New York Women's Bar Association, 132 East 43rd Street, #716, The Chrysler Building, New York, NY, 10017-4019
Message from the President
Spring 2006

It is spring as I write this, and the days grow longer, the sun sets later and, although each day only has 24 hours, it feels as if we have more time. Often, it feels as if we ought to be doing more. Instinctively I think to myself, “How much more can we do?”

I was privileged this year to attend the 20 Annual Meeting of the NYS Judicial Committee on th Women in the Courts. The theme this year was the economic realities that women face today. One speaker was Heidi Hartmann, the President of the Institute of Women’s Policy Research, which she described as a “think tank” on women’s issues. She presented a summary of a 2004 report which she co-authored with Stephen Rose, formerly of Educational Testing Services, Inc. The report is available at: Their aim in undertaking the study was to analyze gender differences in earnings, hours of work, occupations, and family status.

She mentioned that the “standard” full-time work week for purposes of their research was 1,766 hours; that is, 50 weeks of 35 hours each. I don’t know about you, but the last time I worked 35 hours a week was a summer job in college. As a young associate on Wall Street 25 years ago, I was told that if I wanted to make partner, I ought to be billing -- not working, billing -- at least 2200 hours a year. During two memorable years, I billed 2400 and 2500 hours. And that was back in the 1980s. That kind of time commitment precludes one from doing much more than working. The IWPR study disputes the common assumption -- based upon measures of a single year at a time -- that women are narrowing the earnings gap with men. Not surprisingly, the study’s conclusion was horrifying. From a purely economic viewpoint, marriage and children are not a good deal for the average woman.

The IWPR study looked at 15 years of data, and concluded that the earnings gap is 62 cents per dollar, up from 59 cents per dollar forty years ago, because the average woman earned $273,592 over that period, while the average man earned $722,693. This discrepancy exists no matter the number of hours worked, or the number of years of earnings, or the level of education or experience, although education does make more of a difference than it once did.

And why such a discrepancy? Compared with men, women are more likely to work part-time (and we know that “part time” in a law firm means 35 billable hours a week), and are more likely to have time out of the labor force, for child and elder-care duties. In addition, we still have “women’s jobs” in the labor market, notwithstanding that the want ads no longer specify jobs by gender as they used to. And those women’s jobs -- secretaries and sales clerks -- are frequently jobs where there are no unions or civil service regulations, as compared to the men’s jobs -- firefighter, police officer, factory worker. Finally, women who lose their husbands -through divorce or death -- never catch up to where they would have been if they had stayed married or worked full time themselves; in retirement years, 20 percent of women live at the poverty level. What does your pension look like today?

Beyond the financial penalties, the report concludes that the gendered division of labor is selfreinforcing. In the US we have developed an ideology that proclaims this segregation of women into lower-paying jobs is the natural order. Along with this ideology comes another problem: compared with other “advanced” countries, institutions in the US require significantly longer labor hours, resulting in considerably less leisure for working people. We all know the strain that places on our marriages and other relationships.

In an attempt to address some of these strains, this year, besides substantive programs about the law, we ran CLE programs to help our members reduce the toll that working takes. One program, “Practical Tips for Dealing with Difficult Clients,” focused on mental changes we can make within ourselves; another, “The Heart of the Matter – Balancing Your Life, Health, and Practice,” focused on changes we can make in our daily routine, such as diet and exercise.

The report suggests several policy changes that could bring improvement to the situation. Not surprisingly, most of these are initiatives upon which we have expended considerable effort as an organization. We have sought to increase access to education and training in our profession through our Foundation, which sponsors internships. Most recently we have established the Ellerin Fund to create a new internship, which we will fund initially through our First Annual Silent Auction at our Annual Dinner. Come join us on May 24 to bid for some fabulous prizes, th and to balance out your lives with some fun!

This year we are in the process of considering whether to encourage “no-fault” divorce legislation. While doing so, we ought to consider the study’s findings. We could look anew at the Child Support Standards Act, to see whether it adequately takes into account the economic realities of families as the study shows them to be, or whether it adds to the impoverishment of families and children, for example, with its $80,000 limit, or its failure to take into account the cost of child care, which falls so squarely on the custodial parent, usually the mother. We also need to take a serious look at how to enable women of modest means to receive the legal services they now lack. If we do not do so, we contribute to the problems of women, who cannot afford adequate counsel when they seek to redress the imbalance caused by their lack of financial resources. Every day we receive telephone calls from women asking for a referral to a woman lawyer; it is time we took these calls seriously, and started a referral service.

We all work long hours, in demanding jobs. It’s difficult for us to find time for all the things we need to balance in our lives. But this organization has invested enormous amounts of time and effort to improve the lives of women and, particularly, women lawyers. We have come so far; let’s keep going, remembering that sisterhood is indeed powerful.



March 2006

For Women's History Month, Christina Kallas reflected upon how far we have yet to go. To view the President's Message in full, click here.

February 2006

In her column for February President Christina Kallas asked us to consider what it is we pay attention to in our culture. To view the President's Message in full, click here.

January 2006

In her column for January President Christina Kallas asked, "Do we (still) need a women's bar association?" To view the President's Message in full, click here.

December 2005

In her column for December President Christina Kallas discusses the Mental Health Court initiative. To view the President's message in full, click here.

November 2005

In her column for November President Christina Kallas asked us all to honor the memory of Ms. Rosa Parks by making one change. To view the President's message in full, click here.

October 2005

In her column for October in honor of Mediation Settlement Month, President Christina Kallas discusses whether mediation is an underused tool in a lawyer's toolbox. To view the President's message in full, click here.

September 2005

In her column for September, President Christina Kallas reflected upon the changes in our country since September 11th. To view the President's message in full, click here.

June 2005

In her column for June, President Christina Kallas discusses change and continuity. To view the President's message in full, click here.

April 2005

In her column in April, President Elizabeth Bryson talked about sexual politics and "women's work." She took issue with Harvard President Lawrence Summers' recent remarks implying that women are innately less suited to pursing careers in science or engineering. Such retrograde thinking is self-defeating. Mr. Summers had to apologize, and Harvard is now actively address the status of women in academia. Ms. Bryson also discussed upcoming events, including the Association's Annual Meeting, a CLE program on "Evolving Opportunities for Women' Lawyers," the Foundation's next fundraising breakfast, the WBASNY Convention, and of course our fantastic 70th Anniversary celebration on June 1st. To view the President's Message in full, click here.

February 2005

In her column in February, President Elizabeth Bryson talked about matters of life and death. She related the experiences of a friend fighting breast cancer and her mother and family addressing the loss of two brothers to AIDS several years ago, and how each circumstance, though very different, teaches us once again the importance of choosing to live life to its fullest every day. By contrast, she considers the proposal in the NYS Legislature to reinstate the death penalty, and WBASNY's brave stance in opposition. To view the President's Message in full, click here.

January 2005

In her column in January, President Elizabeth Bryson discussed the importance of taking steps to ensure that judges in New York have the appropriate qualifications and integrity to ensure the fair and equal administration of justice. She discusses pending legislation and proposed amendments to the Rules of Judicial Conduct that would have an influence on the method of selecting state court judges and the rules that would apply to candidates for judicial office in New York. Ms. Bryson was honored to chair a WBASNY Task Force to look at the proposed legislation and rule changes, and she discusses the process and proposals. She also describes the recent gala celebration WBASNY's 25 Anniversary and the wonderful presentation of the inaugural "Betty Weinberg Ellerin Mentoring Award" to Justice Ellerin. Finally, she reminds everyone of the importance of ensuring that their membership is renewed by January 31, 2005. New members are also welcome, and they can join for half-price dues starting in January! To view the President's Message in full, click here.

December 2004

In her column in December, President Elizabeth Bryson discussed the importance of speaking out and being heard. She demonstrated the value of the Association's screening of candidates for judicial office, particularly now, when the integrity of the judiciary is under attack. Because many of our members practice in solo and small firm settings, Ms. Bryson recommended that members appear before the Commission on Solo and Small Firm Practice, which is holding hearings and looking for comments, concerns and suggestions to make the lives of attorneys in these settings and their clients easier. Members should also plan to join us at several upcoming events that promise to be very exciting, including the NYWBA Foundation's Breakfast Series Speaker Event, a fundraiser scheduled for December 1st, WBASNY's 25th Anniversary Gala on December 2nd that will pay tribute to our own past President, the Honorable Betty Weinberg Ellerin, for her nearly 50 years of mentoring and service to women attorneys and judges throughout New York and across the country, and the New York Women's Agenda's Star Breakfast on December 7th. To view the President's message in full, click here.

November 2004

In her column in November, President Elizabeth Bryson celebrated all the wonderful programs and events that happened this fall, including our Annual Membership Reception. She also discussed the recent controversy with respect to screening the qualifications of candidates for judicial office in New York County, which became the subject of an article in the New York Law Journal. To view the President's message in full, click here.

September 2004

In her column in September, President Elizabeth Bryson asked members to join her in celebrating the Association's 70th Anniversary year (2004-05). Coincidentally, it was also the 25th anniversary year for the Women's Bar Association of the State of New York (WBASNY), which is the umbrella organization for all 16 women's bar associations across New York State. The NYWBA and its past President Joan Ellenbogen were instrumental in the formation of WBASNY, and it is a joy to see that it is flourishing. This is Beth's second term as President, and in her column she discussed the excitement of continuing programs begun last year and new programs that will begin this year. She also congratulated everyone who was involved in the wonderful year-end festivities, including our Annual Dinner and the WBASNY Convention. To view the President's message in full, click here.

April 2005

In her column for April, President Elizabeth Bryson congratulated several women who make history every day, including the 11 honorees designated for Women's History Month by the National Women's History Project and the New York City Commission on Women. She provided an update on the proposed rules that we have supported to allow asylum for women who are victims of domestic violence or other brutality that is directly or indirectly endorsed by their country's governments. Ms. Bryson also highlighted numerous upcoming events, including the NYWBA Annual Meeting and the Annual Ethics Forum, both in April, and the Women's Bar Convention in New Orleans and the NYWBA Annual Dinner, both in May. To view the President's message in full, click here. .

March 2004

In her March 2004 column, Ms. Bryson notes that NYWBA's membership has increased by over 33 percent from last year, and nearly 50% from two years ago. She praises the terrific work of NYWBA members, Officers, Board members, Committee Chairs, and others who worked on our membership drive and demonstrate why our bar association is so important, strong and vital. She also salutes two people who may not be lawyers but whose contributions are absolutely invaluable to the Association and the NYWBA Foundation - Executive Director Marta Toro and NYWBA Foundation member Denise Coleman. "Our Association is blessed with so many wonderful women and men who contribute their talents." To view the President's message in full, click here.

February 2004

In her February 2004 column, Ms. Bryson discussed the importance of mentoring and networking, especially for women attorneys. She also announces that the Association's Annual Meeting will be on April 28, 2004, when the 2004-05 officers and directors will be elected. Our gala Annual Dinner will be on May 26, 2004. At that event, awards will be presented to Linda Greenhouse, Pulitzer Prize winning author and New York Times reporter covering the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Hon. Jacqueline Silbermann, Administrative Judge of the NY County Supreme Court and Chief Administrative Judge for NYS Matrimonial Courts. To view the President's message in full, click here.

December 2003

In her December 2003 column, NYWBA President Elizabeth Bryson profiled important issues for our military, including the incidents of rape and sexual harassment at our military academies, the scourge of domestic violence, and the shameful track record of "don't ask, don't tell." She also discussed our exciting membership drive and the Reception Honoring Newly Elected and Appointed Judges. To view the President's message in full, click here.

November 2003

In her November 2003 column, NYWBA President Elizabeth Bryson discusses the importance and benefits of membership, as well as the recent visit of distinguished attorneys from Malaysia who were invited by the U.S. State Department to meet with NYWBA representatives. To view the President's message in full, click here.

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