Issue Statements

In our Centennial Year, the WBA honored our history and mission by initiating a project to develop a series of new Issue
Statements on topics of preeminent concern to our members and to all citizens.

After much discussion, a consensus was reached about the topics to be addressed in these first, Post-Centennial Issue statements. Those eight topics were:

  • Equal Pay
  • Diverse and Independent Judiciary
  • Suffrage for the District of Columbia
  • Flexible Work-Life Equation
  • Equal Rights Amendment
  • Domestic Violence
  • Sexual Harassment
  • Health Care

An additional statement, on Family Unity, was added in October 2018. These issues focus on core societal concerns, and it is just for women lawyers to take a leadership role in advocating for improvements in each of these areas.

These Issue Statements represented an initial effort, and are not meant to be static and unchanging. Rather, the intention is that they should be an ever-evolving set of statements about the WBA’s advocacy beliefs, to inspire and guide our actions toward a better world. We seek input, and look forward to hearing from our members about ideas on these and other future statements.

This is one of the continuing efforts of the WBA, which seeks to actively support issues of special interest to women, and frequently uses its voice as one of the oldest and largest voluntary bar associations in metropolitan Washington, DC to advocate on behalf of them. We believe this effort is a key part of WBA’s ongoing Mission, and we look forward to working together to continue this effort.

Click below to read each statement.

​WBA Issue Statement on Equal Pay

In 2016, women’s earnings overall were approximately 80% of men’s earnings in the U.S. Black and Hispanic women earned approximately 63% and 54% of white men’s earnings, respectively. According to the National Women’s Law Center, the average woman will lose more than $400,000 over the course of her career.1

Young women entering the workforce earn 88% of their male counterparts’ salaries, and the gap continues to widen as women progress in their careers. Mothers are not only paid less than fathers, they can be perceived as less competent than women without children. Entering retirement, women face a shortfall of $4,000 per year in Social Security benefits compared to men of the same age. Additionally, an employer’s reliance on a woman’s past salary history can perpetuate pay inequality for years, if not throughout her career.

Women lawyers also face pay disparity and equal pay remains an obstacle for women lawyers as they attempt to progress through the ranks.2 Women lawyers are given fewer opportunities to take on important cases and clients than their male counterparts, thus diminishing their chances to reach leadership positions in their organizations. In commercial law firms, this means that women have lower chances of receiving origination credit compensation.Women lawyers have historically been disproportionately placed on the counsel rather than the partner track, denied opportunities for client networking, and left without partnership sponsors, further limiting their ability to advance to equity partner and law firm leadership. Whether women are working in law firms or in other organizations, they continue to face reduced opportunities and mentorship. The result is lower pay, even for women at the top. Fewer women are found in high-ranking positions to serve as leaders and role models and to ensure that other women lawyers achieve equal pay and equal opportunities to advance.

Equal pay enables women to save more money for retirement, pursue educational and business opportunities, pay off student debt earlier, and purchase homes. Equal pay further enables women, particularly single women with children, to better provide for their families. Additionally, equal pay empowers women to influence our society in greater measure through contributions to educational institutions, charities, and political campaigns.

For over 100 years, the WBA has advocated for equality, including equal pay and opportunities for women, and it will continue to do so. During the 1980s, the WBA endorsed federal equal pay legislation. In 2017, the WBA presented the “Equal Pay Day Author’s Panel,” a thought-provoking discussion of women’s continuing struggle for equal pay, featuring authors whose work focuses on equality in compensation.

1 The Wage Gap: The Who, How, Why, and What to Do, The National Women’s Law Center (Sept. 19, 2017),
2 Debra Cassens Weiss, Full-Time Female Lawyers Earn 77 Per Cent of Male Lawyer Pay, The American Bar Association, (March 17, 2016),
3 Ashleigh Buckett & Jane Ellis, Women in Commercial Legal Practice, (Dec. 2017),

WBA Issue Statement on a Diverse and Independent Judiciary

For over 100 years, the WBA has diligently devoted itself to enhancing diversity in the legal profession. It is critically important that the legal profession articulate its support for a strong, independent, and diverse judiciary.

Diversity facilitates inclusion and encompasses concepts such as race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.1 The ideal of a diverse judiciary emanates from the American principle of equal justice for all, enunciated in the Constitution. Judicial independence allows judges to be free to follow the law in deciding cases, without being affected by outside influences or pressures2. For our democratic system to continue to flourish, respect for each branch of government is crucial.

A more diverse judiciary enhances trust in and legitimacy of the judicial branch by our citizens. It also promotes a variety of perspectives in cases brought before the bench, thereby enhancing equal treatment for all. Yet diversity in the judicial branch remains a continuing challenge, both in terms of representing society as a whole or even reflecting the diversity within the legal profession itself3.

Support for a diverse judiciary is integrally tied to the WBA’s mission, to support women both in the legal profession and in our society as a whole. The WBA has an important role in promoting a diverse judiciary by endorsing well qualified candidates who support the mission of the WBA, enhancing understanding of the role of judges, and advocating for judicial diversity and independence. The WBA also helps pave the way for future candidates for the judiciary and for judicial nominating commissions.

The WBA offers programs encouraging women and minorities to seek judicial careers. For example, to discuss enhanced opportunities for women in the judiciary, the WBA presented a Centennial year program entitled “May She Please the Court.”. The WBA also contributes to ongoing discussions and education about implicit bias and offers suggestions about methods to involve and recruit women into a wide variety of judicial careers. The WBA also supports the goals of the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Diversity in the Judiciary, which has developed a Diversity Action Plan for its Judicial Division4. Looking ahead, the WBA will continue to work toward
the goal of enhancing diversity in the judiciary and throughout the legal profession.

1 About EEOC: Overview Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,
2 Judicial Independence, Judicial Learning Center,
3 Judicial Diversity, Brennan Center for Justice,
4 Judicial Division Diversity Action Plan, Standing Committee on Diversity in the Judiciary, American Bar Association (2012)

WBA Issue Statement on Suffrage for the District of Columbia

The WBA grew out of the women’s suffrage movement in the early twentieth century and, in fact, was founded three years before women obtained the right to vote. Supporting the right to vote for all residents of the District of Columbia (D.C.) is an integral aspect of the WBA’s mission today, as it has been for over 100 years. Over 693,000 people live in the District (based on the Census Department’s 2017 estimates) – more than the population of Vermont (623,657) or Wyoming (579,315)1. Yet those 693,000 residents do not have a single voting representative in either the U.S. Senate or U.S. House of Representatives. Even though they have no say on federal policy initiatives or on the confirmation of judges or executive branch officials, D.C. residents pay federal income taxes and are subject to federal laws like all other (represented) Americans.

Even before women secured the right to vote nationally with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, the WBA, in 1917, supported a Joint Resolution of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives that would have given D.C. residents the right to vote. Decades later, the WBA endorsed a 1936 joint resolution that proposed a constitutional amendment to grant D.C. representation in the Senate, House, and Electoral College and provide the District’s citizens the same rights before courts as state residents enjoyed. Further, in 1946, the WBA supported a referendum on suffrage for D.C. residents. Through the 1950s, the WBA continued to voice public support for the D.C. Home Rule Act and D.C. suffrage.

In 1961, the Twenty-Third Amendment was ratified, and residents of the District were finally given a say in presidential elections. In 1973, with the passage of the Home Rule Act, D.C. residents won limited self-governance through a local executive (the mayor) and legislative branch (the D.C. Council)2. However, Congressional representation remained out of reach. More than 40 years later, in 2016, D.C. residents voted overwhelmingly to support a proposal to petition Congress to make D.C. the fifty-first state3. As D.C. continues its fight for democratic representation within our country’s most fundamental government

institutions, the WBA continues to support this effort. Ensuring that D.C. residents are allowed to elect voting representatives to Congress is an important part of the WBA’s mission. The WBA will continue to assist in the fight for suffrage for D.C. residents until the ideals of democracy prevail.
1 Quick Facts, “Population Estimates, July 1, 2017,” U.S. Census Bureau,,VT,DC/PST045217.
2 Kate Masur, Capital Injustice, The New York Times, (March 28, 2011),
3 See Aaron C. Davis, “District Voters Overwhelmingly Approve Referendum to Make D.C. the 51st State,” Washington Post, (Nov. 8, 2016),

WBA Issue Statement on Flexible Work-Life Equation

The WBA believes that when employers fail to acknowledge twenty-first century work patterns and relationships, as well as the changing needs of modern workers and families, especially those in the middle and low-income segments and those with varying responsibilities to younger and older dependents, they are discriminating against women. The WBA believes that to eliminate such discrimination, employers and employees should collaborate in promoting a more flexible work-life equation for working women, men, and families that includes earnestly implemented and consistently applied solutions such as:

  • Teleworking schedule options;
  • Staggered in-office hours;
  • Flexible vacation, sick, and personal paid time off;
  • Part-time schedules and other flexible work schedules; and
  • Promotional and mentorship policies that do not penalize employees for choosing to take maternity/paternity/family leave.

The WBA further encourages employers should be encouraged to adopt policies and practices to enhance retention of women in the workplace. Such policies strengthen both the workplace and the economy. Retaining more women in the workplace also increases their chances for leadership and advancement. This, in turn, enhances the purchasing power of partners in families, and reduces the rate of childhood poverty. Additionally, such policies encourage continued
workplace innovation and business growth, facilitated by a diversity of viewpoints and life experiences.

The WBA promotes a more flexible work-life equation by hosting programs by committees, such as the Working Parents/Lawyers at Home Committee. These programs range from discussions on achieving the best work-life equation in your life to practical programs such as “Au Pairs: Childcare You Can Trust.” The WBA continues to encourage positive dialogue at all of its programming on the topic of a flexible work-life equation.

WBA Issue Statement Supporting the ERA

In 1923, three years after women won the right to vote with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, suffragist Alice Paul proposed the Equal Rights Amendment (“ERA” or “Amendment”) as the next step in bringing equal justice under the law to all citizens, regardless of their sex.1 The original amendment stated:

Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

In 1938, members of the WBA lobbied in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment.

In 1943, Ms. Paul revised the Amendment’s text, which became Section 1 of the version passed by Congress in 1972.

The ERA consists of three sections:

  • Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
  • Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
  • Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

The wording of Sections 1 and 2 mirrors that of the Nineteenth Amendment.

In 1970, WBA member and first Woman Lawyer of the Year recipient, Marguerite Rawalt, testified on the first day of Senator Birch Bayh’s subcommittee hearings on the proposed ERA. After her testimony, she received a standing ovation, and her written statement was hailed by the Senators sitting on the Subcommittee as a most complete and effective legal brief. Her testimony demonstrated conclusively that women had never been legally endowed with the Constitutional rights men had.

In 1971, several WBA members co-founded the Women’s Legal Defense Fund. This Fund was devoted to securing equal rights for women through litigation, education, information, and counseling.

After Congress passed the ERA in 1972, it was sent to the states for ratification. By the extended June 30, 1982 deadline, only 35 states had ratified the ERA (three states short of the 38 required to add it to the Constitution). Since that time, the ERA has been introduced in every session of Congress; however, Congress has not voted on it in more than 30 years.

The Constitution, specifically the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, limits the power of the federal and state governments to discriminate including on the basis of sex. Until the passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, however, discrimination based on sex in the private sector was lawful. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg put it most aptly during an April 17, 2014 session at the National Press Club, when she observed that a constitutional safeguard is important because legislation giving equal rights to women can be repealed or altered.2

Currently, our Constitution lacks a clear declaration that the sexes are equal under the law. As a result, sex discrimination in many forms continues to permeate our culture. Our current federal judicial standards provide for a lower level of scrutiny of laws that differentiate by gender: while race and religious discrimination claims garner strict scrutiny, gender discrimination claims currently merit only intermediate scrutiny.

The WBA believes the ERA should be a fundamental constitutional principle—that women are people equal in stature to men before the law. Justice Ginsburg expressed the significance of this Amendment for future generations of women: “So, I would like my granddaughters, when they pick up the Constitution, to see that notion—that women and men are persons of equal stature—I’d like them to see that is a basic principle of our society.”3 The WBA continues to monitor the ratification of the ERA and looks forward to a time when our Constitution guarantees sex equality under the law.

1 Roberta W. Francis & Bettina Hager, The Equal Rights Amendment, National Council of Women’s Organizations, (March 2013),
History — Equal Rights Amendment
2 Scalia & Ginsburg on How They Would Amend Constitution, C-SPAN, (April 19, 2014),
3 Debra Cassens Weiss, How Scalia and Ginsburg would amend the Constitution, American Bar Association, (April 21, 2014),

WBA Issue Statement on Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone1. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that, nationally, almost 25% of women and 10% of men have suffered sexual violence by an intimate partner and more than 22% of women and 14% of men have been subjected to at least one act of severe physical violence in an intimate relationship.2

The availability of legal services for victims of domestic violence is the single highest predictor of long-term reduction in domestic violence3. Consequently, any organization that employs attorneys should prioritize policies that allow employees to participate in pro bono services, including representation of victims of domestic violence.

Attorneys, and especially members of the WBA, should adopt the goals enunciated by the American Bar Association’s Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence4 in an effort to reduce the incidence of domestic violence and improve the outcomes for survivors and victims of domestic violence. These goals are to: (1) improve the quality of legal representation of victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking; (2) enable lawyers to effectively, ethically, and holistically represent victims in civil protection order cases; and (3) raise awareness about the need for high-quality representation for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking in civil protection order cases.

For many years the Women’s Bar Association Foundation (WBAF), the charitable arm of the WBA, has awarded grants to organizations that provide services for victims of domestic violence. Independently and in collaboration with the WBAF, the WBA will continue to seek opportunities to address and improve the rights of victims of domestic violence.

1 Office on Violence Against Women: Areas of Focus, U.S. Department of Justice (April 11, 2018),
2 Matthew J. Breiding, Sharon G. Smith, Kathleen C. Basile, Mikel L. Walters, Jieru Chen & Melissa T. Merrick, Prevalence & Characteristics of Sexual Violence, Stalking, & Intimate Partner Violence Victimization – National Intimate Partner & Sexual Violence Survey, United States, 2011, Centers. for Disease Control Prevention (Sept. 5, 2014),
3 Sarah M. Buel, Effective Assistance of Counsel for Battered Women Defendants: A Normative Construct, 26 Harv. Women’s L.J. 217 (2003)
4 Standards of Practice for Lawyers Representing Victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault & Stalking in Civil Protection Order Cases, American Bar Association Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence

WBA Issue Statement On Sexual Harassment

The WBA believes that unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment1. The legal profession is not immune to the sexual harassment that is endemic to our
society. Sexual harassment has grave consequences for our profession, contributing to loss of talent and alienation of women lawyers and law students.

Between 90 and 95% of women who have been sexually harassed suffer from a debilitating stress reaction, including anxiety, depression, headaches, sleep disorders, weight loss or gain, nausea, lowered self-esteem, and sexual dysfunction. In addition, victims of sexual harassment lose $4.4 million in wages and 973,000 hours in unpaid leave each year in the United States2.

Sexual harassment is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as well as many state and local laws and must be strictly prohibited. Whether perpetrated by a supervisor or a co-worker, sexual harassment cannot and should not be tolerated. Sexual harassment takes different forms, including:

  • Verbal – Sexual innuendoes, suggestive comments, jokes of a sexual nature, sexual propositions, or sexual threats.
  • Non-Verbal – Sexually suggestive objects or pictures, graphic commentaries, suggestive or insulting sounds, leering, whistling, or obscene gestures.
  • Physical – Unwanted physical contact, including touching, pinching, brushing the body, coerced sexual intercourse, or assault.

The WBA believes that law firms, corporations, government agencies, non-profits, and other employers must create clear and fair institutional procedures under which allegations of sexual harassment can be brought, assessed, and acted on. In this regard, the WBA agrees with the EEOC’s position: “Prevention is the best tool for the elimination of sexual harassment. An employer should take all steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment from occurring, such as affirmatively raising the subject, expressing strong disapproval, developing appropriate sanctions, informing employees of their right to raise and how to raise the issue of harassment under title VII, and developing methods to sensitize all concerned.”3

For over 100 years, the WBA has provided a platform for the voices of WBA members and all women lawyers on these important topics, and it will continue to do so. In 2018, the WBA co-sponsored “#MeToo: Preventing Sexual Harassment in the Legal Workplace” and “Sexual Harassment In The Workplace: Recognize It and Stop It,” a thought-provoking discussion of recent cases holding powerful men accountable for sexual harassment and what the
legal profession can do to ensure these events and the advent of the #MeToo, #TimesUp, and #Equality movements transform our workplace and advance equality to permanence. The WBA also announced a new campaign—called #OurVoices—that pledges the WBA’s support for every person who has experienced sexual harassment or a #MeToo moment and promises swift action from the WBA in the form of programming, policy statements, social media
campaigns, and more, to achieve workplaces that are free of sexual harassment. The WBA is committed to working with other thought leaders to promote a dialogue to find policies and solutions that foster a safe, productive work environment.

1 About EEOC: Facts about Sexual Harassment, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,
2 Stop Violence Against Women: Sexual Harassment-The Effects of Sexual Harassment, Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights,
3 Sexual Harassment, 29 C.F.R. § 1604.11(f) (1999).

WBA Issue Statement on Health Care

The WBA believes that everyone should have access to affordable, quality health care, including birth control, and the privacy to make reproductive choices. The United States lags behind most other western industrialized countries in providing basic care at an affordable cost to all residents, especially to women, and the WBA finds this unacceptable.

The WBA believes that lack of health insurance can be a barrier to accessing timely, quality health care services, especially for women1. Uninsured individuals are less likely than insured individuals to receive preventative care, recommended screenings, and follow-up care2.

Lack of access can affect women’s careers, financial well-being, job security, educational attainment, and future opportunity. WBA members and female lawyers worldwide rely on contraception coverage to give them the ability to decide if and when to have children and also to treat other non-pregnancy related health issues. The careers Sexual Harassment, 29 C.F.R. § 1604.11(f) (1999). of women lawyers could become untenable if women lost control over their own reproductive futures – both in the impact to their own bodies and the additional childcare obligations. Moreover, consistent and uninterrupted coverage of safe, reliable, and no-cost contraception is critical for every woman’s educational and professional success and for women’s overall health and well-being3.

The WBA supports access to affordable, quality contraception for all women. The WBA has a long tradition of advocating for access to affordable, quality health care for women by supporting organizations that provide resources and assistance to women to address health care needs. The WBA Foundation
provides grants to such organizations as Bread for the City, which provides vulnerable residents of Washington, D.C. with medical care and other services. The WBA’s Health Law Forum hosts programs that bring attention to and educate WBA members and non-members on the importance of access to affordable, quality health care for women, including the Centennial year program “ASLME’s Next Steps in Health Reform in 2017.”

In addition, the WBA supports access to health care by joining other women’s organizations to file amicus briefs in cases where women’s access to affordable, quality health care is at risk. One such case is Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Trump, in which Pennsylvania challenged rules issued by the Trump administration that would allow employers to assert conscience-based objections to the contraceptive mandate provided under the Women’s Health Amendment to the Affordable Care Act.

1 Access to Health Care: An official position statement of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, Journal of Obstetrics, Gynecologic and Neonatal Nursing (Sept. 2016),
2 Melissa Majerol, Van Newkirk, & Rachel Garfield, The uninsured: A primer—Key facts about health insurance and the uninsured in America, The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured,
3 Michelle Kallen, Jessica Morton, & Kristin Mitcham, (Nov.-Dec. 2017), WBA Signs on to Amicus Briefs in Masterpiece Cakeshop & Pennsylvania v. Trump, Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia’s Raising the Bar Newsletter (Nov.-Dec. 2017), 4_NovDec.pdf

WBA Issue Statement on Family Unity

The Administration’s decision to criminally prosecute adults crossing the southern border led to the separation of more than 2,600 children from their parents or other adults in the spring of 2018.1 Following intense political opposition to this policy, on June 20, 2018, the President signed an executive order stopping the separations, and a federal judge ordered the government to reunite all children under age 5 with their families within 14 days and reunite children age 5 and over with their families within 30 days.2 Unfortunately, months later, progress is slow, and as of mid-October 2018, hundreds of children remain separated from their parents.3

Family Unity is at the core of the mission of the Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia. Since 1917, the WBA has worked toward key goals, which include maintaining the honor and integrity of the legal profession, promoting the administration of justice, and advancing and protecting the interests of women lawyers.

Nothing could be more seminal to these goals than supporting family unity, which is a fundamental legal and human right. Family unity is the basis upon which society stands and upon which the legal system is built. It allows for an ordered society and healthy communities, and it also supports the health and education of future generations.

Without family unity, women, men, children, and their families face not only injustice, but also tragic and lasting repercussions that affect their daily lives. For example, it is an accepted tenet of the medical profession that separation of children from their families causes trauma for the child and can cause permanent psychological and physical damage. The effects can be catastrophic. The American Academy of Pediatrics has stated that separating children from their parents contradicts everything that pediatricians stand for, that is, protecting and promoting the health of children.4

Maintaining the unity and health of the family unit is universally recognized as critical to the well-being of individuals and society at large. Worldwide, family unity is accepted as a basic right, and policies of separating children from their parents cause intense international concern and opposition.5 In the U.S., all states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have statutes requiring that the child’s best interests be considered whenever certain decisions are made regarding a child’s custody, placement, or other critical life issues.6

Many organizations, including the American Bar Association, have voiced concerns and opposition to any government policy that forcibly separates minor children from their parents when families cross the southern border into the United States.

Policies that indiscriminately or needlessly may have the effect of destroying family unity are detrimental to the best interests of the child, inconsistent with state law, and inimical to overall family and societal well-being. The WBA continues to emphasize the urgent need to restore to their parents any children previously separated in the past several months, to minimize any further psychological damage. The WBA strongly opposes any reinstatement of the family separation policy by any Administration. Overall, the WBA stands ready to support and assist efforts to enhance family unity and well-being.

1 Shapiro, Leslie, and Sharma, Manas, “How Many Migrant Children are Still Separated from their Families,” Washington Post, August 30, 2018, Link accessed September 13, 2018,

2 Gerstein, Josh. “Judge Orders Trump Administration to Reunite Migrant Families,” Politico, June 27, 2018, Link accessed October 18, 2018,

3 “ACLU: 245 separated migrant children still in U.S. custody,” Washington Post, October 19, 2018, Link accessed October 19, 2018,

4 Miller, Devon, ”AAP a leading voice against separating children, parents at border,” AAP News, June 14, 2018, Link accessed June 24, 2018,

5 Brands, Hal, “Separating Families Was a Blunder on a Global Scale,”, June 22, 2018, Link accessed June 24, 2018:

6 “Determining the Best Interest of the Child,” Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau/ACYF/ACF/HHS, Link accessed June 24, 2018: