A lesson not taught well enough
Am late. The room is filled with female trial attorneys. We call ourselves WOW (Women of WSAJ). Am here to show moral support. Move to the rear of the room, grabbing a cluster of red grapes along the way. Take off puffy coat. Stand and listen.
About ten minutes later my phone rings. Go to silence it but see it is Cristina. Are you still in a meeting she says. I whisper yes. She promises to call later. Put it on silence. Another ten minutes pass. I see someone on the other side of the glass door. Break into huge smile. It is Cristina. She's surprised me by coming home from college (spring break) a day early.
I wave her back. She listens to the women talking. Frustrations. Worries. The older ones providing reassurance. Women are now at parity in terms of law school admissions. But they comprise just 20 percent of the plaintiff's trial lawyer bar.
Several talk about being mistaken for the court reporter. (Have stopped counting how many times this has happened to me). The advice is to dress professionally and self identify to head off any confusion. I look down at my boots. Was in a deposition this morning. Am wearing a long sleeve gray sweater and Joe Jeans with a hole ripped just under the right front pocket.
As we leave and walk outside, Cristina says, she can't relate at all. She doesn't believe that female trial lawyers are treated any differently than the men. She says: you never had a problem being taken seriously or being treated differently. They need to buck up.
It feels like a punch to my stomach. How can she think this. And then I realize, it is because of me.
Once over lunch a friend was urging me to become more visible in the Asian bar association. I responded: first things first - I haven't broken the news to my law partners yet that I'm a woman.
I've always wanted to be judged on my own merit as a human being. Have always taught my girls they have the power to be all that they can be. Without artificial limitations imposed by others. To stand up for their rights. And stand down bullies.
But now I wonder. By modeling and speaking the language of equality throughout their lives, have I sheltered them too much from reality.