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Advancing Minority Women in Law: Lessons Learned from the Trailblazers (Thomson Reuters)

Thomson Reuters, August 8, 2018

Advancing Minority Women in Law: Lessons Learned from the Trailblazers

“In June, I had the privilege of attending a program titled “Then & Now: A Look Back at Women Trailblazers & Forward—Has Equality for Women Been Achieved?” hosted by the Historical Society of the New York Courts and the New York City Bar Association’s Women in the Legal Profession Committee. The program was an excellent view into women trailblazers in law in New York State, including everyone from Kate Stoneman, the first woman to pass the New York Bar Exam in 1885, to the Honorable Jane Bolin, the first African-American woman to be appointed as a judge in New York State in 1939, to Christine Beshar, the first woman to be made partner at the law firm, Cravath, Swaine & Moore in 1971.

These stories were inspirational in spotlighting the strides that women have made in law, but the program also shed light on how much work there is to be done, and even more so for minority women lawyers.

The New York City Bar Association’s 2016 Diversity Benchmarking Report highlights this issue by providing some alarming survey results:

  • Nearly half of the City Bar’s signatory firms have no racial or ethnic minorities on their management committees and more than one-third have no minority practice group head.
  • Voluntary attrition continues to disproportionately impact minority attorneys with 15.6% of minorities leaving the signatory firms in 2016 — almost 50% above the rate of 10.6% for white men.
  • While 28% of associates are racial/ethnic minorities, just 9% of partners are.”

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