I stumbled across this interesting New York Times Op-Ed today. It’s a quick read, but packs a big punch.
In the article, retired New York Federal District judge, Shira Sheindin, highlights the disparity in female attorneys who play a prominent role in the courtroom compared to their male counterparts, regardless of who has actually completed most of the grunt work behind the scenes. Sheindin notes that time and time again from the bench she witnessed the same scene unfold: a female attorney would queue up a case or argument (oftentimes authoring the brief or motion in its entirety) only to have her male counterpart make the entire presentation before the judge.
Sheindin calls on judges to initiate change in the courtroom, pointing out that judges tend to be more diverse than the lawyers arguing before them. She suggests that judges might begin to spark change in the courtroom simply by requesting the actual author of the motion or brief to argue it. On the client side, Sheindin suggests that clients have the power to request diverse legal teams, and should avail themselves of that ability.
It’s no big secret that change needs to happen, not just in the legal profession, but across the board. Yes, it’s incumbent upon us Law Babes to speak up on our own behalves. Yet, this is more often than not far easier said than done. I’ve been in so many meetings where a senior partner (read: a middle aged white male), has interrupted me, spoken above me, or just entirely presented my portion on his own accord. It has made think, “oh… I must not be good enough at presenting.” No. False. Not true. Generally, I don’t believe this sort of treatment is intentional, but this is the quiet discrimination that needs to stop. Of course, the buck starts with us, Law Babes, but perhaps inviting the referees to level the playing field is a great next step.
What do you think? Have you ever been in a setting where you have felt either intentionally or unintentionally “silenced” by a male counterpart? How did it make you feel?
Stay Smart, Law Babe!