There are lots of articles out there about why women aren't in the higher ranks of the legal community. Why there aren't as many female partners, never mind female equity partners. Well, the answer is simple. Women. We are the problem. And the backstabbing of one another, to be exact. Rather than take an opportunity to lift another female attorney up and help her along the way, too often women don't celebrate each other's accomplishments. Or women will refrain from offering support when support is needed in what is still largely an old boys' club. The most deplorable offense is taking a stand AGAINST a fellow female attorney because she is asking for something that you didn't get (or perhaps weren't even strong enough to request yourself).
Case in point: A good friend of mine is pregnant with her first child. Her firm's maternity policy (if we can even call it that) is 6 weeks of paid leave. That's it. So on day 43 she is expected to return to the office and pick right back up. On day 43, when she will likely still be bleeding from her recovering postpartum vagina. On day 43 when she likely won't even have gone in for her first postpartum obstetrician appointment. On day 43 when her body has healed just enough to possibly have sex again for the first time postpartum. On day 43, when she is finally getting the hang of this nursing thing. On day 43 which the La Leche League says is too soon to introduce a bottle if you want to have a successful nursing relationship. On day 43, when her baby is unlikely to be sleeping more than 4-5 hours at a time (and that's if he's a good sleeper). On day 43, when her hormones will still be a hot mess (and she'll possibly be suffering from postpartum depression, or the baby blues). On day 43, when that baby who she loves dearly, finally looks at her and smiles for the first time after 6 weeks of giving all she has to meet his every need. That's the day she's expected to go back to work.
It is simply ridiculous.
I've told this dear friend as much and how I don't believe I could've left either of my children at 6 weeks. It was hard enough to pull out of the driveway at 12 weeks. She had already thought it would be tough to do, so she approached the partner she reports to and requested an additional 6 weeks of UNPAID leave. He then took her request up to the rest of the partners and she was just told that her request was denied. Even though she's put in 7 years of service, they wouldn't allow her the standard (which is already too little) 12 weeks of maternity leave that most other firms in town offer. This alone would've been bad enough.
Here's the kicker: He told her that the reason the partners wouldn't grant her request was because one of the female partner swayed them against it. SHE had only taken 6 weeks, so why should my friend need any more? So that was that.
I don't have adequate words to describe how awful I think this is. And my friend, she is just beaten down. And I don't know what can be said to help her. So her options at this point are to either quit or leave her newborn baby when he is 6 weeks old. To go be a lawyer, with old men and women who won't stand together.
And this is why women aren't succeeding at the same rates as men. Period.
So what can we do? Simple. We can support each other. We can understand that my decisions may be different from yours. We can recognize the value in helping one another along. We can lift up, rather than beat down. We can set aside any "wrongs" we feel we've endured and help others to avoid those same pitfalls. We can do whatever we can to help bring back the village.
So the next time you have an opportunity to help another woman, think of how you would want to react if this woman was your sister, or your mother, or your aunt, or better yet, your daughter. Because one day, it will be your daughter, and don't you want her to have every opportunity out there. Don't you want her to be supported and encouraged along the way? I don't even have a daughter, but I know that I want to live in a world where women love one another and stop tearing each other down. Perhaps I picked the wrong profession for compassionate women, but I know enough amazing female lawyers to know that is not the case. I know plenty of women who go out of their way to do whatever they can for the advancement and success of others. It is just unfortunate that all it takes is one bitter woman to ruin it for the rest of us.
So I beg you, women of the law, let us start standing together and stop this nonsense. Our own happiness shouldn't be dependent on another's failure. And there are men out there who want to support us, but why should they if we can't even support each other?