That “woman’s card” everyone’s talking about?
It didn’t work that well for Kristen Jarvis Johnson.
Johnson, 33, climbed the ladder of Big Law until she reached a pretty sweet place, making $400,000 a year at Squire Patton Boggs and slaying legal dragons as a senior associate in its Qatar office. She specialized in international disputes.
But when we talked this week, she was still jetlagged after pulling the plug on all of it, putting her family on a plane and jetting home.
She’d had enough of the 24/7 work, not seeing her two young sons, even missing her grandmother’s funeral.
But more important, she’d had enough of being one of the few women in the upper ranks of her white-shoe law firm. She’d had enough of hitting or exceeding all her targets and being told she didn’t need a bonus. She’d had enough of being told she had to work harder after advising on a case in between contractions as she was in labor.
“I encountered blatant gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and a very clear glass ceiling,” Johnson wrote in a Reddit post that started out being about her new idea — creating a boy version of the American Girl dolls, called Boy Story — but quickly became about her experience as a woman in a huge law firm.
“Having a baby apparently makes you worth less as a lawyer,” she said.
Her former law firm didn’t see it that way. Angelo Kakolyris, a spokesman for Squire Patton Boggs, said in an email that 13 of the 29 lawyers promoted to partner globally this year were women. He added that during the period when Johnson was in Doha, there were four partners in the office, two of whom were women. Throughout the firm’s Middle East practice, he said, one woman made partner the year she was on maternity leave; another was made partner the year after she was on maternity.
“We were disappointed to see the comments made by Ms. Johnson and strongly disagree with these comments, particularly with her assessment of the firm’s policies toward women,” he said. “We are committed to a firm culture that promotes full and equal participation, advancement and retention of women.”
In an interview, Johnson said she never expected to encounter discrimination when she began her law career.
“I went out of [American University] law school having never perceived there could be any problem, any issues with gender bias,” she said. “It’s only when you’ve started getting into the upper ranks do you see it.”
When she thought she’d hit the glass ceiling, she talked to one of the few female leaders at her firm.
“Through tears, she described to me the massive number of instances where she had pushed forward an idea or proposal, and then the inner group of male leaders seized it, held meetings without telling her and took credit,” Johnson said.
“This happened over and over and over. And I talked to others in the industry. Close friends in other big firms. Young mothers who were being told by male partners that ‘they probably couldn’t make it with kids at home’ and ‘the partnership isn’t a place for working moms.’ I am not kidding.”
That woman’s card did nothing but hold her back.
Donald Trump had no clue how stupid he sounded to millions of American women when he asserted Tuesday that “if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5 percent of the vote. The only thing she’s got going is the woman’s card.”
Eight years of duty inside the White House, two terms as an influential senator from New York and five years as secretary of state, and her experience amounts to two X chromosomes?
Here’s what those chromosomes get women in the workplace: discrimination, a yawning pay gap and even blatant, physical sexual harassment.
Don’t think any of that still exists? Watch the searing video produced by Just Not Sports, which reveals the abuse endured by sportswriters Sarah Spain and Julie DiCaro on Twitter.
Or consider the awful online harassment hurled at Virginia firefighter Nicole Mittendorff. The Fairfax County fire department is investigating whether her co-workers were the ones who savagely cyberbullied Mittendorff and whether that played any role in her suicide last week.
In a statement on Saturday, Fairfax County Fire Chief Richard Bowers vowed that “my department can not and will not tolerate bullying of any kind. We will thoroughly investigate this matter and take any appropriate actions needed.”
But the department has faced numerous lawsuits in the past because of men who couldn’t stop taunting their female colleagues about sex toys and body parts in the firehouse, who’d joke about rape and sex when handling pike poles and fire hoses.
Women had to fight to become firefighters. Just like the women who have made it in law, just like the women who have made it in tech.
In a casual conversation this week, a woman who works in tech and is a senior member of her team described the performance evaluation she’d just received.
“They had no complaints about my work,” she said. Nothing but praise. “But they told me I use my eyebrows too much when I talk and I should smile more.”
That’s what the woman’s card gets far too many of us: disparagement, discrimination, discouragement.
“It’s like you’re going and going, and then you hit this wall,” the eyebrow woman said. “And the discrimination hits you in the upper ranks. And that’s why we’re having this whole new awakening.”
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