Two summers I was sitting in my office. And I opened up the The Florida Bar Journal. The lead letter to the editor was from another legal practitioner complaining about why men were not included in a gender bias study. He complained, in essence, that gender bias does not exist. I was flabbergasted. After having a cover story on gender bias the issue before and the completion of the term of a woman of color as the President of The Florida Bar, I could not be more annoyed. I darted off a response to the letter to editor. How could the Journal publish that writing?
The Florida Bar Journal’s publication of that letter to the editor was an affront to whatever work they had done on gender bias, which was still rather meager. And I forgot about it. The next two months when I would received the Florida Bar Journal, I chucked it straight in the recycling bin from where I would find it in my faculty mailbox.
Then I received an email from an attorney in South Florida thanking me for my letter to the editor in the Florida Bar Journal. A year later I wound up on the Editorial Board of The Florida Bar Journal when new appointments were made by the President-Elect of the Florida Bar, who also happened to be a woman of color.
Below is my response.
Deeply disappointed in The Florida Bar for prominently publishing Edward J. Lyon’s letter to the editor in the August 2019 issue. The questioning of the merits and accuracy of a gender bias study as being biased and misogynistic because it did not question men inter alia is quite preposterous. In fact, other research studies suggest that the study may under represent gender bias.
Last April, an international team of psychology researchers from Poland, Switzerland, and Israel published a piece on the “Bias Against Research on Gender Bias” in Scientometrics. Through a bibliometric investigation covering a broad range of social sciences, the researchers found “published articles on gender bias and race bias…are funded less often and published in journals with a lower “impact factor” than articles on comparable instances of social discrimination.” These results led the researchers to suggest that “the possibility of an under appreciation of the phenomenon of gender bias and related research.”
In a report in August 2017, the International Labor Organization (ILO) found, “[u]nconscious gender bias remains a significant barrier to women’s career advancement. It is also difficult to identify and prevent.” There is an information gap in gender bias. What is more likely is that women experience gender bias so often and severely, that they ignore it rather than register it. The Florida Bar, like other professional organizations, can work to alleviate gender bias instead. Recommendations by the ILO for organizations include engagement “with their members and the business community to raise awareness of the impact of unconscious gender bias” as well as “services to help their members mitigate the impacts of unconscious gender bias in the workplace.” That is a someplace to start.
Nadia B. Ahmad, OrlandoThe Florida Bar Journal
How I felt about Edward Lyon’s letter is how folks feel about the piece by Susan Smith Blakely titled “Are women lawyers paying enough attention to upward mobility?” that appeared in the ABA Journal last week.
The response was so swift that 10 female ABA Presidents wrote a response.
We will not stand by and watch half of the legal profession walk out the door, taking their skills and experience just when they should be at their most effective. That’s terrible business for the profession and terrible for clients. And it is wrong.
Women lawyers deserve a fair and equitable workplace where the policies and ethos allow them to thrive and does not drive them away. We can do much, much better—for individual women lawyers, for the legal profession and for our clients.
Signed by the 10 ABA women presidents:
Roberta Cooper Ramo, 1995-96
Martha W. Barnett, 2000-01
Karen J. Mathis, 2006-07
Carolyn B. Lamm, 2009-10
Laurel G. Bellows, 2012-13
Paulette Brown, 2015-16
Linda Klein, 2016-17
Hilarie Bass, 2017-18
Judy Perry Martinez, 2019-20
Patricia Lee Refo, 2020-21ABA Journal