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Women’s History Month

Lucy Dollens

March is Women’s History Month. And with that, I can think of nothing more important to discuss than the advancement of women, not just in the legal profession, but beyond. And we’ve certainly come a long way. After all, only two states’ highest courts lack a currently serving female justice (Idaho and Iowa), only 12 states have never had a chief female jurist lead their states’ supreme court, and there are currently 11 states, including Washington, D.C., in which the states’ highest courts have more female jurists than males. Also, 14.2 percent of the top five leadership positions at Fortune 500 companies are held by women, and 24 Fortune 500 companies operate with a woman at their helm. Women hold 19.3 percent of the seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, 20 percent of the seats in the U.S. Senate, 24.6 percent of states’ legislative seats, and 24.7 percent of statewide elective executive offices around the U.S. Yet again this year, we have a woman running for Commander in Chief (and Hilary Clinton is actually the sixth woman to run for President of the U.S.).

Advancements like these have led many to pose the question—haven’t we done enough? But when 81-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently was asked how many women are enough on the U.S. Supreme Court, she candidly responded: “my answer is when there are nine.” And when she acknowledged the shock caused by her answer, she retorted: “But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.”

Not only is there room for improvement in the promotion of women to leadership positions across all sectors of society, there is so much to be gained in doing so. For example, research shows that when women serving as directors of Fortune 500 companies reach a critical mass (at just three women), companies achieve enhanced performance and governance. Fortune 500 companies with 3 or more female directors attain superior business results, including a higher return on equity, superior sales, and a higher return on investment. Additionally, equal representation for women in the judiciary strengthens the rule of law, with women bringing diverse perspectives to the bench and decision-making process. Finally, an increased number of elected women in governmental positions leads to voices that more accurately reflect the gender makeup of the constituencies served.

And in the spirit of advancing women, I’d like to take this opportunity to challenge you, regardless of whether you are male or female, to commit to encourage, sponsor, champion, or mentor a woman near you in a meaningful way. In fact, simply showing an interest can have a significant impact. Such efforts will ensure women in your midst feel supported and empowered to pursue a path they may have been reluctant to pursue. Perhaps your belief in someone will serve as the impetus needed to encourage her to overcome some barrier, real or perceived, to effect the change needed. I also cannot imagine anything more fulfilling and rewarding. What's your plan to advance the women around you?

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