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Category: News

December 12, 2016

By Julia Saladino, WomensLaw Staff Attorney, NNEDV

Last year, the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) re-imagined and re-launched our online store. Working as a team, we developed products that address the core of the work we do. We decided to honor pioneering women who have made a significant impact on our lives and our work through our “Feminists&Me” tee. In 2016, we are honoring each woman through our “Spotlight on Feminists” series. (See the rest of the posts here: Sojourner Truth & Susan B. Anthony & bell hooks & Gloria Steinem)

Gender inequality affects so many aspects of our lives. Women typically earn just 80 percent of what men are paid. [1] Health insurance companies are more likely to discriminate against women or deny providing us essential health services. [2] Women face greater adversity and challenges obtaining certain professional jobs and climbing to leadership positions in historically male-dominated professions, such as law and the sciences. [3,4]

By the time I started law school, I was surrounded by ambitious, intelligent women. Over half of my incoming law school class was comprised of women. Of course getting through the door is just a part of the challenge for women in the legal profession – once on the job market, we are faced with the impossible expectation of being tough and adversarial while still not appearing cold or calculating.

None of these challenges or opportunities could even exist for women today without the women who courageously broke down barriers that previously prevented us from occupying certain spaces. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (affectionately referred to as RBG) currently serves on the Supreme Court of the United States and was only the second woman to be nominated to it. She is one of the pioneering women who helped pave the way for attorneys like me by advocating for gender equality.

Justice Ginsburg began her legal career in the halls of Harvard Law School, where she excelled academically but also faced criticism for “taking a spot” from a qualified male applicant. RBG went on to clerk for U.S. District Judge Edmund L. Palmieri, teach at Rutgers and Columbia University, and serve as the Director of the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). In her role at the ACLU, RBG argued multiple landmark gender discrimination cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. RBG next served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia before being nominated to the Supreme Court of the United States in 1993. As a Supreme Court Justice, she has penned brilliant majority and dissent opinions, including the majority opinion in United States v. Virginia, holding that qualified women could not be denied admission to Virginia Military Institute. RBG’s career as Supreme Court Justice highlights a commitment to social justice and gender equality and a strategic, “slow and steady” approach to advocacy.

Justice Ginsburg’s work has inspired my own legal career and has certainly helped make it possible for me to spend each day advocating on behalf of victims of domestic violence. In the words of Justice Ginsburg, “We [women] should not be held back from pursuing our full talents, from contributing what we could contribute to the society, because we fit into a certain mold ― because we belong to a group that historically has been the object of discrimination.”

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[1] AAUW, "The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap (Fall 2016)," http://www.aauw.org/research/the-simple-truth-about-the-gender-pay-gap/

[2] National Women's Law Center, "Discrimination in Health Care," https://nwlc.org/issue/discrimination-in-health-care/

[3] International Labour Organization, "Gender Inequality and Women in the US Labor Force," http://www.ilo.org/washington/areas/gender-equality-in-the-workplace/WCMS_159496/lang--en/index.htm

[4] Valparaiso, "Sex Discrimination in the Legal Profession: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives," http://scholar.valpo.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1240&context=vulr