Progress has been very slow for women’s advancement in law firms. Why is this the case? As Elizabeth Olson of the New York Times reports, women are
- Slightly over 50 percent of current law school graduates (and have been for a long time)
- Under 35 percent of lawyers at law firms
- Only 20 percent of equity partners, where the highest compensation and best opportunities for leadership exist
Olson cites a recent study by Anne Urda of Law360 that found that “only nine of 300 firms surveyed had a lawyer work force that was 50 percent or more female.”
Anita Hill, an attorney and professor at Brandeis University, is one of my heroines. She had the courage in the early 1990s to accuse her ex-boss Clarence Thomas of inappropriate sexual behavior toward her when he was her supervisor. When she learned that he was nominated for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, she felt she had to testify to his lack of moral character during his confirmation hearings. She came forward and spoke the truth of her experience. While she was not able to stop his confirmation, she did give a voice and a name to the abusive behavior that women have always been subjected to by powerful men—sexual harassment. Her testimony opened a door for women to work together with male allies to make the workplace safer and more inclusive for all women.
Therese Huston of the New York Times writes that “history has long labeled women as unreliable and hysterical because of their hormones.” Interestingly, new research shows that men’s hormones fluctuate, too, both naturally and artificially, with possibly dire consequences for the rest of us. Prescriptions for testosterone supplements, often for a condition called “low-T,” are heavily advertised on television and social media and have increased from 1.3 million to 2.3 million in just four years. As Huston notes, the availability and popularity of these supplements makes new research on testosterone possible. She reports the following findings:
Here is a piece of good news for all of us: women’s involvement in politics is skyrocketing. The ways to get involved are endless, including petitioning Congress, attending meetings and rallies for causes you support, holding elected officials accountable for their votes, registering voters, and running for office. Running for office can include running for school board, town council, state legislature, governor, or US Congress. Gail Collins of the New York Times writes that “groups that help prepare women to run for office are reporting an unprecedented number of website visits, training-school sign-ups and meeting attendance.”
The Army is not making a fuss about it, but this is one of those moments in history that is a big deal: the first eighteen women, out of forty-four accepted for Army infantry training, recently completed the grueling boot camp and graduated. These are the first women to complete infantry training in two hundred years. Dave Philipps of the New York Times writes that the Army is not making a fuss because it has taken great pains to develop “gender-neutral performance standards to ensure that recruits entering the infantry were all treated the same.”
When President Trump and Melania Trump visited France this July, President Trump’s first action was to look First Lady of France Brigitte Macron up and down and pronounce her to be “fit.” Trump said to her, “You’re in such good shape.” He then turned to the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, and said, “She’s in such good physical shape. Beautiful.” Clearly uncomfortable, Brigitte Macron grabbed Melania’s arm and stepped back away from Trump. This incident was broadcast live around the world.
What message does it send when the American President treats the First Lady of France like a sex object?
Many women and men are still wary of working together when their work requires them to have one-on-one meetings or to travel together for business. New research reported by Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times reveals that almost two-thirds of the 5,282 registered voters surveyed by the New York Times say, “People should take extra caution around members of the opposite sex at work.” Miller notes that these results also partially explain “why women still don’t have the same opportunities as men. . . . They [women] are treated differently.”
First, the good news: dozens of women have been speaking out about sexual harassment in the workplace in recent months, bringing their upsetting experiences into the light and out of the shadows after a long period of silence about this issue in organizations. Understandably, women have been coming forward slowly either because of pressure to stay silent or justifiable fear of negative consequences to their careers. Gretchen Carlson spoke out at Fox News and brought about the firing of Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly, and other women gained courage from her example to tell their stories of sexual harassment at Fox.
My sister and I took care of our mother during the last months of her life. She developed fast-growing brain tumors and, mercifully, was incapacitated and bedridden for only a few months before she passed away. We quickly became exhausted and unable to physically care for her without professional help as she declined. It was a shock to discover how expensive it is to hire home health support and how little the long-term care insurance, for which she had been paying over decades, would reimburse. None of us had the financial means to pay for much support for very long. She passed quickly, but a family can rapidly become financially drained trying to care for family members. Realistically, women pay the biggest price for both elder care and childcare—as unpaid family caregivers.
I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs where my mother and many of my aunts were strong businesswomen. I am also an entrepreneur, perhaps because I had female role models, and I have always wondered—why don’t more women start businesses?
Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times agrees that something is wrong with the underrepresentation of female business founders. She notes that while women make up half the workforce and earn 40–50 percent of the degrees in business, science, and engineering, fewer than 10 percent of technology startups are founded by women, and only 36 percent of all US companies are owned by women. Also, many woman-owned businesses are small, employ only the founder, and earn less revenue than businesses founded by men, according to the census data.