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June 8, 2009

Center for Women in Law hosted “Women’s Power Summit on Law and Leadership”

Photo of Justice Sandra Day O'ConnorJustice Sandra Day O’Connor gave the keynote at the Women’s Power Summit on Law and Leadership, an event sponsored by the Center for Women in Law

Photo credit: Amy Simon

The Center for Women in Law recently hosted a remarkable event: the Women’s Power Summit on Law & Leadership. More than 150 women lawyers from around the country gathered in Austin to participate in a conference designed to address the myriad of obstacles facing women today in the legal profession.

Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor gave the keynote address, encouraging participants to strengthen the fight for gender parity in the legal profession. Summit participants assessed the progress that has been made, identified the end goals, and drafted the “Austin Manifesto on Women in Law,” a document which resolves to eliminate the barriers that have thwarted the advancement of women in the legal profession for the past several decades.

“The Summit produced a collaborative, meaningful dialogue that led to a pledge of tangible action,” said the Center’s Executive Director Hannah Brenner. “This Summit created an opportunity to unite around the common goal of removing the impediments to women’s progress in the legal profession. It was also the first time on a national level that such a group of accomplished women leaders in the profession gathered to discuss, establish and commit to a series of specific action-items directed at resolving the issues that persist for women lawyers.”

In adopting the “Austin Manifesto,” Summit participants committed to achieve no less than thirty percent women equity partners, tenured law professors, and general counsel by 2015; to achieve no less than ten percent equity partners who are women of color by 2020; to restructure the compensation systems to reward the full range of contributions by attorneys; and to encourage law schools to include in their curricula leadership and business skills for a wide range of career paths.

Immediately prior to the Summit, leaders and representatives from the principal organizations researching and promoting the advancement of women in the legal profession met to collaborate and leverage their resources to accelerate the pace of change for women lawyers. The discussion focused on performance evaluation bias, leadership development, fair compensation and credit, work design models, retention and the need for additional data.

“The Summit and the gathering of these organizations are two historic firsts,” said Diane Yu, the Summit’s chair and Chief of Staff and Deputy to the President of New York University. “This was a unified, national, coordinated effort that will strengthen our voice, expand our influence and provide momentum for the efforts to ensure that women lawyers attain leadership positions in their respective fields.”

“We took a giant step forward with this Summit, but we recognize there is much more we can do and will do,” said Cathy Lamboley, one of the Center’s founders and retired general counsel for Shell Oil Company. “The attorneys represented at the Summit have achieved great prominence in the legal profession, but study after study shows that women, in general, have far less power, make substantially less money, and have significantly less access to leadership positions, important assignments, mentorship and networking opportunities than their male counterparts. This is unacceptable. Our group is committed to changing the status quo.”

Contact:

Hannah Brenner, The Center for Women in Law, (512) 232-6170, hbrenner@law.utexas.edu

Kirston Fortune, UT Law Communications, (512) 471-7330, kfortune@law.utexas.edu