It’s time. The women’s initiative meeting is getting started. You carry your salad and soda down to the small conference room and exchange pleasantries. On today’s agenda: a lawyer-client golf outing, a client development seminar, mentor assignments for incoming associates and an upcoming cocktail mixer with the legal staff of a Fortune 50 company that insists its law firms demonstrate more diversity. Looking around the table, you note that the usual attendees are here:

  • The of counsel back from her three-month maternity leave. Between the law school loans and the mortgage, taking more time off, unpaid, wasn’t an option. She’ll be ducking out soon for an awkward encounter with her breast pump.
  • The equity partner with two school-age children and a live-in nanny. She has pictures of the kids in her office but otherwise rarely sees them during daylight on weekdays. On weekends, it’s 50-50.
  • The childless, 40-something nonequity partner, on a break from her fourth deposition that week.
  • The committee chair, present as a tinny voice emitting from the plastic starfish on the table. Her business clout has earned her a small suite in an office park near her suburban home. Still, she doesn’t see her kids much; her husband retired to become the go-to parent.
  • There are no men in the room and just one or two on the firmwide videoconference.

The chair wraps things up quickly; she has to get on a plane. On the way back to your office, you evaluate the meeting.

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