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Women's Role In The Law Over The Past 50 Years And In Today's Society

Christopher A. Lewis on Jan 5, 2017 11:00:00 AM



Balancing the Scales - Feature Documentary Trailer from Sharon Rowen on Vimeo.

Over the past two decades, Attorney/filmmaker Sharon Rowen began interviewing American women lawyers for her debut feature documentary, Balancing the Scales. This insightful documentary features pioneers like Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, civil rights advocate Gloria Allred and other prominent attorneys and judges to younger women starting their career.

Ms. Rowen explores the history of women in law, what has changed in the last 50 years, and what is happening with young women lawyers today. She delves into topics ranging from discrimination to work life balance, what it takes to become a partner in today's firms, and what we need to change for women to break the glass ceiling and really have a seat at the table where society wide decisions are made.


Interviewing women from 5 generations she found that many stated that in law school there was equality but a few years down the path of a women's career bias seemed to set in.

In regards to the boas that she noticed, she found that there was implicit bias in people feeling that:

  • Women are going to leave
  • Women hold the burden of work-life balance - who is supposed to step back in regards to the family

Personal choice that the women had to make on whether to step back or not within their family. In her interviews she found that the women themselves felt that they were the women that needing to step back.

Sharon Rowen was very interested in talking to women lawyers that were pioneers in the field. As the years went on she found that her attention was drawn to generational differences. This led her to look at cultural norms and why it was hard to break free of this.

Progress moves slowly and currently there is some rolling back of gender equality in some parts of society. When she started interviewing in 1994 she found that people said that once men started to retire

In 2009 when she interviewed again and she found that women are not moving in equal numbers in positions. Why was this not happening? She found that there are real barriers in terms of people's attideues to gender equality and roles for women in society. In the last ABA study it was found that 17% were in top positions within law firms. This is not a good number.

This is not just a woman's problem. It is everyone's problem. Both males and females have to advocate for equality. The challenge today is that especially in large law firms if a woman chooses to step back in her career to care for someone in their life and step away from her career that they cannot get on the partner track. There needs to be a larger conversation about why stepping into a caregiver role equaltes to a thought that the person is not committed to the firm.We haveto shift our thinking to show that caregiving is as important as a career.

People in law school do not think about the work life balance aspects of the job. If you can take the time to explore this for yourself, you will better understand what your role is and how you can balance work and life. Women in law school have to think a few years in the future about what they need in the jobs that they may want to take as well as the conversations that they may want to have with significant others.

In the job search young people do have to do research on the firms that they are considering, especially in regards to work-life balance that lawyers within that firm experience.

In general, women have to be smart about the life that they want and what

Some additional Resources include

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Find out more about the Movie and about Sharon Rowen


Did you like this interview? Do you have a question for Sharon Rowen? Leave a comment below to let me know!

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