CJAM’s first annual women’s event – Part 2

After attendees were treated to a delicious mix of hors d’oeuvres, had a chance to purchase CJAM jam (yes, the stuff you put on toast), and learned more about the work of CJAM, IU Maurer School of Law student LaShaila Spivey introduced the featured panel members:

  • Erika Oliphant detailed her journey from stagehand, through law school, and now Monroe County’s first elected woman prosecuting attorney. She shared stories about how, as a women trial attorney, she was often judged on her appearance and instructed to do things like always wear a skirt and wedding ring.  Oliphant notes that she learned early on that to succeed, she always needed to be the most prepared person in the room, further sharing that, after she showed consistent competency in the court room, she eventually became respected amongst colleagues in this often male dominated field.  She shared other challenges faced during her career and recent campaign, but ended by calling 2018 the “year of the woman” and discussing how the increase in activism by women, especially young women, has been a driving force for moving us forward.
  • Deborah Widiss, a professor at IU’s Maurer School of Law, focuses her teaching and research on employment law, family law, and the significance of gender and gender stereotypes in the development of law and government policy. Widiss started by talking through some of the many gender stereotypes that still exist, including the assumption that women with a family won’t be able to or want to focus as much on work.  She shared a bit about her research and recent trip to Australia to study their paid parental leave policies, noting that the U.S. is out of step with the rest of the world in terms of their support for parents.  Little by little, though, Widiss says that we’re starting to see an increase in focus on these areas here.  An increased awareness of women’s issues, millennial dads wanting to be more involved, and a growing elder population, according to Widiss, have helped bring more attention to the need for flexible family related policy.  Six states and D.C. now have paid leave laws, while 20+ states now have policies to better support pregnant women.  And for the first time, she’s seeing both political parties talking about paid leave – an optimistic sign for continued progress.
  • Amelia Lahn self-identified as a second-generation attorney and shared insight into her upbringing, surrounded by women attorneys and other strong female mentors, and how this has helped shape her work today. She is one of the first women to lead a solo law practice in the Bloomington area and spoke mostly of her focus on Title IX law.  Title IX essentially aims to ensure that everyone has equitable experiences and opportunities despite gender.  Lahn compared the evolution of Title IX law with the more recent advancement of employment law – in the past, many complaints went unheard and some were even reprimanded for speaking up.  We’re now seeing more policy directives and leadership taking action, thus more and more complaints are being addressed.  Lahn spoke about the complexities of these types of cases, especially at the college level, and her aim to help ensure that the processes are fair to all parties.

Follow up comments and question areas included, the impact of moving the adjudication of Title IX cases from school to court on minority students, maintaining work/life balance, and responding to reports of harassment or similar experiences.

CJAM was delighted at the turnout and participation in this first Women, Justice, and Equity event – We’ve Come a Long Way…Maybe?  Thank you to all supporters, attendees, and panelists.  We look forward to seeing you next year!