Today is International Women’s Day, a day we not only celebrate the many achievements of women but also focus on taking action to increase gender equality. This year’s theme is #BeBoldForChange and people around the globe are honoring the day and trying to make a positive change for women in various ways.
For instance, according to an article in Time, women from Poland to Indonesia are organizing marches and protests, while Italy is giving women free entry to all museums and cultural sites which, in turn, will highlight art by and about women. Some people are wearing red to commemorate the day—one that we have been celebrating since the early 1900’s—while others are staying home from work to go on strike.
As the International Women’s Day website explains, every person can be a leader by taking practical steps to accelerate gender equality. It says, “Through purposeful collaboration, we can help women advance and unleash the limitless potential offered to economies the world over.”
What can you do? The website explains how to get involved and lets you search for events in your area. Of course, we know that those of you in the legal profession fight to make a difference every day. So, in the spirit of International Women’s Day, let’s honor female lawyers who are really taking it to the next level and hope their work continues to inspire others around the world. The Harvard Law and International Development Society and the Harvard Women’s Law Association do exactly that with their annual portrait exhibit that “showcases the astounding contributions of women around the world to the areas of law and policy.”
Here are just a few of this year’s outstanding honorees:
Catharine A. MacKinnon
The Elizabeth A. Long Professor of Law at Michigan Law and the James Barr Ames Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, Professor MacKinnon is the co-director of the Lawyers Alliance for Women and author of dozens of books on sex equality. She has fought for equality around the world, pioneered the legal claim for sexual harassment as sex discrimination, and has worked to change the law regarding pornography by defining it as a form of both sex discrimination and human trafficking. MacKinnon also helped win a groundbreaking case that expanded the legal definition of genocide to include rape and forced prostitution.
As the first deaf blind person to graduate from Harvard Law School, Girma advocates for people with disabilities as well as others. For her work, Girma was named a White House Champion of Change, Forbes 30 under 30, and BBC Women of Africa Hero.
Talk about making a difference! Sarah Weddington represented “Jane Roe” (real name Norma McCorvey) in the landmark case of Roe v. Wade. She’s also the first woman to serve in the Texas House of Representatives and the first female to serve as General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. At 72 years old, Weddington continues to speak to groups that help advance and protect women’s rights, and she aims to help women develop leadership skills so that they can hold more leadership positions throughout the world.
Nguyen is the Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. She is not only the first Asian-American female to serve as a federal appellate judge, but she’s also the first Vietnamese-American federal judge and the first Asian-Pacific American female federal judge in California. In 2015, she won an American Bar Association Spirit of Excellence Award.
Cravath, Swaine & Moore is a widely-respected law firm in the United States that was founded in 1819. However, it took nearly 200 years for a female to become the firm’s presiding partner. That woman is Faiza Saeed—in 2016, she became one of the very few females to take the top position at one of the country’s largest firms. The New York Times has named her one of “Wall Street’s 100 Masters of the New Universe,” while The American Lawyer magazine has honored her as a “Dealmaker of the Year” multiple times.