. Need I say more? And at work, my inbox fills with article after article about gender disparity in pay at law firms, women’s underrepresentation in the legal ranks, sexual harassment claims in the legal academy, and so forth. No wonder many women feel discouraged these days, even women in the legal profession who arguably yield great influence and power over their own circumstances and fate.   

 

In the midst of all this bad news and gloom, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Notorious RBG!) came to my rescue. I’ve watched several recent interviews with Justice Ginsburg as she promotes her new book, My Own Words, and I just read her recent New York Times essay entitled Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Advice for Living, adapted from that book. Justice Ginsburg’s personal story inspires me and demonstrates the great progress women have made in the legal profession. But what she shared in the interviews and in the essay about her “supersmart, exuberant, ever-loving spouse,” Marty Ginsburg, struck me the most. “And I betray no secret in reporting that, without him, I would not have gained a seat on the Supreme Court,” she writes. Marty Ginsburg secured the support of her home state senator and members of the legal academy and practicing bar to make her nomination happen. It’s apparent that marrying Marty was one of the best decisions of Justice Ginsburg’s personal and professional life.

 

We’ve all heard it said that behind every successful man is a great woman. In the old days, that was generally true. While I don’t subscribe to the notion that every successful professional woman needs a man (or partner) behind her, I firmly believe that for women who decide to marry, choosing the “right” partner is the most critical decision for both personal and career success. I hope many women reading this have chosen well or will heed this advice when contemplating marriage/partnership in the future. And to the many supportive male members of the Lawyers Club, I thank you for being our allies, advocates and in many cases, that “right” partner. 

 

I leave you with the closing paragraph of Justice Ginsburg’s essay, and I thank her for rescuing me and inspiring us all to continue chasing the last wave. 

 

Earlier, I spoke of great changes I have seen in women’s occupations. Yet one must acknowledge the still bleak part of the picture. Most people in poverty in the United States and the world over are women and children, women’s earnings here and abroad trail the earnings of men with comparable education and experience, our workplaces do not adequately accommodate the demands of childbearing and child rearing, and we have yet to devise effective ways to ward off sexual harassment at work and domestic violence in our homes. I am optimistic, however, that movement toward enlistment of the talent of all who compose “We, the people,” will continue.

 

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  election  feminism  feminist  gender  Justice Ginsburg  LCB  legal profession  marriage  partner  sexual harassment  spouse  Supreme Court  women 

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My So-Called First-World Problems: "WASH YOUR VAGINA"

Posted By Rebecca Zipp, Tuesday, November 29, 2016

WASH YOUR VAGINA!

            I know. It’s so … crass.

 
Well, here’s the story. I was in court for a sentencing calendar. The same white male heterosexual defense attorney who had once suggested I stand on my head (I was wearing a skirt suit that day, ha-ha) was limping due to an injury. I held the door for him and his white male legal intern on my way out.

           
“Thanks,” he said. “It’s been difficult getting around.” I made some sort of sympathetic sound. I probably nodded and inquired about his injury. 

           
He explained how he’d been injured and how long recovery was expected to take. “But you know,” he told me, “I’ve been limping around the office, and a colleague finally told me to stop feeling sorry for myself, wash my vagina, and get back to court!”

           
This particular man self-identifies as a progressive, a committed civil libertarian, and as someone who works tirelessly on behalf of his clients—who are, almost without exception poor, and, often as not, people of color. He truly cares about his clients, about due process and equal protection. But I guess he didn’t realize his comment, in addition to its sheer vulgarity, belied some of his closely held beliefs about half of all people: the ones with the vaginas.


It would have been easy to march back to my office and fume in silence. Instead, I spit out, “When you say things like that, you demean women. You make us out to be less than men.”


Stammering, he apologized. He did look contrite. “Don’t say it again,” I cautioned him. As I walked down the long hallway of the Superior Court, I wondered, Why d
oes he equate female genitalia with weakness? Why does he equate women with weakness?  Why did he feel comfortable making that comment to me? In front of his intern? 

 

I didn’t seek out this opportunity to educate a colleague on his unconscious bias. But the occasion presented itself, and despite the obvious discomfort, I am pleased that I spoke, and that he seemingly listened. Maybe he kept on saying things like that; maybe he kept on believing that women are subordinate to men. Dirtier than men. Weaker and more cowardly than men. But perhaps he left court that day a little bit enlightened, and I hope he stops and thinks before using crass, gender-specific and demeaning phrases, particularly in a professional setting.

 

This blog post was authored by Rebecca Zipp who is a deputy district attorney in San Diego.

Tags:  gender  lawyers  LCB  male privilege  men  my so-called first world problems  sexism  stories to solutions  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: "What's Diversity Got to Do With It?"

Posted By Molly Tami, Tuesday, September 27, 2016

What’s Diversity Got to Do With It? 

  

      Throughout the history of feminism, women as a group have been the “other” gender fighting for equal rights and equal opportunities. While women make up almost half of total law school graduates, the data confirms that women are not equally represented in law firm partnership, in corporate counsel offices, on the bench or in other leadership positions in our profession. We are all familiar with the explanations and reasons given for this, and we continue to struggle to change this reality.

 

     Our hope for change is fueled in part by the notion that legal employers want to boast of a “diverse” workforce to attract diverse candidates as well as to meet their clients’ expectations and demands for a diverse group of people to work on their legal matters. The arguments for diversity are indeed compelling. But isn’t it perplexing that women, particularly those with family responsibilities, feel at times that they have to stake their claim to executive positions or positions of leadership in the name of diversity rather than equality?

 

     I’ve been thinking about that question since spending a weekend with five corporate lawyers, all working in the auto finance field in the mid-west (a male dominated arena). These women are all very accomplished and successful. One of the women in her mid-forties was struggling with a decision about whether to pursue an even bigger job at her company. In reality, she felt that she was already doing most of the duties of the elevated position but not getting the recognition or pay for it. At the same time, she values her current work arrangement which allows her to leave in the afternoons to pick up her child at school, and then return to work either at the office or at home. And on Fridays, she works remotely from home. She wanted to pursue the new position, but did not want to lose this flexibility and ability to manage and enjoy both her work and family life.

 

    She was discussing with our group how she might approach her boss about taking the new position/title while keeping her current work arrangement. Her proposed argument to the boss went like this: the company wants and values “diversity” in executive roles and as a working mother she provides that diversity. My immediate reaction to that argument was this: why do women who have both proven their worth in the workplace and value their family role have to pitch their worthiness for a promotion in the name of diversity? What’s diversity got to do with it? Women are at least half the population in this country, and according to the U.S. Department of Labor, 70% of women with children under 18 participate in the labor force. So why do we still view the ideal worker norm as an individual (male or female) whose work life exists in a vacuum void of consideration of family responsibilities?  

 

    This is a difficult issue that I will attempt to explore in subsequent posts. For now I raise it to bring awareness to it as a major obstacle that we must address. When it comes to women being equally represented in leadership positions within the legal profession, we are definitely still “chasing the last wave.”

 

This blog post 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:  bias  Chasing the Last Wave  diversity  family responsibilities  feminism  feminist  gender  LCB  leadership  legal profession 

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Chasing the Last Wave: "Find Our Voices"

Posted By Molly Tami, Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Finding Our Voices

  

Women’s struggle to find their “voice” pervades the three waves of feminism. During the first wave, women fought just to have their voices heard at all in political and social spheres. Second wave feminism found women advocating for their rights and voicing their ambitions to engage in market work, not just family work. In this current wave, women strive, with mixed results, to be the voices of leadership in our professions and workplaces. When it comes to women’s voices being equally heard in the legal profession, I think most would agree that we are not there yet. So why is that and what can we do to change it?   

 

I bet we’ve all listened to women apologize for something they said or did, whether they really meant it or not or whether the situation really warranted an apology. (I know I’ve been guilty of doing that.) In a New York Times opinion piece entitled Why Women Apologize and Should Stop, the author discusses the theories on our “sorrys,” and suggests that women often apologize for things that are clearly not our fault as a prompt for the person who actually should be apologizing. She contends that women give “assertive apologies” that are too indirect and come off as a passive- aggressive. She urges us to stop. 

 

In a Huffington Post blog, Women’s Voices: Are They Fully Heard?, the author suggests four challenges that keep women’s voices from being fully heard in the U.S. corporate world: women’s style of speech sounds less confident; women don’t assert themselves until they feel they really know what they are speaking about; women get “talked over;” and women who speak up are penalized. The author’s goal is to create awareness of these so-called “challenges” (which smack of gender bias) so that women’s voice can be heard loud and clear.

 

And why do successful and ambitious women sometimes fail to assert themselves in high-level meetings? The authors of a Harvard Business Review article entitled Women, Find Your Voice addressed that question in a research study involving 1,100 female executives at or above the vice president level. Their article discusses their findings and provides advice on what women can do to become more effective and more comfortable in meetings such as mastering the “pre-meeting,” preparing to speak spontaneously, maintaining an even keel, and moving past confrontation without taking it personally. 

 

Women lawyers all want their voices to be heard. So here are four practical steps towards that end that I challenge us all to try over the next 21 days (the time it takes to create a new habit): 1) stop apologizing; 2) don’t allow others to interrupt you- keep talking; 3) prepare to speak at meetings and then speak confidently; and 4) don’t become defensive or uncomfortable when others disagree with you. Despite how far we have come, when it comes to women having their voices equally valued in our profession, we are definitely still “chasing the last wave.” Let’s resolve to raise our voices above the waves until we are at last fully heard.     

This blog post 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:  apologize  bias  career  Chasing the Last Wave  feminism  feminist  gender  legal profession  voice 

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619-595-0650

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