Beyond the Barriers of Bias
In 2016, the Young Lawyers Division of The Florida Bar released the results of its Survey on Women in the Legal Profession, revealing gender bias across the board — from the courtroom to the office, and in a number of ways, from pay to harassment. It was a reminder that the legal profession, as a microcosm of society, reflected outdated attitudes and expectations that favor men over women. The results of the survey sent a jolt through the Florida legal community. After the initial surprise that, despite existing efforts toward diversity and inclusion, women and other under-represented groups were frequently being treated unfairly, it became time to address the problem and determine a solution.
The Bar was proactive in its efforts to openly discuss the problem of gender bias and diversity on a larger scale and create opportunities for those who wanted to actively change The Florida Bar. As March brings us National Women’s History Month, we remember the value of promoting diversity and overcoming biases and move forward to adopt the best practices in achieving diversity and valuing every member of The Florida Bar.
Two articles in this feature, “Implicit Bias and Its Application in the Life of a Lawyer” and “What Does Gender Bias Look Like in Real Life?” directly address bias. Over the last few years, implicit bias has become a buzzword in the legal community. We take this opportunity to take stock of our biases — what they are and how they limit us. Our article on gender bias illuminates how gender bias limits lawyers in big and small ways and hopefully motivates readers to reflect and reconsider their attitudes and actions.
“What Is the Bar Doing Now?” looks at The Florida Bar’s journey in fighting bias and striving for diversity. The article answers the question of “What now?” and shows that The Florida Bar is dedicated to diversity and overcoming bias. Our piece on mentoring, “Mentoring Matters: The Diversity and Inclusion Fellowship Programs of The Florida Bar and Its Sections,” looks at the impact that mentorship can have, especially when it comes to promoting diversity. The goal of increasing diversity can seem vague and unattainable. For most firms and organizations, the question is how to create objective, measurable goals with proven benefits. A mentorship program is one answer to that question. Mentorship is long known to have value for law students and lawyers alike (if not all individuals). What can be lacking, though, is a structured system and objective for mentorship. The article explores organizations within The Florida Bar that have been successful at both.
The hope is that the jolt to the system that resulted from the survey is not forgotten. The hope is that we all engage in personal and professional self-reflection and learn our role in creating a new Bar that refuses to allow 43 percent of women lawyers to experience gender bias during their legal career. We ask you to consider that every bench, boardroom, and courtroom should be a reflection of our varied demographics, diverse in color and culture, and accessible to all, including women, persons with disabilities, and members of the LGBT community.
 The Florida Bar, Results of the 2015 YLD Survey on Women in the Legal Profession (Dec. 2015), https://www-media.floridabar.org/uploads/2017/04/results-of-2015-survey.pdf.