July 10, 2013

Celebrating 25 Years of Leadership

Mary B. Cranston

The past 25 years have seen tremendous progress in one of the most important developments critical to women’s advancement in the legal profession: the extensive research and knowledge with respect to leadership and the unique unconscious bias women lawyers face. And while the percentages of women in equity partner positions in law firms have stagnated over this time, and much work remains to be done before women lawyers achieve true parity with their male counterparts, there nonetheless are significant achievements of which we can and should be proud.

As you will read in this special issue of Perspectives, we can celebrate that many women lawyers have figured out the “secret sauce” and have broken through the glass ceiling to become successful leaders in law firms, corporations, academia, nonprofit organizations, and other work environments. Opportunities are available to women if they get the training and education they need, do their homework, and have the discipline to stay on track and work their plans.

One of the highest priorities of the Commission on Women in the Profession throughout the years has been to provide women lawyers with the information and tools they need to advance into leadership positions in all areas of the law. In its continuing efforts to help women lawyers become the leaders they want to be, this summer the Commission is publishing its new book, Learning to Lead: What Really Works for Women in Law. This volume provides a concise road map of the latest collective wisdom on leadership and applies those principles to women lawyers. It also features interviews with 11 women legal leaders who share their lessons learned and tips for success. We hope you will read this book, take action, and chart your course to leadership and success.

As we celebrate the Commission’s 25th anniversary, we are deeply grateful for the incredible leadership and vision of the women who have chaired the Commission and guided its accomplishments throughout these decades: Hillary Rodham Clinton (1987–1991), Cory M. Amron (1991–1994), Laurel G. Bellows (1994–1997), Karen J. Mathis (1997–2000), Deborah L. Rhode (2000–2002), Diane C. Yu (2002–2005), Pamela J. Roberts (2005–2008), and Roberta D. Liebenberg (2008–2011). I am honored to follow in their footsteps.

Our appreciation also goes out to all who have served as members of the Commission these past 25 years. Lastly, we acknowledge the Commission’s staff directors—Elaine Weiss, Patsy Engelhard, Ellen T. Mayer, Kim Youngblood, Veronica M. Muñoz, and Shawn Taylor Kaminski—for their dedication in helping the Commission achieve its 25-year milestone.

We are excited to build upon our past successes to reach new heights during the next 25 years. Join us as the Commission continues to serve as a catalyst for change in the legal profession.

Mary B. Cranston

Mary B. Cranston is chair of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession. She is the retired senior partner and immediate past chair of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP in San Francisco.