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Women’s Equality Day

By Adrienne J. Olson

Women’s Equality Day commemorates the 1920 certification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote. Today is a day to celebrate this long fought, nonviolent, battle for civil rights; and reinvigorate us all to write the next chapter in women’s equality. 

First, we should reflect on the critical successes of women in the last hundred years. Today women can vote, we can own property instead of being property, we hold powerful judicial positions from municipal courts to the Supreme Court, we hold elected office in greater numbers than ever before, and we make up over half of each entering law school class.

Today, we celebrate each of these accomplishments, and each and every woman who blazed these trails for us. I propose we show our gratitude by not becoming complacent. The fight for equality is not over, and it is not a conversation for women alone. As a woman, as a lawyer, and as the Chair of our Firm’s Women’s Forum, I’d like to frame this next chapter of equality in terms of women in the legal profession.  

To achieve success, we will need to work together, men and women, to build an equitable bench of future leaders in law. This ongoing journey is multi-faceted, which gives each of us the opportunity to follow our own equality passion. For some, this will mean actively mentoring younger women lawyers to rise to equity partnership and leadership positions, or challenging practices and policies that reinforce gender bias, or creating equity in compensation practices. 

Whatever your equality passion, today is a great day to take action. Personally, I am inspired to act by the amazing “firsts” I am living at this very moment.  Right now our country has its first woman presidential nominee from a major party, the ABA just voted that it is professional misconduct to use discriminatory language against opposing counsel, and the first woman Chair is leading this firm. 

What inspires you to continue the fight for equality? If you are looking for ideas or inspiration, the American Bar Association Commission on Women in the Profession is a great place to start. Together we can harness the victory of the suffrage movement, and the energy of the current climate for change, to further achieve equality in our profession. In celebration of this day, Women’s Equality Day, how will you challenge old notions and empower the new?