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October 2018 - President's Message
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President's Message - OctoBER

Heather Stern
WLALA President 2018-2019

Well, I can’t say September wasn’t an interesting month. 

As our October newsletter goes to press, the ultimate outcome of the September 27, 2018 testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford on the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court remains to be seen.  Many stories can be told, and are being told, regarding this moment in our history, and as women lawyers, we likely have our own unique perspectives.  Those of us with experience as prosecutors or criminal defense attorneys, may be reflecting on cases we’ve handled in the past involving sexual assault survivors, including how we saw others view the survivor’s credibility and our views of any direct or cross examination that was conducted.  Those of us on the civil side, like me, may be reflecting more generally on our experiences of a female’s credibility and demeanor on the witness stand, among many other topics that our non-lawyer friends and family members may be raising with us.  Because there is definitely a conversation going on right now.

Among the many, many, many interesting articles written in just a few short days since Dr. Blasey Ford’s testimony, one of the articles that stuck with me was a New York Times opinion piece, “Fury Is a Political Weapon. And Women Need to Wield It,” by Rebecca Traister, in which Ms. Traister wrote about the different ways women and men are expected to behave in public, and particularly, how displays of emotion are viewed differently depending on gender.  As women lawyers, this is a familiar topic to many of us.  Advocacy is our bread and butter, yet we have to worry about being called “shrill” or worse when we go toe-to-toe with our male counterparts.  And don’t even get me started on the double standard of how women are viewed when they interrupt a male, as opposed to the other way around. 

As if this moment, and all its implications and ramifications weren’t enough, in yet more news that is breaking as our newsletter goes to press, on September 30, 2018, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill making California the first state to require public companies to have at least one woman on their board of directors to advance gender equality and help break the corporate glass ceiling.  His signing message, accessible here https://www.gov.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/SB-826-signing-message.pdf, was copied to the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary and noted, among other things, that “recent events in Washington, D.C. – and beyond – make it crystal clear that many are not getting the message.”  WLALA will certainly be following the developments arising out of this new law, including the likely legal challenges.  Of further note pertaining to this bill and WLALA, one of the authors of the bill, Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, was our keynote speaker at WLALA’s 2018 Litigator’s Forum on equal pay litigation.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the month of September also brought us another successful Annual Awards and Installation Dinner.  On September 20, 2018, we came together for a wonderful evening to swear in our 2018-2019 Board and celebrate and honor our very worthy award recipients: Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell, who leaves a large hole in our hearts after her passing last year, and who was honored posthumously with the Ernestine Stahlhut Award; Judge Sandra R. Klein, our Distinguished Service Award recipient, who has been an inspiration and role model with her longstanding dedication and commitment to public service; and finally, our Myra Bradwell awardee, the CBRE Legal Department, which has shown itself to embrace, empower, and promote women in its legal department and as outside counsel.

My gratitude goes out to Kay, Janelle, our Board members, and our volunteers, who worked so hard to make our Installation Dinner a success.  With everything that’s going on in the world, it may be hard to believe, but we celebrated 99 years this year, and next year, we will be celebrating 100. 

There is still so much to do.  Join us and help make it happen!