Women's History Month 2022 Featuring Women Lawyers Association
Women’s history month is an opportunity to celebrate the vital role that women have played in society at large, and in the legal profession in particular. Pepperdine Caruso Law takes this time to celebrate the many women who have left an indelible mark on the law. From Arabella Mansfield in 1869 who was the first woman admitted to legal practice in the United States to Sandra Day O’Connor in 1981, the first woman to serve as a Supreme Court Justice, and all of the powerful women who have come since, women have been leaders for justice.
Mackenna Johnson, a current third-year student, recognizes the important role that women play in the profession. Johnson says that “my greatest joy has been participating in Women Lawyers Association, which has been a safe, supportive, and encouraging environment.”
The burden placed on women in the legal profession remains outsized and there are many opportunities to shift the profession and address disparities in the experiences of women. Johnson reflects on an interview experience where she asked about work/life balance and “my interviewer described how the job requires a manageable 50 hours per week. But for certain people, my interviewer said, those extra hours could become unmanageable, and he cited an example of a new mother who decided to leave her job with the firm because it could not accommodate a lighter schedule.” Rather than losing valuable female talent, Johnson says, the legal profession should create a culture that does not revolve around long hours at the expense of outside obligations.
As Johnson ends her term as Women Lawyers Assocation president, she says that she has “been most proud of being able to use my position to promote intersectionality by inviting diverse women speakers to our events. For our Women's History Month event this year, for example, we will be featuring Judge Samantha Jessner, the first woman of color to be elected as Assistant Presiding Judge of the Los Angeles Superior Courts.” This work is important, Johnson said, because “women remain underrepresented in positions of power within the legal field, despite the fact that law school demographics are often split fairly evenly between men and women. When Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is confirmed, the Supreme Court will have four sitting female Justices for the first time in history. She will be the sixth woman to ever sit on the Supreme Court, out of 115 Justices total. In the lower federal courts, only 35% of judges are women, while far fewer are women of color, and even less self-identify as LGBTQ. In law firms across the country, only 25% of partners are women, and less than 4% are women of color.”
In Johnson’s vision, a legal profession that is supportive of women must be supportive of all who are historically underrepresented in the legal profession. “We have been proud to partner with our friends in OUTLaw on several occasions in order to support LGBTQ students and bring more visibility to an often forgotten organization. I particularly credit my friends Linh Tran and Alina Ahmed for working this year to foster more communication between affinity student organizations through monthly meetings. These meetings have provided a space for students who are historically underrepresented in the legal field to support each other both as individuals and at an organizational level.”
Women Lawyers Association invites the Pepperdine Caruso community to recognize Women’s History Month on Wednesday, March 16. Please register at Women's History Month to hear from Judge Samantha Jessner!