Ruth Bader Ginsburg Talks Feminism, Opportunity, and How Far We've Come With Georgetown Law's First Year Class

"There is nothing that a woman can’t do in the law."

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke to first-year law students at Georgetown University on Wednesday, discussing everything from recent cases to sexism in the legal profession. And she did it all with good humor and important insight.

The majority of Georgetown's first-year law students are women, which is in huge contrast to Ginsburg's first year at Harvard, where there were only nine women out of over 500 students in her entering class. "To look at a class like this, it's exhilarating," she said.


Ginsburg, who described herself during the event as a "flaming feminist litigator," went on to speak about how the treatment of women in the legal profession has changed since she began her career, at a time when there were no anti-discrimination laws to protect working women.

"Employers were entirely up front about wanting no 'lady lawyers.' ... For women of my generation, the really hard thing was to get the first job," Ginsburg recalled. "The difference is all the closed doors are now open. There is nothing that a woman can't do in the law."

However, while women may have more opportunities, this doesn't mean they don't still face challenges — in law and other professions. Those obstacles have just taken a different form, which Ginsburg summed up during the event.

"All the overt barriers, the closed doors, those are gone. What remains is harder to get at. That's unconscious bias," Ginsburg said, sharing details of a case from the late 1970s that was brought against AT&T for "disproportionately dropping out women applicants for middle management jobs":

It turned out that all of the interviewers were White men, and when they faced someone who was like them, there was a certain familiarity, there was a comfort level: 'I know what this person is like.' But if the person sitting across the table is of another race or is a woman, there's discomfort on the part of the interviewer. 'This person is not familiar to me. I don't know quite how to relate to her.' It wasn't a case of 'I don't want any women to be promoted.' It wasn't deliberate discrimination, but it's that unconscious bias.

Ginsburg also shared her experience as a working mother, recalling that other parents at her daughter's school "felt bad" for her because her mother worked. By the time her son was born, however, households in which both parents worked became more common. Ginsburg stressed that women shouldn't have to give up having a family to be successful in the legal profession, adding that it's important "to have a partner who thinks your work is as important as his."

As Bustle points out, one of the law students in the audience for Ginsburg's talk was President Donald Trump's daughter Tiffany Trump, who is in her first year at Georgetown Law.

(H/T: Huffington Post)


Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest news and exclusive updates.