Earlier this month I attended the Annual Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Distinguished Lecture on Women and the Law event, drawn by the event’s namesake. Justice Ginsburg (a.k.a., the “Notorious RBG”) spoke first, introducing her long-time friend, Brooksley Born, the event’s keynote speaker. While I was admittedly less familiar with Ms. Born, I found her keynote lecture and subsequent Q&A captivating and illuminating.
During the Q&A, one question from the audience suggested a growing divide between women of Ms. Born’s and Justice Ginsburg’s generation (who worked arduously for women’s rights) and those of the millennial generation (who may take those rights for granted). As a millennial, I was happy to hear that Ms. Born was not inclined to accept such a premise. Rather, she offered the perspective that young women do in fact appreciate the many obstacles that women in previous generations had to overcome.
Ms. Born, who graduated as one of seven women of a class of 135 from Stanford Law in 1964, acknowledged that women who graduate from law school today (accounting for nearly half of overall J.D.’s awarded) enter a wildly different profession than she did and are perhaps less acutely aware of the difficulties women have faced in the past striving to achieve their professional goals. However, she believes that despite the differing circumstances of millennial women entering the legal profession today, such women recognize there is still much work to do.
All of us – women in the law across generations – owe it to each other to live up to Ms. Born’s remarks and to support one another in these continued efforts. Ms. Born’s career serves as a model for how this can be accomplished in several ways. Messages from her lecture that resonated with me most include: