A Chapter of the Women's Bar Association of the State of New York (WBASNY)
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President's Message - December 2018/January 2019

by Kim Berg, Esq.

I hope that you all had a wonderful holiday season and I wish you a happy, healthy new year.

The start of a new year is typically marked by reflection on our past accomplishments, review of our current personal and professional goals, and efforts to prioritize our objectives for the year ahead.  Although I am most certainly doing that now, I will readily admit that I spent significant time in 2018 prior to being sworn in as President to reflect on the WWBA’s past, review our current goals, and prioritize objectives for the 2018-2019 year.   

      As I stated in my speech at the WWBA Annual Dinner on June 6, 2018, through hindsight and historical perspective there remains no doubt in my mind that a women’s bar association still has relevance today.  Additionally, in 2019, the WWBA has more than just “relevance.”  Statistics in numerous recent reports and studies reveal that the gender disparities that continue to plague our legal profession are not a pipeline issue and inroads toward equality remain slow at best.  The WWBA, and by that I mean all of its members who routinely volunteer their time to promote our goals and mission statement, serves a vital role in continuing to make inroads, expanding opportunities for women, and leveling the playing field in an effort to eradicate these disparities.

      One method the WWBA utilizes to promote our members is by recognizing members’ accomplishments and achievements through awards.  Our Awards Committee co-chairs, Elizabeth Barnhard and Deborah Farber-Kaiser, have devoted a tremendous amount of time and effort compiling, drafting and submitting nomination materials for eight of our members for awards on both the local and state level.  These awards not only publicly highlight our members’ significant accomplishments but they also set our members apart when they are seeking a new position, partnership, promotion or a leadership role.  One of our goals for 2019 must be to continue to highlight and publicize the achievements of our members and I am confident that in 2019 the WWBA will continue to promote its members by nominating them for well-deserved recognitions, honors and awards.

      Another method the WWBA implemented this year in an effort to expand opportunities for women was the creation and implementation of a mentorship program.  In my view, there is no better way for women to advance in the legal profession than by providing them access to solid role models and mentors.  Membership Committee Co-Chairs Sherry Bishko, Kristen Motel, and Marian Genio, have really gone the extra mile in not only recruiting approximately 80 law students to our membership but also by establishing a connection between these students and a WWBA admitted attorney for ongoing mentorship.  The feedback I have received has been tremendously positive and I am aware of several new opportunities that this has created for our law student members.  In prioritizing objectives for 2019 and the long term future of the WWBA, these efforts must continue as this is our pipeline to sustaining a solid foundation of members who will no doubt continue to drive the mission of the WWBA further when their time arrives.

      As I continue to reflect on our past accomplishments, I am in awe of the amazing achievements of our members and the amount of time they selflessly dedicate to drive this organization forward in its important and very relevant mission.  I am also incredibly thankful for the guidance of my Executive Board, the support of all of the WWBA members, and the excellent work performed by our Executive Director, Elisabeth Campos.  I must highlight and emphasize how much the WWBA is driven by the work of all of its members who volunteer to serve in one or more roles: whether that be as an officer, director, committee chair, panelist for a program, sponsor, host, liaison, etc.  This work is all organized, scheduled and kept in continual motion with the daily assistance of our Executive Director, Elisabeth Campos, who is equally instrumental in supporting and sustaining the WWBA’s efforts.

      Just to give you a snapshot of how many moving parts there are in the WWBA, since June 2018 our members have volunteered countless hours to put together a wide array of programs and events for our members which included: six well attended networking events, including our wonderful annual Holiday Party on December 12, 2018; seven informative panels on diverse legal subjects five of which were for continuing legal education credit; an informative breast cancer awareness panel; raised over $20,000 toward Making Strides against Breast Cancer; two wellness programs, including a fun, family friendly afternoon of apple picking; two book club meetings; a theatre trip to see “Gloria: A Life”; and monthly meetings for women in professional transition.  In setting goals and objections for 2019, I know that our committee co-chairs are already planning more amazing events to take place in the New Year.  We will start off 2019 strong on January 9th with our first Board meeting of 2019 and our third General Membership Meeting – this time for our annual Ethics Update 2019 – will be on February 6, 2019.  Other programs and events are planned and many still in planning stages so please make sure to open and read the weekly Update emailed to each of our members every Tuesday. 

      Core to our mission statement, and perhaps the most fundamental and critical role the WWBA has always had of advancing the social, economic and legal status for women, is through state wide legislative initiatives.  This year I could not be more proud of the valuable input and instrumental role that the Westchester Chapter had in influencing state wide legislative priorities for 2019.  Our Legislation Committee members, Angela Giannini, Kitley Covill, Natanya Briendel and Annette Hasapidis brought to WBASNY and spoke out in support of WBASNY including in its legislative priorities Pay Equity Legislation, including legislation prohibiting employers from inquiring about the salary history of job candidates for it is known that offers based on prior salary history can perpetuate a systemic gender pay gap.   Other legislative initiatives for 2019 are the Equal Rights Amendment to the New York State Constitution, Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act, Reproductive Health Act, and Improved Regulation of Sex Trafficking.  The WWBA’s role in supporting these critical initiatives will certainly be a priority for 2019.

      So as we close the chapter of 2018, let us not forget from where we have come and how far we still have to go to eradicate gender disparities that continue to affect us.  I have no doubt that 2019 brings with it opportunities for the WWBA to not only sustain but to grow.  Those opportunities must be seized so that we can further promote its mission by diversifying our membership, creating openings for our members through mentorship and networking, publicly recognizing our members’ accomplishments through awards, honors and other recognitions, and lobby for important changes that will positively impact the legal landscape.

            My objectives for the remainder of my term as President in 2019 will be to look more closely at the long term plan for the WWBA.  In an organization where our volunteer members typically serve in a position on the Executive Board for a one-year term, having a long term plan is essential to our future.  For 2019 my priorities will be to: continue to grow and diversify our membership; develop a solid sponsorship platform that will carry the WWBA into the future; and implement more centralized record keeping for the benefit of our future board and officers. I know that you will all join me in our efforts to accomplish these goals.  If 2018 is any indicator of what 2019 will bring, we will certainly succeed.

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