Lauren Rikleen Receiving an Award

The Following Blog Appeared in Forbes Woman - Progress of the Women’s Power Summit on Law and Leadership

April 27, 2011

This post was written by Lauren Stiller Rikleen, president of the Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership.  For the full link to the She Negotiates Blog posting, click here

Two years ago, 150 of the country’s leading women lawyers gathered in Austin, Texas, to participate in the Women’s Power Summit on Law and Leadership. Brought together by the newly-launched Center for Women in Law at the University of Texas School of Law, the Summit attendees shared a common spirit of activism to develop a blueprint for achieving parity in the legal profession.

The work of the Summit was briefly interrupted by the sudden – some opined, provident – announcement that Justice Souter planned to resign from the Supreme Court. At the time, Ruth Bader Ginsberg was the lone woman on the nation’s highest court. The attendees immediately and unanimously passed a Resolution urging President Obama to appoint a woman.

By the conclusion of the Summit, the attendees issued the Austin Manifesto, a document which set forth a clear set of goals that each sector of the legal profession should meet “to eliminate the barriers that have thwarted the advancement of women in the legal profession for the past several decades, and thereby enhance the profession’s ability to serve an increasingly diverse and globally connected society.”

One component of the Manifesto included a pledge by the participants to identify goals and timetables that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and trackable. The group committed to achieve a minimum of 30% women equity partners, tenured law professors and general counsel by 2015; and to achieve no less than 10% equity partners who are women of color by 2020.

Energized by their ability to bring diverse voices together around a common purpose, the attendees left the Summit with a renewed commitment to improving opportunities for women lawyers.

This week, the Center for Women in Law is once again bringing many of the nation’s leading women lawyers under its auspices for its second Women’s Power Summit on Law and Leadership. But as they gather, the excitement generated by the first Summit is tempered by the sobering statistics that reflect the status of women lawyers today. The data shows little progress around a number of key metrics. Women have made few gains in achieving key leadership roles and the compensation gap remains wide across all sectors of the profession.

Not long after the first Summit, Justice Souter’s resignation was followed by the resignation of Justice Stevens. President Obama appointed brilliant and highly-respected women to both vacancies. Important progress, to be sure. But power and parity remain elusive in the echelons of our law firms, law schools, and corporate law departments.

The Center’s focus for this Summit is power: how we get it, how we use it, and how we can keep it. The next installment of this Blog will share insights from the speakers.

The women gathered in Austin are dedicated to nothing less than a profession that lives up to its ideals. More than 150 women are bringing their energy, insights, and their own power to ensure that we keep the promise of the Austin Manifesto.