A Turning Point for Women in the Legal Profession? Almost.

While in law school, I was defeated in the semi-final round of a moot court competition.  The reason for the loss?  My outfit. I’d worn a pantsuit and a female judge, who was a judge in real life, also, ridiculed the choice, telling me that no “real lawyer” would ever have worn pants to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court, which was who we were “pretending” to argue before in the competition.  The harsh criticism came as a total shock to me and I’ve never forgotten it. 

Well, after these many years, I’ve finally been vindicated. In her first argument before the country’s highest court, Solicitor General Elena Kagan, former Dean of Harvard Law School, wore a navy blue pantsuit and light blue blouse. So it seems that my judge was wrong.  A woman would and, in fact, did wear pants before the Supreme Court after all.  Does this brazen fashion choice signify a coming of age for women in the legal profession?  bw sexual equality male female scales of justice

Well, almost.

It would have been a far more remarkable silent victory but for the fact that it wasn’t silent at all.  Kagan’s choice was all over the legal newsboards.  Above The Law ran a story detailing the choice and discussing the outfit at length. The fact that her clothing garnered so much attention lessened the potentially important impact of what was surely a high point in Kagan’s legal legacy.  Had the media not found it so remarkable, Kagan’s pantsuit choice may have been a much more significant symbol of how far women have come in our profession.  But, by spotlighting it as a key point of interest, the news stories just reminds us that our fashion choices do matter–at least to the interested public. 

Nonetheless, the fact that Kagan was not dissuaded in her selection by the media’s interest does give me a great deal of satisfaction.  Would I follow Kagan’s lead?  I’d like to think so but I dare not speculate.  After all, an attorney with Kagan’s pedigree has plenty of reasons to be as confident as she was–she’s got the legal acumen to back up any outfit she “dares” to wear. 

See also:

Gender Discrimination & Dress Codes. Who wears the skirt, I mean, pants in your office?

Are Women Attorneys Being Stricken by a Pantsuit Pandemic?

The Pantsuit Pandemic Part II

Looking a Flexible-Schedule Gift Horse in the Mouth

Flexible schedules is a topic of particular interest to me, in some part, because I am the grateful beneficiary of one.   I commend employers, including my own, who have made the enlightened and informed decision to offer this benefit.  It’s a decision that I firmly believe will pay dividends in employee loyalty and ultimately save the employer money on hiring, retraining, etc.calendar and clock

Raising happy, healthy, adjusted children is the responsibility of our entire population, and the burden of doing so should not rest on the mother’s shoulders alone. However, the United States, unlike other industrialized nations, has little legislation to promote this ideal. Absent the FMLA, permitting new parents 12 weeks (unpaid) to bond with their children, and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which prevents employers from discriminating against women on the basis of their pregnancy, accommodations or benefits to assist new mothers in balancing their work and families are left largely to the employer’s discretion.

WorkLife Law has advocated aggressively and effectively on behalf of working mothers, suggesting litigation through existing statutes where possible to remedy inequities with respect to mothers in the workplace. In part due to their efforts, the EEOC issued its guidance on Unlawful Disparate Treatment of Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities , which helped to focus employers and EEOC investigators on subtle biases about the commitment of working mothers to their job responsibilities, that may result in actionable discrimination cases.

A recent “Employer Alert” from WorkLife Law, however, has taken it too far, suggesting the following:

Continue reading

50 Best Blogs on Wellness, Women’s Interests, and Work-Life Balance

Delaware Employment Law Blog is pleased to add the following 50 blogs to its “Best of” Blogroll.  The common premise among these blogs is the idea that well-rounded employees are happier employees and happier employees perform better for their employer, who, in turn, enjoys more success overall.  In other words–wellness and work-life balance are valuable principles, which should be considered high-ranking goals among employers.   man holding blog

Here’s the list, alphabetically:

  1. About Working Moms
  2. Alliance for Work-Life Progress
  3. Business Week’s Working Parents Blog
  4. Chief Home Officer
  5. Corporate Voices
  6. Corporate Voices for Working Families
  7. Discovering Your Inner Samurai Blog
  8. FunnyBusiness
  9. Half Changed World
  10. How She Really Does It
  11. Hybrid Mom Insider
  12. Institute for Women’s Leadership
  13. Jugglezine
  14. Kathy Lingle’s Work-Life Blog
  15. Moms Rising
  16. Motherlode
  17. Mothers Movement
  18. Newly Corporate
  19. On Balance
  20. Progressive States
  21. Sloan Network
  22. Sue Magazine
  23. The Anti 9-to-5 Guide
  24. The Juggle
  25. The Lattice Group
  26. The Women’s Initiative Blog
  27. The Work/Life Balancing Act
  28. The WorkLife Monitor
  29. Women for Hire
  30. Women on Business
  31. Women’s Leadership Exchange Blog
  32. Women’s Rights Employment Law Blog
  33. Work from Within
  34. Work+Life Fit, Inc
  35. Working Mother
  36. Work-Life and Human Capital Solutions
  37. WorkLife Law Blog
  38. World at Work
  39. YourOnRamp.com
  40. Christina’s Considerations
  41. Corporate Wellness Quotes
  42. Employee Corporate Wellness Programs
  43. Employee Wellness USA
  44. Employee/Corporate Wellness Programs
  45. Meditation At Work Info
  46. My Meditation Coach: Improve your workforce!
  47. Wellergize
  48. Wellness Corporate Insights
  49. Wellness.com
  50. Workplace Wellness

International Women’s Day 2009

International Women’s Day (IWD), is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future.  IWD was celebrated officially on Sunday, March 8, 2009, so this post is a day late but, in light of the worthiness of the topic, timely nonetheless.  Making it even more timely is the fact that March is “Women’s History Month” in the U.S.

International Women's Day

To celebrate, many global organizations host internal events, as well as support external ones.  For example, Google changes its logo on its global search pages. 

Google

The International Women’s Day website provides a free service to women around the world wanting to share and promote their IWD activity, videos, opinions and ideas.  The site offers the following summary as a backdrop for this important date:

The new millennium has witnessed a significant change and attitudinal shift in both women’s and society’s thoughts about women’s equality and emancipation. Many from a younger generation feel that ‘all the battles have been won for women’ while many feminists from the 1970’s know only too well the longevity and ingrained complexity of patriarchy. With more women in the boardroom, greater equality in legislative rights, and an increased critical mass of women’s visibility as impressive role models in every aspect of life, one could think that women have gained true equality. The unfortunate fact is that women are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts, women still are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and globally women’s education, health and the violence against them is worse than that of men.

However, great improvements have been made. We do have female astronauts and prime ministers, school girls are welcomed into university, women can work and have a family, women have real choices. And so the tone and nature of IWD has, for the past few years, moved from being a reminder about the negatives to a celebration of the positives.

Women Bullies In the Workplace

Women who bully women at work is not a new topic on this blog.  A segment on Good Morning America today addressed the topic of female bullies from a different point of view.  The piece looked at the female target and how women tend to differ from men when subject to workplace bullying.  Some of the more interesting gender-specific perspective notes made in the piece included:jerks angry woman

  • Women are taught to be non-confrontational and this tendency to not fight back makes them especially vulnerable targets.
  • Women, more so than men, tend to take negative interactions personally, concluding that the attack was directed to them specifically, as opposed to directed towards the individual standing closest to the bully at that moment.
  • Women do not complain about an existing problem and, when they do, they aren’t as persistent as maybe they should be. 

So, do women make better targets?  Or, are they just more vicious bullies

It’s an interesting idea.  Women are better than men at bullying others and at being bullied by others.  Well, I suppose that there’s something to be said for being better at something.  Ok, not really.  So why do women fall into both roles with ease?  Are we genetically predisposed to these opposable positions? 

Gary Namie, Ph.D, founder of the Workplace Bullying Institute, offered the following tips to those being targeted by workplace bullies:

  • Get support from family and friends. Talking about the problem eases the burden and lowers the chances of stress-related illness.
  • See a doctor or a therapist, especially if you’re having stress symptoms, such as sleeplessness and appetite loss.
  • Get witnesses to help you build a record of the bully’s actions for a future complaint.
  • Confront the bully with the same toughness he or she showed you. This should be done with a single witness or as a group.

It’s interesting to note some of the ways in which these suggestions would be particularly effective for female targets.  The first suggestion, for example, is a very gender-specific technique.  Research proves that women are biologically programmed to talk about their problems, whereas the male brain actually reacts to stress by reducing his desire, even restricting his ability, to “talk about it.” 

Similarly, the tendency to garner group consensus prior to acting is a female-specific trait.  Males, on the other hand, tend not to seek group consensus before executing a decision.  This idea of “power in numbers” also is seen in the final suggestion, which encourages a victim to stand up to the bully–but to be supported by either a single witness or by a group. 

To read more about Jerks at Work, you may want to read these earlier posts:

New Conclusions on the Potential Costs of Workplace Bullying

Women Who Bully Women at Work

“My Boss Is Killing Me”: Why this just may be true

Top 5 Lessons to Be Learned from the Jerk at Work

Workplace bullying

It’s Friday and Your Boss Is a Total Tool

The Truth About Workplace Revenge

Laid Off and Pregnant

stick_people_familyThe Wall Street Journal recently posted an entry on its blog “The Juggle,” entitled Laid Off . . . And Pregnant,” describing the position of tens of thousands of pregnant women laid off in the current economy. As noted by the article, pregnant women are just as subject to any one else to being laid off for economic reasons, as long as they are not specifically targeted based on their pregnancy or assumptions about their future commitment to the job as new mothers. Continue reading

Work-Life Balance Issues At Risk in the New Economy?

clip_image002_3Work-life issues have taken center stage in the first month of the country’s new administration. President Obama’s campaign platform included a specific “Plan to Support Working Families and Women,” and just a few weeks ago Michelle Obama appointed Jocelyn Frye, general counsel of the National Partnership for Woman and Families, as her Policy Director. Continue reading