professional women in a conference room

By Michelle Browning Coughlin, Of Counsel, ND Galli Law

Last month, I had the opportunity to attend my first in-person business meeting of the American Bar Association (“ABA”) Commission on Women in the Profession (“CWP”), held in Chicago.  Founded in 1987, the CWP’s mission is “to secure full and equal participation of women in the ABA, the profession and the justice system.” Each year, the ABA President appoints twelve lawyers from North America to serve on the CWP, so when I received my letter informing me I had been appointed in June 2020, I was extremely honored.  More importantly, I was excited to roll up my sleeves and work with my fellow Commissioners who are also passionate about issues of gender equity.

Of course, the world was still in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in June of 2020, so we all prepared to do our work virtually.  Little did I realize that I would spend two full years of working on the CWP before ever having the opportunity to actually meet the other Commissioners in person.  By the time we met in person last month for a dinner and a business meeting the following morning, it felt like meeting up with dear friends. 

During the past two years, we have worked diligently to build upon the decades of research and projects developed by the CWP.  Initiatives of the CWP include Guided Conversations, Women of Color Research Initiative, Men in the Mix, and Achieving Long-Term Careers for Women in the Law, among others.  The CWP has authored numerous research studies and developed corresponding toolkits including “Walking Out the Door,” “Left Out and Left Behind,” and “How Unappealing: An Empirical Analysis of the Gender Gap Among Appellate Attorneys.” 

In my work on the CWP, I helped plan and served as a panelist on a webinar on Motherhood and Caregiving Bias in the Legal Profession, and also helped plan a series called The Financial Future is Female where I had the opportunity to moderate a panel on the financial impact of caregiving. Through MothersEsquire, a nonprofit organization and online community I founded in 2013, I helped to draft an ABA Resolution on urging bar admissions authorities, law schools, bar associations, and legal employers to adopt clear and uniform policies allowing for accommodations for lactating individuals. 

And, in my upcoming third year as a Commissioner, I am co-chairing a new research project that I am very passionate about: The Parenthood and Child Caregiver Study.  This study will assess the prevalence and impact of caregiver bias and the motherhood penalty on the advancement and retention of women lawyers. In November 2022, an invitation-only Summit will be held to discuss the initial research findings and gather attendees’ feedback before the publication of the full research report. The key outcome will include systemic solutions to addressing the biases so often faced by those in caregiving roles, and the disproportionate bias often faced by mothers.

In this past month, all of the lawyers at ND Galli Law have seen milestones as parents ourselves. Nicole and Chuck’s oldest child graduated from high school and will be off to college in the fall. Of Counsel Scott Kislin’s oldest child is a rising senior in high school, as is my oldest; both of our families have been busy with college tours. We all know the joys and challenges of being parents while also working as lawyers, a profession that is well-known for its very high demands on your time. The opportunity for me to both serve on the CWP and to co-chair the Parenthood and Child Caregiver study is extremely important to me both professionally and personally. I am grateful to work at a firm and with colleagues who understand and support my goals in pursuing my passion for gender equity and ending the motherhood penalty, and I am very honored to be part of the critical ongoing work of the Commission.

News from the ABA’s Commission on Women in the Profession
Tagged on: