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Sprinting a Marathon: Next Steps for Gender Equity in Criminal Law Employment

By Maryam Ahranjani. Full Text.

In an era when women’s hard-fought and hard-earned participation in the workforce is in peril, the ABA Criminal Justice Section’s Women in Criminal Justice Task Force (TF) continues its groundbreaking work of documenting challenges in hiring, retention, and promotion of women criminal lawyers. Sprinting a Marathon follows up on the initial findings of the TF as published in the Berkeley Journal of Criminal Law and the ABA Criminal Justice magazine and on the ABA Criminal Justice Section website. This Article describes the results of a survey of diverse criminal lawyers and judges conducted at the end of 2020, as well as the focus groups and follow-up survey to high-level criminal justice leaders hosted by the TF in late 2021.

Concluding that hiring, retention, and, particularly, promotion of women in criminal justice continue to be a problem, the 2020 follow-up survey also revealed the following serious obstacles: (1) limited flexibility with work schedules; (2) insufficient wellness resources; (3) deficient training opportunities, particularly in state and rural criminal law offices; and (4) short supply of meaningful mentorship. Some employers seem receptive to change but many do not. This Article shares high-level takeaways and recommendations that the TF summarized in a one-page chart to address the barriers faced by women criminal lawyers. The Article describes the 2021 focus group and survey responses to four key questions and concludes with next steps for the TF, including the creation of a robust tool kit and efforts to achieve systemic endorsement of Ten Principles for Gender Equity in Criminal Law, first within the ABA and then among the larger justice community.