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November 7, 2011

ABA Leaders Share Vision for Gender Equality in 2020

ABA President-Elect Laurel Bellows (left) and Chicago lawyer Eileen Letts

ABA President-Elect Laurel Bellows (left) and Chicago lawyer Eileen Letts

The _ is front and center in an effort to make gender equality a national priority.  The initiative, called Vision 2020, is organized by Drexel University College of Medicine’s Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership.  The ABA is one of 46 national allies, representing more than 20 million women and girls.   The movement is hoping to leverage those numbers to accelerate gender equality by the year 2020, the centennial anniversary of women’s suffrage.

“It’s crucial for the _, whose focus is on justice and equality, to be a part of this call to action for national fairness in the area of gender equality and the pay issues that we’re working on here,” said ABA President-Elect Laurel Bellows, who participated in Vision 2020’s Second Annual Congress in Chicago.  “If we step forward and speak loudly and forcefully in favor of equality, as we have been doing, and connect with like-minded organizations, there’s no reason in the world why we can’t achieve gender equity in the very near future.”

Vision 2020’s first goal is to achieve pay equity, so that equal pay for equal work is the norm in America.  Developed by Vision allies, three of the strategies for achieving that goal are:

1)  Create a communications campaign on achieving pay equity;
2)  Build national, forceful coalitions for action; and
3)  Educate women and the public on pay equity issues.

Roberta Liebenberg, past chair, ABA Commission on Women in the Profession

Roberta Liebenberg, past chair, ABA Commission on Women in the Profession

Roberta Liebenberg, former chair of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, and commission Staff Director Veronica Munoz led a breakout session to develop action items for the strategies.  Among the ideas were tactics aimed at heightening awareness of National Equal Pay Day on April 17.

Vision 20/20 allies like the commission acknowledge the hard work ahead. Liebenberg put the challenge of reaching the goal into perspective.  “It is clear that for women to achieve positions of real power and influence in American society, they must achieve economic power,” she noted. “Unfortunately, today, women earn just 77 cents for every dollar paid to a man, and this pay disparity is particularly acute for women of color.”  African American women earn just 64 cents and Hispanic women just 52 cents for every dollar paid to a white man.  Over a lifetime, that pay gap adds up to an average lifetime shortfall of $700,000 for high school graduates; $1.2 million for college graduates; and $2 million for professional school graduates, she said.

Four other goals include increasing the number of women in senior leadership roles; educating employers about the value of policies and practices that enable men and women to share fairly their family responsibilities; educating new generations of girls and boys to respect their differences; and mobilizing women in America to vote, with particular emphasis on a record-setting turnout in 2020.