Law Week editor Tony Flesor sat down with Colorado Women’s Bar Association president Sarah Parady to talk about the CWBA’s activity at the Capitol and its plans for future initiatives.
LAW WEEK: Can you tell me about what you see as the value of the organization to its members and to the legal community?
PARADY: There are two things we’re particularly good at. One, we do a lot of things that build community and members’ professional networks and help them find relationships that are a little deeper than the normal colleague relationship, which I find is necessary if you want to survive and aren’t in the traditional mold in our profession. We help them find people in the organization who can empathize, give advice, be a little more real and turn into actual friends — not just colleagues. We, as an organization, try to bring all of ourselves to the table and give permission to talk about hard stuff and be whole people and talk about things that are more personal.
The other thing is we try to do very sensitive and active work to actually break down the very real structural barriers that exist in our profession. We’re not a sit-back-and-hope-things-change organization. We do work in the judicial system and the legislature. We’ve had a lobbyist for a number of years, but this year we worked on drafting legislation — that had to do with pay equity for women and people of color in the state of Colorado. We’re not sitting on the sidelines. It’s necessary for attorneys to do that. We’re a self-regulating profession, so for looking internally, we’re the only ones who can make a change, to the extent we can bring that to bear.
LAW WEEK: Can you tell me some more about the work the organization did in getting the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act during this year’s legislative session and why it was necessary for the organization to get involved?
PARADY: It fundamentally came from data. We have partner organizations in the community, the Women’s Lobby of Colorado and the Women’s Foundation of Colorado. The research they were doing was showing us that we have a very profound pay gap in Colorado, and whatever our laws and policies and social efforts were, were not fixing that.
And the legal community was galvanized when women at DU learned they were not paid equally to their peers and pursued litigation. That brought it home to our profession. We realized on that particular issue, first of all, female attorneys themselves have a significant pay gap, and women as a whole do as well. However you slice it, there’s a pay gap compared to men.
We were well positioned to be leaders on that topic. So we did the work on that with a coalition of other like-minded organizations.