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November 02, 2023

New ABA Commission on Women report examines experiences of Native American female lawyers

CHICAGO, Nov. 2, 2023 — A new report published by the American Bar Association Commission on Women in the Profession in collaboration with the National Native American Bar Association (NNABA) details the experiences of female Native American lawyers as they navigate the intersection of race and gender in the legal profession.

“Excluded & Alone: Examining the Experiences of Native American Women in the Law and a Path Towards Equity” recounts personal stories of the challenges facing female Native Americans who choose to study and practice law. It is based on a qualitative research study conducted by Arin N. Reeves, Ph.D., president and managing director of Nextions LLC, in late 2022 and early 2023.

For the study, 74 Native American female lawyers were randomly chosen for interviews or to participate in group sessions out of an initial pool of 154 registrants. They shared personal stories about their journeys into and within the legal profession, including that they often felt isolated and alone among their peers, and sometimes endured painful incidents of harassment.

The report concludes with a detailed Call to Action for legal professionals – including individuals, law schools, bar associations and policy advocates, employers and philanthropic organizations – urging efforts to:

  • Learn about the experiences of Native American females, including their needs and challenges
  • Commit to sustained allyship and be an advocate
  • Take deliberate and tangible supportive action

“Finally, the voices of Native American women lawyers are being heard,” said ABA President Mary Smith, the first Native American woman ABA president. “This pioneering study shines a light on the unique barriers Native American women face in the legal profession, including financial obstacles, caretaking obligations, limited mentoring opportunities and the persistent issues of erasure, harassment and bias. It’s only the second study of its kind, highlighting the pressing need to address these issues and create a more inclusive legal community. While the findings may be sobering, they serve as a crucial step toward improving the experiences of Native American women lawyers.” 

Findings from the report will be presented by study co-chairs Commissioner Jin Y. Hwang, past president of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, and NNABA past President Linda Benally as part of a webinar at 2 p.m. CDT Nov. 2, which can be accessed here.

The ABA is the largest voluntary association of lawyers in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at and on X (formerly Twitter) @ABANews.