DAYL President’s Page

Not One Inch

March 2019

In November, an incredible moment in DAYL’s long history finally arrived: our members elected ten fantastic women to all ten of the DAYL’s at-large board positions for the first time.  These ten women– our leaders and our friends– made history, as DAYL has never had an all-women board. While DAYL has been a positive place for women for years, with countless women leaders distinguishing themselves in service to DAYL, our election result was the latest evidence of the hard work of many past women lawyers and DAYL leaders to make DAYL more open, welcoming, and supportive of all young lawyers in Dallas, including women lawyers.

In 1985, forty five years after its founding, DAYL elected its first female president, US District Chief Judge Barbara Lynn. Our progress has continued and culminated with our 2018 President, Jennifer Larson Ryback.  Jennifer’s leadership advocating for progress for our female colleagues has inspired a new generation of women leadership.  Her Continuing the Conversation series brought new attention to the issues and obstacles women face in our industry. DAYL’s continued partnership with the Dallas Women Lawyers Association to administer the Women’s Mentoring Circles program also helped provide women lawyers with mentorship and greater resources to overcome these obstacles.

This effort is worth our continued struggle.   Put simply, women are not enjoying the success they deserve in private practice, or in the legal industry generally.  The ABA Commission on Women in the Profession explained a year ago that while 48.7% of summer associates are women, only 19% of equity partners nationwide are women.  While women were over half of all law school enrollees in 2016 and 2017, only 32% of law school administration deans are women.  Even worse, women lawyers continue to face indignity in their pay, receiving only 77.6% of the average male lawyer’s weekly salary in 2016.  Women occupy only 26% of Fortune 500 general counsel positions, 34% of Federal District Court judge positions, and 37% of Circuit Court of Appeals justice positions.

So, do we press forward with the progress DAYL is already trailblazing, or do we sit tight, content with our #ladyboard (our board’s self-anointed nickname!) as sufficient evidence of progress?  I’ve appreciated some of our members approaching our board recently with concerns that DAYL has become too focused on the success of our women members, perhaps to the detriment of other groups and demographics in DAYL.  But that perception does not mean we should stop this momentum now.  Women are still battling to enjoy the same success and opportunity in our profession that their male counterparts enjoy.  As an organization whose charter mandates that we seek to improve the lives of all young lawyers, efforts to assist women lawyers are easily justified.

DAYL is, without equivocation, open to everyone, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, race, or sexual orientation and identity.  We seek to address the needs of all of our members, and to achieve greater justice and equality, at every turn.  Even still, we have more work to do to make minority lawyers feel more welcome and included, despite decades of hard work in this regard.

But we face an important chapter for our women lawyer colleagues– our recent success could be stalled or lost if we decide we have done enough, or if we decide that our #ladyboard means these problems have been solved.  The simple truth is that more work remains.  Until female lawyer attrition in law firms’ equity partner ranks subsides, women have equal representation in the judiciary and in private practice, and women are paid equally, dollar-for-dollar, with their male colleagues, DAYL has reason to act and attempt to address these issues as we can.  We must not step back from our progress.  Not one inch.

If you are interested, please contact me or our Executive Director, Cherie Harris, about ways you can help.  Our Women’s Mentoring Circles committee, Lawyers Promoting Diversity committee, Moms in Law special interest group, and our board are hard at work to make DAYL even more open, welcoming, and supportive of every young lawyer in Dallas, including our esteemed women colleagues.  There is no better time than now, as March 2019 is Women’s History Month.  Join us!