In law school one of the most popular clubs was the Association of Women Lawyers. A lot of my female friends were in it and enjoyed the various meetings and activities. I didn't join simply because I didn't think I wanted to be in an organization that limited its membership to women (granted the group might not technically reject a man's application, but you know what I mean). I just didn't see the point, and I knew that an all male society wouldn't past muster and would cause a huge controversy.
Recently I've received a two invitations to the events of an organization of women lawyers in the area, and all of the female attorneys I work with have attended. I've been invited too and asked by coworkers if I were going to go. The most recent one is next week, and it's a lunch with 15 local judges. It's certainly a good opportunity for me to get to know judges, although it's $25 for really poor food):
So it occurred to me that perhaps I should go to this luncheon. Perhaps the other five women in my office see something about these luncheons that I don't (but should). I guess it's a good opportunity to network with other female attorneys, but I don't understand breaking things down on gender lines; I could just as easily network at a regular Bar meeting, right? Maybe wrong? (I am, however, not very good about networking and whatnot; after work and during lunch I'm ready to do non-work stuff; this is the lack of ambition/drive issue, but that's another conversation.)
In all fairness, I realize that women are still a minority in my profession. My firm is a good example. Of the approximately 26 attorneys, only 6 of us don't have a Y chromosome. The last ten or so summer clerks have been males. It's not uncommon at all for me to be in meetings (with clients or judges) where I'm the only woman. Fortunately that doesn't bother me very much, although it certainly does limit what outside interests I share with my bosses. Needless to say, I don't get invited to go duck hunting and the like, and I've wondered if not sharing those hobbies hurts me professionally. I don't see how any women's group will change any of this unless they offer classes on skeet shooting or deer hunting, none of which interests me.
And a little part of me has wondered if any of the partners, particularly the very religious ones, feel oddly about driving to hearings and whatnot with just me. I know that one vowed to never be alone with a woman when he got married simply to avoid the appearance of impropriety or the possibility of temptation. He has, however, taken me to a hearing before, so I guess that rule doesn't apply to coworkers.
And women still face challenges that most men do not. I've heard judges say that a woman shouldn't come to his court wearing pants or call them inappropriate names like honey. A judge recently told some attorneys from my firm that the attractive new lawyer we hired (who he had only seen) was a "good one," obviously referring to her appearance since he'd never even spoken to her. I feel like these kinds of things will eventually change as men retire and are replaced with women and men who are from younger generations. Fortunately I've not had any personal experiences with this kind of discriminatory or unprofessional behavior--unless you count being called a "girl."
And of course, in most families (right or wrong aside) women bear the brunt of child-rearing responsibilities, so in that sense, women face unique challenges in balancing their duties. Even in families where duties are more evenly split, it's hard to meet billable hours when you take six weeks of maternity leave and have to pump two or three times a day. So maybe if I were interested in trying to figure out how to balance the role of being an attorney and a mother, a group like this would be helpful. It would be nice to see what arrangements other mothers had worked out with their employers and other practical information, but for now, that obviously doesn't hold any interest for me.
Is there something else I'm missing? I feel like I have a narrow view on this and might need to hear others' perspective. I feel like it warrants more thought on my part because 5 out of the 6 women I work with think it's important, and I can be a bit black/white on some issues and miss important points.