A Call to Action on International Women’s Day 2023
International Women’s Day (“IWD”) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women as well as a call to action for accelerating women’s equality. IWD has occurred for over a century, with the first IWD gathering taking place in the US on February 28th in 1909. Today it is observed every year on March 8th all around the world. It’s not country, group or organization specific – instead it’s a celebration to encourage everyone to #EmbraceEquity.
This means that the first IWD gathering occurred before women were granted the right to vote in the United States, before female attorneys were admitted to the American Bar Association, and before Sandra Day O’Connor was confirmed to serve as a Justice to the U.S. Supreme Court, just to highlight a few milestones that occurred after recognizing IWD began.
According to the ABA, currently approximately 38% of all attorneys are female. When you look specifically at attorneys practicing immigration law that number jumps up to about 60%. As I reflect on the history surrounding IWD and female attorneys, as well as these recent statistics, I am both encouraged by how much female attorneys have achieved and discouraged by how far we still have left to go to achieve equality.
On average, female attorneys are still earning between 26-30% less than our male counterparts, as seen in AILA’s Marketplace Study and in report after report in the news. In addition to unequal pay, female attorneys consistently identify traditional sexual stereotypes or gender bias or discrimination, sexual harassment and work-life balance as obstacles faced in the pursuit of a successful legal career.
Given these obstacles and others, what can be done to support women and gender equality?
This brings me to my Call to Action: I encourage everyone reading this post to do something on March 8th that shows that you #EmbraceEquity. There are numerous in-person and virtual events that you can participate in, various websites where you can educate yourself on what it means to “Embrace Equity” and support women and gender equality, and/or identify one way that you can affect change in your professional and/or personal life and then take steps to make it happen. On Wednesday, I will be wearing the IWD colors of purple, green and white, as well as watching a documentary about women’s rights that a female friend of mine highly recommended.
AILA also provides resources for its members that may provide encouragement, support, and education. One such resource is its Interest Groups. AILA National has 18 Interest Groups, which are informal affiliations of AILA members who share common interests and backgrounds and who seek a channel for discussion and networking opportunities. These Interest Groups include members who are interested in convening on “practice-oriented” issues, such as law practice management, or small/niche areas of immigration law to discuss legal, policy, and procedural issues arising in a particular practice area. Each of these Interest Groups is experiencing a renaissance, beyond a place to ask practitioner questions, into a place where AILA members who share this common interest can build a community where they communicate openly and respectfully with one another about topics that truly matter to them.
Among the Interest Groups is the Women in Immigration Law Interest Group (“WMIG”). Since September 2022, I have had the pleasure of serving as a Co-leader of WMIG. At WMIG, we strive to build a community among our members where we inspire, encourage and educate each other. We invite anyone who is a woman in immigration law or who represents women in immigration law or who is interested in supporting women in immigration law to join us in this mission because I do believe that together we can #EmbraceEquity.
AILA members wishing to join one or more interest groups can easily access them via the myAILA area of the aila.org website, on the right upper corner! Make sure you are logged in as a member or you will not see the listserv options.