In the wake of her death, people around the world and of all colors, age, sex and gender are offering tributes to her memory. That’s because she is one of an elite few. One who has passed the test of time to remain relevant and who will influence societies for generations to come.
She will be remembered in history books and even in the movies. But more than that, Supreme Court Justice Ginsberg and her monumental fight for equality and inclusion have become a part of what I hope is an emerging, new, collective consciousness.
Justice Ginsberg is most famous for her fight against sex-based discrimination. But she did so much more – she indiscriminately fought for the rights of anyone who was not being equally treated. She fought for equal pay for all, to expand voting rights and for the rights of the LBGTQ community, undocumented people, pregnant women and disabled people. Her influence reaches the far corners of our society and impacts people from all walks of life, including me.
As a young female attorney graduating law school and beginning a professional career at a large law firm, female role models were few and far between. The reality is that many large firms and companies face challenges with diversity and women not having positions of power. I clerked at one law firm after my 2L year where only 18% of the summer associates were female. My law school class was approximately 50% female.
Unfortunately, things haven’t gotten dramatically better, yet. According to an annual survey by the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL), in 2018, women comprised only 19.5% of equity partners and 30.5% of nonequity partners in the nation’s 200 largest firms. That’s only a 3% increase of equity partners from 12 years earlier—“a sluggish upward trajectory,” NAWL concludes.
Moreover, according to a 2015 analysis by The American Lawyer in its Special Report: Big Law is Failing Women,” at the current growth rate of women equity partners, gender parity will be reached in the year 2181.” That’s 160 years from now.
While we do still have a long road to achieving equality, we wouldn’t even be having the conversation if it weren’t for trailblazers like Justice Ginsberg. She was a role model to me as a law student and young lawyer, and her resolve still inspires me to challenge the status quo and effectuate positive change. Her dissenting opinions show us that we can disagree without being disagreeable, and more importantly, that we can make our voices heard, even when it’s not a majority opinion. This mindset should inspire us all to seek change in new and innovative ways and make a way for all voices to be heard.
While I have not practiced law for a while now, Justice Ginsberg’s fight for equality and inclusion is even more relevant in the work I do today. And I have hope that we can all do our part, whether in our workplaces or in our communities, to live out her legacy.
In the words of Pat Fili-Krushel, CEO of COQUAL:
Let’s build the workplaces and world she was fighting for, where future generations will not know the pain of exclusion and injustice and instead can succeed as far as their talents and desires take them. It is the obligation we owe to the young people of this moment who are beginning their careers today in a world that so very much needs all the talents and energy they have to give.
To the notorious RBG, thank you for getting us this far. It’s our turn to carry the torch now.