Statement of FBA President Maria Z. Vathis on International Women’s Day (March 8, 2019)

Statement of FBA President Maria Z. Vathis on International Women’s Day (March 8, 2019)

WASHINGTON, DC, March 8, 2019 – Today, the Federal Bar Association joins the United Nations, and other organizations and institutions worldwide, as we mark International Women’s Day. It is an occasion to reflect on our progress toward gender equality worldwide and to take stock of what remains to be done.

We have much to celebrate. The November 2018 elections sent historic numbers of women to the Senate and to the House. After years of inaction, we are seeing progress on ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. Further, in August, the U.S. will begin a year-long celebration of the centennial of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

And yet there is so much that is still to be accomplished, here at home and elsewhere around the globe. The U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals seek gender equality worldwide by 2030. But by virtually every metric, we are not on track to meet that goal – not even close. For example, the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, which examines gender disparity across politics, work, health and education for 149 countries, found that it will take 108 years on average for the women of the world to reach overall parity, at the current rate. The bottom line on the pay gap is even more dire. The report concludes that, at the current rate, the women of the world will not achieve pay parity for another 202 years.

Moreover, we cannot be smug about our situation here in the United States. The U.S. is ranked 51st out of the 149 countries on overall gender equality – not only behind Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, France, Germany, and the U.K, but also behind the Philippines, Nicaragua, Rwanda, Namibia, Slovenia, Latvia, and Bulgaria, among others. We must do better.

Nor is the legal profession immune to gender disparities. One recent study of major law firms found that women partners face a whopping 53% gap in compensation compared to their male colleagues. Clearly, we’ve got our work cut out for us.

As lawyers, men and women alike, we have a unique and essential role to play in empowering the women and girls of the world – which is not only the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do. Empowering women and girls has a well-documented “multiplier effect” on society, with the potential to transform the global economy. A recent study by the McKinsey Global Institute found that, in a scenario where women and men play identical roles in labor markets, as much as $28 trillion would be added to global annual GDP by 2025.

As a female bar association leader, I am proud that the FBA has long recognized that strength lies in diversity and that the law is a potent force for change. As the FBA marks International Women’s Day, we rededicate ourselves to the values of diversity, equality, and justice for all.

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