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Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin - Fall 2014

President’s Message may make us laugh, but they also make women unnecessarily fearful by presenting life’s challenges as insurmountable.” Ms. Sandberg cited a Harvard Business School case study about a real-life female entrepreneur. In the case study, a man named Howard and a woman named Heidi each played the same role of the entrepreneur, including using the exact same words and actions. The reviews of each of them universally revealed positive views of Howard and negative views of Heidi for doing the exact same things in the business setting. The contrasting responses that Howard and Heidi received supported the research that “success and likeability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women in the same settings. . . .When a woman is successful, people of both genders like her less.” Although I think attitudes have dramatically improved since I began my practice, I also think that some, if not all, women lawyers have acutely sensed that some of our professional actions are viewed by those around us as less favorable than would be true if the same actions were taken by a male attorney. Thus, I found it refreshing when our local Bar created a Section in which to empathize with others who were experiencing similar reactions. Indeed, our early Section events allowed us to step back and discuss the realities of being women working in what was still considered a “man’s world” without fear of laughter or condemnation, and to share our feelings about the natural guilt of not being home with our children (natural, especially since many of us were raised in traditional settings). It was reaffirming to be surrounded by others who had so many work and home-related irons in the fire. A year and a half after the Women Lawyers Section had been created, I was privileged to address the annual meeting of the Birmingham Bar and report on the Section’s activities. Even now, I am amazed at how energetic and active we were, attributable largely to the hard work of many attorneys including the unflappable chair of the Program Committee, Patricia Mandt Prather, who undertook any challenge the Board threw at her and handled it well. In that short year, we (a) created Dine-A-Rounds to facilitate Section members meeting each other over lunch or dinner; (b) sponsored a luncheon attended by more than 100 people and featuring speeches by Nina Miglionico and Ashley Watkins Umbaugh, representing seasoned and newer women attorneys, respectively; (c) organized a wonderful reception at Burr Forman honoring corporate counsel, a joint undertaking of the Section’s Program Committee and the Rainmaking Committee (co-chaired by Anne Moses and Joan Ragsdale); (d) sponsored brown bag rainmaking seminars at which video tapes of the ABA Women Rainmakers’ Interest Group were viewed; (e) organized two cocktails parties sponsored by Wells Fargo (then SouthTrust) Bank and First Commercial Bank; (f) co-sponsored a stress management seminar with the University of Alabama School of Law; (g) conducted a parenting/lawyering seminar to explore issues related to raising children while practicing law; (h) put on an access program to educate women about how best to become involved in bar and organizational leadership; and (i) hosted a seminar and reception addressing and promoting judicial sensitivity to gender bias. In addition, the Projects Committee (cochaired by Ann McMahon and Lisa Borden) organized a reception where various members could speak about local charities with which they were involved. It was at this meeting that the Section began building its long-lasting and supportive relationship with the YWCA. Judy Crittenden, as Chair of the Long Range Planning Committee, helped to create a Law School Liaison Committee co-chaired by Pam Bucy and Gina Miller Crittenden to provide opportunities for female law students to interact with members of the Section. This Committee also sponsored covered dish suppers at the home of Pam Bucy and at a party hosted by Ann Robertson and Judge Caryl Privett. Also, the Mentoring Committee (co-chaired by Carol Stewart and Helen Katherine Downs) worked hard to develop a Women Lawyers Section Mentoring Program. So that all of our members could keep up with all of these activities, a quarterly newsletter was created with Martha Jane Patton at its helm. What I have listed is not a comprehensive summary of what the Section did in its early years, by any means, nor does it recognize all of the women who worked so hard to make it an early success. It does, though, suggest that the BBA Women Lawyers Section was, and it continues to be, an extremely active and contributory Section. Given that 47% of all law degrees in the U.S. were awarded to women in 2011, and that fully 1/3 of all practicing lawyers in the U.S. today are women*, it is as important now as it was back then to provide a framework through which women lawyers can continue their professional development and contribution to our legal community. I am proud to have participated in the creation of a Section that has been so helpful to so many women lawyers over the years, but also one that has added significantly to the collective accomplishments and achievements of the Birmingham Bar Association. I encourage you to join me in some, if not all, of the commemorative events planned this Fall to recognize an important milestone for the BBA Women Lawyers Section. G *”A Current Glance at Women in the Law, July 2014,” American Bar Association Commission on Women in the Profession. 10 Birmingham Bar Association


Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin - Fall 2014
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