Live Blog: 2011 Conference

Welcome to the Women’s Law Association Live Blog! We’ll be posting details about all the events from our conference as they happen. These live blog entries are also being broadcast on Twitter so be sure to follow us there as well.

Updates automatically. No need to refresh the page!


And a couple last pictures of our Girl Scout guests!


One final thanks to Kirkland & Ellis for all their support putting on the conference!


What a way to end this panel! Some closing remarks from Connie Lindsey to get us inspired to take action:

“You’re here. You have it. There is critical mass in this room… and I don’t want to be here in 10 years, asking the same questions. … I’m here because I’m depending on you to do the work. One is powerful, but 1,000 is a movement.”


On the “girl effect” — how improving the lives of women and girls can affect policy in every area:

Connie Lindsey: Keeping an open dialogue with lawmakers is really crucial to making sure that our issues and concerns are heard.

Louise Melling: There are so many ways in which girls and women are invisible in society today, and any step you can take to promote girls’ issues is huge.

Tamara Kreinin: We have a “huge data challenge” in evaluating how women are being cared for. But here’s something worth knowing: Two cents in every dollar goes to girls.


Great question about child marriage from one of our visiting Girl Scouts! Thrilled to have them participating. Tamara is describing the situation many young girls face in getting married off against their will — and how some of them are finding ways to take action and educate themselves.


Ann Wilkinson: “We have to do the hard stuff” to help girls get on paths that are going to change their lives. That means listening, hearing their stories, and making sure young women know they have someone in their lives who cares.


(Blogger note: I was just called out for this being really cheesy, but let’s be honest: It’s pretty incredible.)


Louise Melling just described some of the cases where the ACLU has taken action on behalf of young women who have taken strong stands for themselves and challenged the status quo. The message: “Be yourselves. Be assertive. Blaze your trail.”

Now, we’re hearing from Tamara Kreinin about stories from around the world where girls have taken matters into their own hands to change their lives — and the UN has been there, listening and in touch with what the girls want, to make change happen.


Connie Lindsey, invoking Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on why women need to be powerful advocates for change and for each other: “The ‘creatively maladjusted’ are the individuals who are willing to ask why… and do something.”


A quick look at our panelists:


Connie Lindsey: “When we change a girl, we change the world.” Moving forward for women comes through advocacy, legal and cultural.

Tamara Kreinin: We have to think beyond just passing a law, because that won’t get to the root of the issues. “We all have to be vigilant, and we all have to be advocates.” Importance of passing laws and budgets that are good for women globally.

Ann Wilkinson: Some really critical legislation on the table right now — Mass. Safe Harbor, trying to help remove trafficked girls from the criminal system and get them specialized care.


Louise Melling: “When it comes to women’s rights, the base of law is good.” So why are women so disproportionately represented in the workplace? There are remarkable cultural challenges women face, and it’s critical that women choose paths that change that expectation.


Cultural influences that work against girls? (all paraphrased!)

Connie Lindsey: The media certainly affects girls. Working with GS to make good decisions about social media, self image, and caring about what’s inside most. GS as a safe place with a “circle of friends.” Fighting back against an exploitative

Tamara Kreinin: recent TIME piece shows the positive impact media can have on reaching young women and girls. (Blogger note: Check out Girl Up — incredible.) Ex. of program’s work in Ethiopia, creating a well-rounded approach to engaging community members in bettering society for women and girls, fighting against child marriage. “We’ve seen a way to change a culture from within.”

Ann Wilkinson: Talking with girls in My Life My Choice to “realize the power that they have, the gifts that they have, the abilities that they have.” Looking critically at the music and influences girls are getting and making sure girls have positive models. What’s reality? Not a lot of the messages young girls are getting.

Louise Melling: There are great ways to use the media to your benefit. ACLU has done some work going after gender stereotypes, issues of schools divided into separate sexes, teens who are balancing school and parenting.


Panelist Ann Williams on sex trafficking: “It’s very real, and it’s right here, and it’s right in our neighborhoods.”


Incredible stat on young women:

Investing in girls and women is just effective; they give 90% back to their communities — to the 30-40% for boys. Hard not to be swayed by that.


These women really cover the globe, affecting the lives of girls across the country (Girl Scouts!) and around the world (UN!).


Here’s a quick overview of our panelists: Louise Melling, Director of the Center for Liberty, American Civil Liberties Union; Connie Lindsey, Girl Scouts of America; Tamara Kreinin, Executive Director, Women and Population at the United Nations Foundation; Ann Wilkinson, My Life My Choice.


And we’re kicking off our final panel, beginning with a big question: What are the unique challenges facing girls today?


Big welcome to the Girl Scouts who have joined us!


Here are a few pics of attendees and panelists at the conference today. We’re taking a quick break before starting our final panel Equality for Girls.


What a great panel! Final panel starting in 5 minutes.


In response to a question of gender inequality in law school classrooms, Dale Cendali tells us that women need to be more confident and more assertive – raise your hand more! Just do it!


Legal cases/issues to watch for:

Judge Pooler: Title VII cases – always very tough cases and not an easy solution; have been hostile decisions on issues of proof

Catherine Lhamon: school harassment suits based on sexual orientation – case about gender roles for clients

Lisa Blatt: watch Prop 8 and DOMA; in multiple issues, war between congress and the courts


Lisa Blatt wishes women would insist more on going part time and that supervisors would be more open to that. Lisa demands it! Judge Batts makes paternity leave a priority in her chambers.


Judge Pooler: we need a critical mass of women in law firms to make a change.


Judge Batts advises us to go anywhere where we can get a toehold – and go there and make a change.


Catherine Lhamon also wants to “put in the plug” for women to go into civil rights work as well!


Lisa Blatt sees the need for more women in the private sector – representing the big corporations – as opposed to governments and public defenders.


Catherine Lhamon: Has benefitted from better diversity but still true that people don’t expect as much from us women. We must keep doing better – and must be aware of what’s going on – use it as the “fire under our feet.”

Judge Pooler: Sometimes have a panel of all women on the Second Circuit – “soul stirring.”


From the Bench


Question: What instances of gender discrimination do you most notice in the courtroom?

Judge Batts: Have the women associates – who know everything – stand up and talk!

Lisa Blatt: Women arguing in Supreme Court are not from private firms – problem is just getting there – once you’re there, you can do it!

Dale Cendali: Started her career, usually the only woman in the courtroom – now it’s better, but not fixed. It makes a difference to have women in the room.


Panelists from Equality and the BenchA quick shot of our panelists!


Third panel is being moderated by Professor Martha Field. Panelists include Honorable Deborah Batts, Southern District of New York; Lisa Blatt, Partner at Arnold & Porter; Dale Cendali, Partner at Kirkland & Ellis; Catherine Lhamon, Director of Impact Litigation at the Public Counsel Law Center; and Honorable Rosemary Pooler, Second Circuit, US Federal Appeals Court – what an impressive panel!


Thanks again to Kirkland & Ellis for our delicious lunch!


Equality on Both Sides of the Bench panel is about to start!


Breaking for lunch — back this afternoon for our session on Equality on Both Sides of the Bench.


Q: So much of what we’ve discussed would require a profound change in culture. Can you tell us about spaces in your office for collaboration/how you see these changes happening?

A: “The changes that need to happen just can’t happen from Washington.” Important to get experts in the field, community members, on- and off-campus voices in the mix.


Question: How do you measure climate change after incidents of sexual offenses?

Answer (paraphrased in a much less eloquent way!): Surveys are crucial. And, on campuses where there have been multiple offenses, you can feel it. “It’s palpable.” And the best way to get at those tangible and intangible reactions to these events is to be there, on campus, for monitoring. Also critical to get campus leadership on board with making sure safety measures are in place. Women need to know where they should report these instances and feel comfortable doing so.


Time for questions!


In closing: “I can think of no other goal…that is more noble…than the real preservation of opportunity and the fundamentals of equality.” And a reminder of where we have to go: “While we have come an incredibly far way… we have a very long way to go.”


When it comes to the nitty gritty of changing the lives of young American women, Asst. Sec. Ali is very much on the front lines. It’s hard not to be inspired and fired up while hearing from her.


On the issue of sexual violence on college campuses: “We have a crisis in this country that we are working hard to resolve. If students do not feel safe on campus, they cannot learn.”


Myth about Title IX: It did not lead to a reduction in men playing sports; in fact, men’s access to sports increased during that time… And Title IX increased the number of women participating, which seems like an all-around benefit to our nation’s youth.


Priority for fighting discrimination: access to courses girls need to succeed in global economy (particularly computer science).


A key part of what we face in fighting discrimination is that “discrimination looks very differently than it looked 40 years ago.” But intentional discrimination is there all the same.


Asst. Sec Ali on Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s message: “Education is the civil rights issue of our generation.”


“Title IX has 36 words. Yet it has been largely responsible for the success of the civil rights movement… We as a nation can fulfill the promises we make.”


Dean Minow on Assistant Secretary Ali: “She has the chops.” From her work on the front lines as a teacher to her current position at the Department of Education, our keynote speaker truly has spent a career making change in the lives of Americans.


We’re gearing up for our keynote address from Russlynn Ali, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education. HLS Dean Minow is doing her introduction now.


Advice for us in the room! Arcelia tells us to honor the women who came before us, foster who we are and nurture those who will come after us. Nancy wants us to figure out ways “that are more front and center to the doing” in order to make a difference – but also tells us that we can make a difference wherever we are – even if that is as a junior associate at a firm. Cassandra tells us to embrace the notion that “we can do anything” – because we can. Vickie wants us to have a role in our community – even though it requires work and “less sleep often” – but we can do it wherever we sit.


“Use your voice and use it loudly and often.” Words from Vickie Reznik for us at Harvard – and all women. She sees women not speaking up enough and not using their voices enough or effectively. How do we stop that from continuing?


Arcelia Hurtado thinks we need to focus on comprehensive immigrant reform. Immigrant women are often viewed as “dispensable” and are abused and disrespected and harassed. We need to focus on and fix this. She also encourages us to not buy into the tension of work/life compromise. We need to demand affordable child care and demand flexible work schedules. (Garnering applause from the audience!)


“Education is the key” according to Nancy Barry. She also comments that we all need to think about and “know what your theory of change is.” Nancy’s theory is the need to have leaders and winners. Through education, we can build these leaders – women leaders – and get somewhere. Nancy also encourages all of us law students to think about NOT going to firms…


Biggest and most pressing economic issues facing women today? Cassandra Butts mentions the legal challenge of removing barriers to economic participation and mentioned the example of Lesotho – wherein women used to assume the status of children upon marriage. After changing this legal category, women had much more access to opportunities in that country, very much improving their daily lives. She also mentions the importance of having access to education – same as men and boys.


Cassandra Butts, Senior Advisor for Millennium Challenge Corporation, a federal government agency engaging in foreign assistance. Cassandra Butts focuses on gender equality within MCC – gender inequality as barrier to development, economic growth, and poverty reduction. Came to MCC in order to try to get at the “root causes that put people in the position where they have to be refugee seekers” – that led her to economic development.


Arcelia Hurtado, Executive Director of Equal Rights Advocates. Moved from being an attorney for women on death row to Equal Rights Advocates in order to be a more “pro-active advocate.” Equal Rights Advocates is one of the oldest women’s rights groups in the country and is currently most well-known for the Wal-Mart case – a case that really is “Betty v. Goliath.” ERA also does a lot of work around Title IX and sex harassment.


Vickie Reznik, partner at Kirkland & Ellis, trial lawyer. Passion for being a trial lawyer came from her childhood, being the daughter of immigrant parents and being given the role of “being the voice for my parents.” Trial lawyer allows her to be an advocate for her client and tell her client’s story. Stresses the importance of pro bono work within firms – she does a lot of women, civil rights and immigrant pro bono work.


Panelists are introducing themselves. Nancy Barry, President of Enterprise Solutions to Poverty, discussing the building of financial systems and microfinance for women – how to give women access. Tackling how to engage poor people in producing, selling, purchasing for profit.


Christina Knowles from Mass NOW is the moderator for our E&E panel and is starting the discussion by talking about the wage gap. Some startling facts include that women professional school graduates will lose close to million through the existing wage gap.


About to start the Equality & Economics Panel! Panelists include Nancy Barry, Cassandra Butts, Arcelia Hurtado and Vickie Reznik. Stay tuned!


Such a great way to close our first panel! Sarah Buel on her work to improve women’s access to care: “I’m just getting started.”


These women have covered a lot of ground in 90 minutes — reproductive services, recent and pending legislation related to women’s health, care for women in the criminal justice system, insurance coverage, balancing home and family life.


Interested in health law and not sure what to study? According to panelist Jill Morrison, there’s no obvious path: “Everything. Everything is useful is you’re actually using the law creatively.” While working to ensure access to reproductive services for women patients in her first job, what did Morrison research? Anti-trust.


Quick recap on the H&E panel, since our live blog wasn’t up and running when we started (but is now!). Our panelists come from a variety of backgrounds and are all working at some intersection of law and women’s health care. Their experiences are incredibly diverse — from experiencing domestic violence first-hand to growing up in a feminist household where women’s rights issues were conversation at the dinner table. But despite their different backgrounds, these women all have one thing in common: a remarkable commitment to improving women’s access to essential care.


Love this from panelist Sarah Buel about helping low-income women get access to care: “There’s always something we can do to tackle this.”


We’ll be starting to live blog at 10:30am EST. Looking for the schedule of today’s events? Look no further. Here it is!


Preparing the live blog, stay tuned!

Leave a Reply