Celebrating Women's History Month

By Niki T. Ingram, President of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation.

March is Women’s History Month. This month gives us the opportunity to reflect on both the justices and injustices women have faced and continue to face in our society.

We celebrate the successes of women in our community. This year, the Philadelphia Bar Foundation along with the Asian Pacific American Bar Association chose two impressive young women to receive the Samuel T. Gomez Award. Recipients Abena Ampofo and Reese Lemke are law students at the Beasley School of Law at Temple University who are dedicated to community service and advocacy. You can learn more about both of our outstanding award winners by visiting the Gomez Award page on our website.

We also celebrate the fact that there are now more female lawyers than ever. According to the American Bar Association, women made up less than 5 percent of attorneys in the United States from 1950 to 1970. As of 2022, that number has increased to 36 percent and continues to grow. While the numbers of women who are attorneys is increasing there are still many pushbacks female lawyers face that their male counterparts do not. An example would be a phenomenon called the “motherhood penalty.” A recent study from the American Bar Association titled “Legal Careers of Parents and Child Caregivers; Results and Best Practices from a National Study of the Legal Profession” reveals that many mothers believe that having children had a negative apart on their careers. In fact, more than half of working attorney mothers who responded to the survey said they were perceived as less committed to their careers than were their childless counterparts.

 On March 21 Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor and Philadelphia Bar Foundation Trustee Jen Coatsworth will be joined by the authors of the study to delve deeper into these issues. Following a presentation by the authors, there will be a panel discussion surrounding personal experiences and potential best practices that can be implemented locally. Learn more about the event here.

 As we think about the role of women in our profession, we must also think about the women in our community whose lives are impacted by injustice, poverty, and inequality. The work we do helps to lift these women out of desperate circumstances and by helping them, we are by extension helping their families. Every day we see more and more efforts to erode the rights of women, and we must do all in our power to stop this erosion. In a recent podcast I heard a speaker say that “we must rise to take action when we see an injustice.” We all need to take this mantra to heart as we work to do all that we can to see that women achieve true equality at all levels in our society and that we each do what we can to stop injustice.

P.S.: I am reading Up Front which is a memoir by a former president of my alma mater Smith College.  In her story Ruth Simmons reminds of us all of the importance of education and of the impact that systemic injustice can have. While she has reached heights that were unimaginable to her young self, she emphasizes how important it is to help each other in our journey.