Tyson & Mendes held its second internal “Women Supporting Women” event for the firm’s San Diego attorneys and staff on August 29, 2018. The firm gave attendees the opportunity to submit questions anonymously prior to the event in order to collect the points of discussion the women wanted to address during the event.
Beginning a Family
The first discussion was about the best time in a woman’s career to begin a family. Several mothers in attendance agreed there will never seem to be an ideal time to have children. Many women may never feel their careers are in the exact place or feel completely ready to have children. Mothers advised not to wait for the perfect time as it may never come, but to believe in their abilities to work things out when it happens. Everyone agreed they felt lucky to work in a firm with a family-friendly culture with benefits such as paid maternity leave and managing partners supportive of the advancement of working mothers in the legal field.
Combatting the Double Standard
The next topic focused on the double standard female attorneys face in a male-dominated industry. For example, if a male lawyer were to raise his voice during trial, he is often seen by jurors as a strong advocate for his client. On the other hand, a female lawyer may be viewed as overly emotional or aggressive when displaying identical behavior. One attorney shared an incident at the end of a trial in which a juror commented to another juror about the fact she was not wearing pantyhose. Rather than focusing on this attorney’s arguments during the trial, this juror decided the attorney’s choice of hosiery was worth discussion. Another attorney told a story in which the judge assumed she was the court reporter when she arrived for trial. Even in today’s modern society, female attorneys still face sexism. This reinforces the need for women to be champions for each other and to continue the battle for equality. Women cannot accept this double standard and must instead continue to stand up against it.
The group then talked about the challenge of balancing work and personal obligations without sacrificing quality in either area. Everyone agreed it can feel impossible to achieve a true balance. Women often battle with guilt on both ends. They feel guilty when they are not working and they feel guilty if they are working instead of spending time with friends or family.
Part of the solution lies in shifting the focus from achieving work-life balance to finding harmony in the two. By consciously choosing how much time and energy to devote to each responsibility, women are less likely to guilt themselves into over-committing. In addition, attendees cited the importance of planning ahead to take vacation days and breaks. Women need to support each other to help combat this guilt. Rather than “vacation-shaming” ourselves and each other, women should feel encouraged to take vacation days and breaks when needed.
At the conclusion of the event, attendees were challenged to introduce themselves to someone new and send a message of appreciation to another woman in their life. This event served to cultivate support, camaraderie, and solidarity among the women at the firm. Tyson & Mendes’ Women’s Initiative will continue to create opportunities for women at the firm to gather and create a culture of support.