I am incredibly honored to serve as this year’s Women’s Bar Association President and to bring you our theme – Leading Forward.
Like many of you, I have been fortunate to have numerous women mentor, guide, and support me throughout my life and career. They have taught me invaluable lessons about the practice of law and showing up as my authentic self in a profession that is not always welcoming. I would not be where I am today without them.
My sentiments echo decades of research that conclude something many of us already know – having women in leadership matters.
Women in leadership are more likely to create positive work cultures and drive business growth. Women leaders help increase productivity, enhance collaboration, and improve fairness.
While studies show that everyone benefits from having female leaders and mentors, women who are mentored and led by other women gain access to opportunities in what is still a male-dominated legal environment and receive critical support that allows them to remain and thrive in the profession.
Despite this, women are significantly underrepresented in leadership – at law firms, in board rooms, in the C-suite, and in government. This lack of representation is not only depriving these organizations of critical leadership – it is also depriving our profession of talent.
The Women’s Bar Association is uniquely positioned to help address this inequity.
In May 1918, in her first address to the Association, WBA founder Ellen Spencer Mussey issued the following call to our membership:
As pioneers in your profession, you have special responsibilities and in this world crisis you will have unusual opportunities for advancement and for service. May you all prove equal to the demands and opportunities of the present age.
Many of the challenges faced by these women 106 years ago are challenges we continue to face – respect in and out of the courtroom, equal pay for equal work, and equal opportunities for advancement. Despite these challenges (and the fact that at the time women could not vote, largely could not attend law school, and could not be admitted to the bar), our founders recognized the value of women not only in these spaces but leading in these spaces. Without leadership by women, women could not advance.
And so, we find ourselves in 2023, an Association filled with pioneers in our profession. We have stories to tell and experiences to share with those following in our footsteps and those making their own. We have an opportunity to educate and advocate for the next generation of women and women leaders.
In 1917, our founders did not do it alone. They had each other and the 31 founding members. Today we have our Board of Directors, dozens of Committee & Forum Co-Chairs, and all of you.
May we prove equal to the demands and opportunities of the present age as we begin Leading Forward.
WBA President, 2023-2024