President's Message - MAY
Amy T. Brantly
WLALA President 2017-2018
I was just reading about a lawsuit that was filed against a major law firm by three female associates in California who allege that the firm delays pay and advancement opportunities for female attorneys who take maternity leave or other benefits offered to working mothers. Whether these particular allegations prove to be true or not, this has been a persistent problem and has led many women to leave law firm ranks after having children. We all know that the number of female equity partners at law firms is shockingly low and increasing at less than a snail’s pace. While many firms tout their wonderful family-friendly policies or how they allow mothers to work flex time or part-time, few actually promote working mothers to equity partnership. To those that do – we applaud you and encourage you to share your stories with WLALA and offer advice so that we all can learn from your leadership.
Many women and men that I know are skeptical that there can ever be positive change in this area. From their perspective, women leave the work force not because of inequality, but because they don’t want to work after they have children. I am certain that there are some women who don’t want to work after they have children, but I think there are many more who do but they see it as an impossibility to be both successful at their firms and be a mother. Many women have seen what happens to women who have gone part-time (work practically the same hours for less pay and get mommy-tracked) and don’t see that as a worthwhile option. Why work your tail off only to be running on a hamster wheel to nowhere? I think that if women saw other working moms receiving encouragement along the way and making it big, retention rates would be higher.
The women I know who are moms and have advanced in their careers generally have several things in common. First, they had leaders in their office who wanted to see them succeed after they had children. These supporters invested in these women, found them to be shining stars, and wanted them to keep succeeding (for both the employer’s and employee’s benefit). The women in turn never felt that their career was on the back-burner. It may have slowed a bit at times to make more time for family, but because the women felt valued, important and saw the benefits of their good work and dedication, they were more motivated than ever to keep working hard. Both sides saw opportunity and both were going to take advantage of it. Second, they had friends or colleagues who were successfully raising children and advancing their careers at the same time. A support group is also an important component.
Really what all law mamas want is an equal opportunity to succeed. We don’t want to be automatically mommy-tracked, we don’t want to pretend that we don’t have children, and we don’t want to remain stagnant in our careers. We want to keep moving forward, for others to believe in us, to be treated equally in meetings and in the courtroom, and the opportunity to flourish in our careers (even if there is a cute toddler clinging to our legs in the morning).
WLALA is a place where you will find needed support and ideas for how to get to the next level in your career. I know this from personal experience. This month we will gather to be inspired by the Notorious R.B.G. as we watch the new documentary about her exceptional life and career. We will continue our Mentoring Circles (this month on the Westside) where members can meet for career advice. Our Career Development and Life Balance Committee brings us “An Advice ‘Potluck’ for Working Parents” where members will share tips for how to make our busy lives easier, and the Young Lawyers Section brings us “Leveraging Your Network: How to Build A Book of Business.” I hope that you will join us for one or more of these great events and I look forward to seeing you there!