Thursday, March 7, 2013

Paying Attention to Young Women - Part I

I've been doing a lot of that of late.  I've been taking note of the fact that the young(er) women I know are rather extraordinary.
When I was a very young woman, there wasn't a lot of support for the kind of woman I was trying to become.  Just last night, I was telling my almost-law-school graduate son about the same year in my own life.  While my law school class was 25% women, enough of a critical mass that we didn't really notice our small numbers in contrast to the men, we stepped into a world in which only 4% of attorneys were women.  My grandfather laughed throughout my three years of post-graduate education at the idea of "lady lawyers" (his youngest son, my uncle, is a brilliant and prominent trial lawyer, and personified my grandfather's definition of "lawyer") ~ until I came home with my certificate of membership in the Bar of the State of Ohio, after which he made a sudden change of course and began to introduce me as "my granddaughter, the attorney."
Not all men were my grandfather, however. ~ although some of them drew closer.  A male senior attorney in the corporate law department where I worked for a couple of years used to tease the women lawyers mercilessly.  And then his daughter went to law school, and started her first summer job, and one day he said to a couple of us, "I owe you women an apology.  I can't believe some of the things the men partners at my daughter's firm say to her!"  "Oh, really?" we asked. 
To be fair, I can't say that I was the boldest of young lawyers.  I was often cowed by the sense of authority exhibited by those around me, and I struggled to find my place and voice as a lawyer.  I wore beautiful silk blouses rather than the then-standard white shirts and floppy bow ties that many women adopted, and I gradually found my way away from the corporate world and into the realm of representing both adults and children in family and juvenile matters ~~ but it was difficult, via both appearance and clientele, to stake out my own authentic place in a world in which dark gray suits and corporate clients represented the pinnacle of achievement.
There are so many stories . . .    .  Ask me sometime about the front and back doors to the local men's club.  Never mind.  You don't want to know.
Today, I see that young women don't seem nearly as burdened either expectations based on gender or by expectations at all.   You know, you might critique the baby boomers for many things, and justifiably so.  But we must have done a few things right because, let me tell you: our DAUGHTERS!!!! 
Tomorrow, or later today, some links.

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