Putting Gender Bias in the Past
I have been practicing law at Ulmer & Berne LLP since I graduated from law school 26 years ago. Although women have consistently represented at least half of the law school graduates, when you look at the number of women who are law firm equity partners, in management roles in law firms or legal departments, or who serve as general counsel, discrepancies are evident. While there are several factors that explain these discrepancies, gender bias is clearly one of them.
Throughout my career, I’ve observed many instances of gender bias, including times when male partners, clients, or opposing counsel have treated me or my female colleagues, opposing counsel, or clients differently from our male colleagues. For example, they often assume we are administrators, rather than attorneys, simply because of our gender; or they assume we are less committed to our profession because we are mothers. Unfortunately, for many women attorneys, this gender bias has made the practice of law unenjoyable and difficult. This bias causes some women to leave the legal profession all together.
Several years ago, in response to gender bias in the legal profession, Ulmer formed its Women in Law and Leadership (UB WILL) committee. I am proud to have served as the chair of UB WILL since 2014. UB Will focuses on the retention and promotion of the firm’s female attorneys, as well as on supporting and engaging with other female attorneys and clients. One of the primary goals of UB WILL is to empower our female associates, equip them with the tools they need to be successful attorneys, and clear a path for them to become partners and leaders in the firm, as well as to ensure that they know they are respected and that Ulmer does not tolerate bias against women or any other groups who have historically faced marginalization. UB WILL recognizes that a career for women in the private practice of law can be challenging, but it can also be very rewarding, and we want to help our women attorneys reach their full potential.
It is my sincere hope that as more and more women are given an opportunity to earn a seat at the table at Ulmer and other law firms, we will see the number of women partners and in leadership roles continue to increase until the discrepancies that result from gender bias are truly in the past. I look forward to working with all my colleagues at Ulmer toward this future.