The event “Women and the Legal Profession: Conciliation in the XXI century” took place in Madrid, organized by “Fundacion Hay Derecho”. As a female lawyer and to my regret, I left with the feeling that the development of interventions had little to do with women or women who are lawyers. Not with the sexual division of labour. Nor with the almost exclusive burden that maternity poses for women. I’m sorry, this is the way it is, no matter how much we cheer for the progress made up until this date and how much we compare the situation of our mothers (because for them, it was not easy to reconcile).
The use of the generic male lawyer during the presentation and debate made us female lawyers invisible.
Obviously, this is due to the linguistic inertia of continuing to use the masculine term of “lawyers” to include female lawyers.
As we know, language is a human creation which reflects dominant traits or values, it is a social construct and a question of habit that responds to the necessities of communication in society, a determined time and place. And the needs of women are invisibilized if they are not mentioned. I understand there are female colleagues who cling to calling themselves the masculine term of “lawyer”. For me and our firm this is not a question of linguistic economy, nor trying to avoid neologisms, the Spanish word for Lawyer is recognised by the RAE and we use it like that; conscious of the meaning it has.
In the same discriminatory way, I must use the term conciliation. As pointed out by the speaker Catalina Sánchez of EJASO Abogados, the correct terminology is co-responsibility. Women have always reconciled, even before entering actively into the labour market (I mean having a salary since we have always worked). If we use the term co-responsibility, we point to men as a responsible part of the care and domestic tasks and flee from the stereotypes that reload on the shoulders of women the difficulty compatible double shifts.
During the event there was talk about various interesting and necessary topics to modernize the legal profession: of the labor consequences of not having a collective agreement of its own; of the difficulties of lawyers to combine personal and professional life; that, unquestionably, it is not about working less, but about working better; of the benefits of the offices that your staff feels fulfilled and comfortable in their workplace;
of the possibilities offered by new technologies to achieve this long-awaited conciliation and be able to dedicate ourselves to tasks that satisfy us personally. And it’s very good of course, we should, all of us, claim that the working hours of lawyers do not become eternal and without weekends.
But the rights of so many women who have had to give up a professional promotion because they do not have someone to leave their children with have been ignored. In our generation. They forgot all the women who have to request part-time work to be able to reconcile (with the impact on the salary that this entails and the economic independence it implies). Today. The consequences of the sexual division of labour were cornered: the wage gap, the lower share of women’s employment, our higher unemployment rates, the practically non-existent presence of members in most of the offices. Nowadays.
The legal profession has to be more inclusive and defend the rights of the female lawyers too. The legal profession urgently needs training with a gender perspective as well as the Judiciary and the Prosecutor’s Office (and the entire population). A training that explains the gender inequality data, that rethinks the privileges and their causes, that defends the interests of all the people who practice the profession.
That is fair with the history and with the achievements reached thanks to the feminist demands. Advocacy must defend Human Rights and Gender Equality is a Human Right, and a fundamental element of a pending Illustration in our profession.
From this moment onwards, we offer to bring this perspective to any debate. For a more just society, for an equalitarian advocacy.