Association for Women Lawyers Letter From the President

It has been an honor to serve as AWL’s President. I am inspired every day by the women of this organization. They are strong, smart, passionate, committed, and they seem to do it all. Tricia Scaglia will take over as President in 2018. She is one of those women. She is a fantastic leader and I am truly excited to see what she brings to this position.

The year 2017 was a year that women will never forget. I daresay it was a year that the world will never forget. I have heard the events of this year described as “a reckoning,” a “cultural shift,” and a “revolution,” the likes of which have not been seen since the Civil Rights Movement. On January 21, 2017, millions of people all over the world marched in protest of inequality. This was the largest worldwide coordinated protest in history. These people came together in a historic display of unity to protest the discrimination, degradation and marginalization suffered by women for decades. Merriam‐Webster’s word of the year for 2017 is “feminism.” Time Magazine’s Person of the Year was the “Silence Breakers.” These are the courageous women who told their story of sexual abuse or harassment in the hopes that they would finally be heard. When I look back on this year, I am very sad about the stories of pain and injustice. But, I am also filled with hope and encouraged by the strength of those that opened our eyes. We are inspired. We are angry. We are galvanized. And now that the world is finally listening, we can do something about it.
We are in the middle of a collective identity crisis that I believe will result in a long over‐due cultural and societal shift in the way women are viewed, heard, and treated in the workplace. These stories have spurred a dialogue among men and women that has never before taken place.

A lot of changes need to be made; from how we raise our sons and daughters to how we see ourselves as women and the role of men in our lives. This is a long discussion and the resolution will not take place overnight. In short, we need more women in positions of power and influence. Not just in the name of “gender equality,” but to eliminate the economic disparity that perpetuates the uneven power dynamic between men and women. Most, if not all, of the women that have come forward to tell their stories of sexual harassment or abuse identified themselves as victims but felt that they must suffer in silence because the men that they would be telling on were very powerful men  ‐ they made more money, they made more important decisions, had incredible influence and they could ruin these women’s lives.

It’s happening. Now is the time. To the women reading this, it is time to take that risk. Run for office. Take the job. Try that case you’re afraid of losing. Take the promotion. Take a seat at the table. Put yourself out there. Be heard. Do it. We need it. We need women running companies and law firms. We need women in the boardroom and our clients need women representing them in courtrooms. Perhaps some of these stories would not have needed telling and the consequential pay‐offs wouldn’t have silenced so many if a woman had been in the room when these decisions were being made.

She Should Run is a non‐partisan 501(c)3 with a mission of increasing the number of women in politics. It has a goal of 250,000 women running for office by 2030. More women than ever are seeking political office according to Axios. I hope the shift that is happening in politics transcends the law and our profession.

AWL has many powerful women to celebrate this year. Jalilah Otto was appointed as a Jackson County Circuit Judge. Phyllis Norman won a seat on the 16th Circuit Judicial Commission. Kate Noland won a runoff election for her seat on the 7th Circuit Judicial Commission. Nikki Cannezzaro is the incoming KCMBA President. AWL proudly supports these women. But we need more like them. Women are still underrepresented in top positions in law firms, on the bench, on boards, and as trial lawyers.

In 2018, we will be launching a new initiative in partnership with the Women’s Foundation to (1) help get more women appointed to civic boards and commissions; and (2) help get women into positions of power, whether it be first chairing jury trials or obtaining positions on for‐profit boards or law firm compensation committees.

One part of this initiative is our collaboration with the Women’s Foundation’s Appointments Project™ which is designed to increase the number of women serving on civic boards and commissions in both Missouri and Kansas. This is a unique opportunity to elevate the women in our organization who are ready and willing to serve the public. The Appointments Project™ aims to increase the diversity of boards and commissions and improve public policy outcomes. We will have more information on how to apply in the coming weeks.

We will be calling on the great women and men of this profession to help implement this ambitious collaboration. I’m hopeful that it will change the landscape for our legal community, this organization, and the women that it serves.

Here’s to continuing the conversation.  We have a lot more to discuss and a lot of work to do.