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.”
Women in the United States struggled many years to win the right to vote, and we still have not been able to win the presidency. At least fifty-two other countries in the world have had a female head of state—some countries multiple times—but we have not. Hillary Clinton’s recent run was not successful, but she took us one more step along a very long journey for women in the United States.
Gretchen Carlson went public about the sexual harassment she endured from Roger Ailes as an employee of Fox News and got Roger Ailes fired. Carlson did not agree to stay silent when offered a settlement as part of a nondisclosure agreement, and she got fired. It took courage to go public, and, subsequently, many women have come forward to tell their previously undisclosed stories of sexual harassment. In her article in the New York Times, Carlson notes that, according to the National Women’s Law Center, “almost half of all women have been sexually harassed at work. And those are the ones who have been brave enough to reveal it.” In a previous article, I explain why sexual harassment is still so prevalent in the workplace.
I have been designing and facilitating women’s leadership-development programs for more than twenty-five years, and I always include a segment on misogyny. I begin by asking for participants to raise their hands if they have heard the term misogyny before—usually no one has, until this year. This fall, when I asked the question, almost every woman in the audience raised her hand and knew the definition: having or showing a hatred or distrust of women. The women in my most recent program were from the whole spectrum of political ideologies, but this year’s election campaign elevated both the term misogyny (which is not really a new word but had almost disappeared from use) and awareness of the behaviors associated with it to the level of national discourse. Misogyny has always been with us, but we often didn’t see it, had become numb to it, or did not have a name for it. This election campaign brought misogynistic attitudes and behaviors to the surface and out in the open.
Does watching Mika Brzezinski get constantly interrupted by Joe Scarborough every morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe make you as angry as it makes me? And, yes, I do know that Scarborough interrupts all of his guests, but Brzezinski is his coanchor and often the only woman at the political round-table discussions hosted by the show. I often find watching how she is interrupted, talked over, and disregarded so upsetting that I have to turn the show off. She is smart and has a lot to say, but she is continually not allowed to make her points.
Gender Shrapnel in the Academic Workplace, a new book by Washington and Lee University professor Ellen Mayock, is focused on academia but offers understanding of and solutions to gender-based discrimination in all types of organizations. Mayock’s core concept of “shrapnel” is especially intriguing. She explains that “shrapnel” describes the regular insults and slights that build up over time and inflict real damage. While the meaning of the term “shrapnel” is similar in this context to the term “microaggressions,” frequently used in dialogues about the impact of racism, I find shrapnel to be more accurate in describing the potential seriousness of the injuries inflicted by subtle discrimination. Whether it refers to gender or race or is used to describe other group-level discrimination, it is an equally useful concept.