Thoughts on Women’s Equality from a Female Law Firm Founder
Sunday, August 26 was the anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment. Adopted in 1920, the Amendment prohibited federal and state governments from denying the right to vote on the basis of sex. Marking this initial day, we now celebrate Women’s Equality Day.
It’s hard to believe that women still haven’t reached equality in the U.S. across any number of socioeconomic indicators. It’s worse in some places than in others. A WalletHub dataset of 16 key indicators of gender equality from across all 50 states, for example, places Texas, Idaho, and Utah at the bottom of the pack. New York, Minnesota, and Maine, on the other hand, are at the top. Colorful Colorado is sandwiched right in the middle, which is good or bad depending on whether you’re a ‘glass half empty’ or ‘glass half full’ kind of person.
But equality is still an issue for women in this country, whichever state you live in. And that’s the reality of our time. Our only option moving forward is to change this. Here are some thoughts on that, including the actions I take personally and professionally throughout the year to support women and advocate for women’s equality.
Promoting Women’s Equality in the Legal Industry
The legal profession is certainly not immune from the inequality issues that plague women in other industries. A recent article in The Atlantic highlights the kind of bias that female attorneys face in court: gender profiling that doesn’t happen to men, or at the very least happens rarely. I say that from my experience, which is not too far off.
I know how difficult it can be sometimes as a female attorney (especially a criminal defense attorney) and a female leader of a law practice. It’s important for me to give my time and effort to supporting the other women who make up our Colorado (and national) legal profession. I am a proud member of the Colorado Women’s Bar Association. I am also a member of the Larimer County Women’s Bar Association. Fort Collins is near and dear to my heart, and one of my firm’s offices is located in the heart of the city, in Campus West. These bar associations provide continuing education, advocacy, and networking opportunities for female attorneys throughout their geographic areas and the state of Colorado.
On the issue of networking, I’m constantly on the lookout for opportunities to mentor female attorneys. I am a member of a new startup coffee group for female law students at the University of Denver (my alma mater). I am also a long-standing part of the Women Owned Law Firms group in Colorado: the “WOLF Pack” for short. This group has been a foundational network for me over the years. Our quarterly meetings provide ongoing camaraderie and support. And we have also generated a strong referral network across areas of the law – supporting one another professionally and financially.
Supporting Women in the Broader Colorado Community
Serving my Colorado community is one of the core principles that drives me, both personally and professionally, so it’s not just female attorneys that I support. I am dedicated to helping women across Colorado, in whatever way I can. Nicol Gersch Petterson Offices, LLC is proud to be a United Way of Larimer County WomenGive Business. This program was created as an opportunity for women to help other women achieve economic self-sufficiency, and our contributions also support child care scholarships for deserving college-aged single parents.
I also participate in Women’s Inc. – a Northern Colorado female entrepreneurial group. And I am also proud to be starting a new role soon on the board of Homeward Alliance in Fort Collins, to help improve the lives of women (and men) on the streets of Fort Collins.
Advocating for Safe, Harassment-Free Workplaces
I’d be remiss, of course, if I didn’t mention #MeToo in the context of Women’s Equality. The moniker and the movement came onto the scene last fall and immediately went viral. This closely followed the first wave of news regarding allegations of sexual misconduct and assault against Harvey Weinstein.
That was an interesting time for a lot of people who were discovering (often in 160 characters or less) that their friends, their family, and their colleagues had, at one time or another, been victims of sexual misconduct or assault. I certainly learned a lot about my female cohorts and women in my community.
Charges followed the allegations against Weinstein, of course, as did countless other allegations and countless other charges against countless other men in Hollywood, government, education, banking – across industries, really. Just last week, a Colorado State University professor went to trial on sexual harassment charges. We are now presented almost daily with news of this sort, which is both a terrible reminder of the myriad harassment and assault issues that women face, personally and professional, and a promising sign that society is beginning to take these issues seriously.
Let’s create a new tomorrow for our daughters and granddaughters
That we need a Women’s Equality holiday is in and of itself a bit unacceptable. Someday, we won’t need a dedicated day to remind us that women should be treated equally; it will just be so.
Until then, men, women, and children need to rally around the truth that women and men are equal. I’ll certainly keep fighting toward that goal.