The dice have been rolled and landed. And somehow, inexplicably, Donald Trump has won the election. And it hurts, to my core. And while this site primary focuses on the positive – and everything that is good about parenting, and running, and life- I would not be doing truth justice if I didn’t comment on the other side of the equation. My life and career is, and has been, largely driven by the need to face down the continued inequalities that exist in this nation. And for each of us that do not belong to the historic privileged-class, we’ve just been dealt a devastating blow.
I am a 47-year old female attorney. My path to where I am today has included, but has not been limited to, the following:
· I started to work in my father’s law firm at age 13. By my senior year in high school, I had my sights set on going to law school. On one particularly memorable day, his business partner spent a good amount of time in the presence of others trying to convince me to become a legal secretary or paralegal … because I’m a girl and “will have other obligations” when I “grow up”.
· I was sexually assaulted as a sophomore in college and never reported it. I was saved (?) by the fact that my sorority sisters were in the next room. The next day, the offending boy tried to apologize by blaming his actions on his Spring Break expectations (“I thought I’d get a little action.”)
· In preparation for a national law school Moot Court competition, I was criticized for the color of my nail polish.
· When I began to practice law, women were not allowed to wear pants in court.
· A year into my first job as an attorney, I was debating between staying at the firm and leaving to follow a departing attorney. While I was considering my decision, a (female) partner pulled me aside in confidence and showed me the firm’s salary schedule for attorneys. I was being paid roughly 75% less than a (male) associate one year my junior. The pay differential between female and male attorneys was consistent between the junior-most associates to the senior-most partners. When I questioned firm management they could offer no explanation other than “that’s what they (the men) expect to earn.” I left the firm.
· I did not have paid maternity leave. I was just grateful for a little time off and the ability to return to work part-time.
· I pumped breast milk in a bathroom stall because there was no other option for this working mom.
· My first day in a new firm, male partners in the office next to me were talking not about my legal skills, but about my legs, … overheard by me in the office next door.
· One year later, the same attorney suggested that I buy a lap-dance for my husband at a client’s establishment: a strip club.
· For several years, my law firm’s partner retreats were held at an all-male club. Special permission was needed to allow the female attorneys to attend. While I will admit that it was a beautiful venue, and I still have nothing but goodwill for my former business partners, they do not – and apparently could not – understand that every retreat was a slap in my face and an exercise in restraint on my part not to speak up. But, if you want to play with the Big Boys, well, you learn to look past these things.
I have fought, quietly, for my entire adult life for some semblance of equality, and I thought I finally had found it. I do not dare to equate my life’s story with the struggles of the LGBT community, minority communities, or others who have been discounted, disenfranchised, or discriminated against. But for me, this election is the final straw. It hurts.
As I do, I will find a way to accommodate, to try to find common ground, to work toward a common good. But we, America, have taken a giant step back. And it is personal.
But I haven’t given up. I will run as far and as fast as I can toward equality and progress. And then, my children, I will pass the baton to you. God willing, we will get there.