Thursday, December 07, 2006

Women Only?

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.


Still just me said...

Yes, women do have more resposibilites when children are involved. I once had to call off at work because of a sick child, and I was actually told to plan my family emergencies around my work schedule.

Jordan said...

I think you would get a lot out of this women's group.. honestly, if not for anything else, try it a couple times. It doesn't define you as being a feminist because you're attending an all female group/outing. It does open doors to networking and I think you may even meet a few women who have similar experiences. It's nice to get away from the boys too once in awhile. I don't think it's a man-hater's club.. just somewhere women can go and discuss their careers/life without male influences. Try it!

Accidentally Me said...

Oh boy...there is a lot to say on this. But first of all, absolutely go to the meetings. My (only) female boss has taken me to a couple of networking things and they have been fantastic. If it's possible, I think I work in an industry where there are even LESS women than yours, so being able to find people who appreciate the unique challenges you face is incredibly valuable.

And there is nothing about it that has ever been man-hating. The women that go to these things don't do it to disparage men, they do it because they want to meet people that have a lot in common with them. Naturally, you would probably get along with other twenty-something attorneys in the area; but you might not meet them otherwise.

As for the different expectations and treatment of women; I would say "it is what it is". On balance, it is probably not "fair" to women, but we also never have to carry the heavy cuts both ways.

OK, I am rambling, and have already spouted a lot of this stuff before, so I will stop:-) But go to the meeting, it can't hurt!

Ally said...

Still Just Me: I cannot imagine working full time and having children, especially young children. There's just no way to "plan" emergencies.

Jordan: It never even occurred to me to be concerned about being labeled a feminist or man-hater. The women I work with are pretty conservative (politically), so it's safe to say this group is too. I guess it can't hurt to go, although in our gossipy tight-knit legal community, I cannot be candid about my experiences at my firm simply because it would most likely get back to my superiors. It's simply isn't in my best interest to talk about work stuff with anyone I can't trust. Perhaps that's part of the reason this isn't a more attractive idea to me.

AM: I appreciate your perspective. And you're right and so is Jordan--it can't hurt to go. So far two votes to go:)

icadle said...

I say go, there's no reason to pass up on this opportunity to meet people. I am usually jealous of the women's groups. Womens' fitness classes are a good way to meet the ladies or make an ass of yourself.

Nonetheless, you should go. What have you really got to lose?

e.b. said...

i wrote a nice long post, i am not sure if blogger ate it or what.....but in the end the answer was - go

Ally said...

Ivy: I love it when guys come to fitness classes! We had a really hot guy in our step class once, but he left after he sent the various levels of the step flying across the room):

e.b.: I'm sorry I didn't get to read your thoughts. I've had blogger eat my comments a few times now. All of this crazy logging in and this and that is annoying! 4 votes to go.....

Jeff Price said...

Don't go!! Don't go!! Don't go!! Don't go!! Don't go!!

There that's 5 votes not to go...just wanted to be different :-)

Dimples said...

I think you should definitely go. I'm in a very male dominate place and wish we had a womans group.