Here’s a great idea: Invite a bunch of lawyers to an annual meeting of the Bar association. At the meeting, have two panels devoted to female attorneys: One titled “What’s Our Problem?,” featuring lady-lawyers discussing “a changing legal market where competition is tougher and expectations are higher” for women who “are currently in or are looking to re-enter the legal field” (because we leave to have babies!), followed by a panel titled “Their Point of View: Tips From the Other Side,” where “A distinguished panel of gentlemen from the legal field will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of women in the areas of communication, negotiation, mediation, arbitration, organization, and women’s overall management of their legal work.”
Got that, ladies? We’ll start the day by asking “What’s Our Problem?” and discussing all the issues facing us and all the ways we’re sucking in our careers, and then a distinguished panel of gentlemen will tell us how we suck but where we’re also good, and then they’ll fix our problems. I was personally hoping they would also give us a talking-to about office-appropriate attire, but maybe next year.
Now, don’t get me wrong — I’m sure that both panels would have helpful information. I’m sure that the distinguished gentlemen on the second panel are indeed distinguished, and are probably very smart and nice people who do genuinely want to help female lawyers. And female lawyers do face specific challenges in our field. But the Bar association really framed this one poorly. And maybe we would face fewer challenges if it wasn’t always assumed that we’re the ones with the problem.
The Bar association has modified the panels in response to the uproar from female attorneys, because “Unfortunately, the important objectives of this panel have been overshadowed by issues raised as to the topic description and the composition of the panel.” The second, formerly all-male panel now features both men and women. But I still wonder when we can expect the New York State Bar Association to feature a panel of men asking, “What’s Our Problem?” and discussing all the ways that men as a whole could be better at their jobs — whether they’re currently in or looking to re-enter the field — followed by a panel of women explaining it all.