Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association honors two during 100th anniversary celebration
The Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association (BWBA) was incorporated 100 years ago by eight former students of Brooklyn Law School, so it was only fitting that the association held its centennial celebration at the school in Downtown Brooklyn on Monday night.
Unfortunately for BWBA, Monday night’s celebration wasn’t the only thing the group has in common with the one started a century ago — it’s still fighting for equal pay and job opportunities for female attorneys.
“We’ve obviously come a long way regarding women’s issues since the association was founded,” said Chief Judge Janet DiFiore. “Today, over 30 percent of members of the bar across the country are women … Even with this progress we are reminded almost every day of the stubborn pay gap and glass ceiling that continues to persist for women, and the unacceptable frequency of sexual harassment and violence against women.”
DiFiore was honored by BWBA at Brooklyn Law School Monday night alongside Aimee Richter, president of the Brooklyn Bar Association as part of the 100 year celebration.
DiFiore was given the Centennial Award by BWBA President Michele Mirman. Mirman explained that the group was impressed when in 2005, as Westchester district attorney, DiFiore freed a person wrongfully convicted using a national DNA database even though it was not expected of her at the time. Mirman also noted the work DiFiore has done to implement more technology in the courts.
“She’s now having the courts tackle homelessness and the opioid crisis,” Mirman said of DiFiore. “She is turning a spotlight on each of us expecting that we will indeed make the courts excellent. Chief judge, for everything you have accomplished — and will accomplish — for your fearlessness in moving us into this century, the Brooklyn Women’s Bar is proud to award you our once in a century Centennial Award.”
Public Advocate Letitia James also presented DiFiore with citation on behalf of her office.
Past President Helene Blank then presented Richter with the Amy Wren Award, which is named after one of the three founding mothers of BWBA, the others being Jeannette Goodman Brill, who started the Women Lawyers Club that eventually became BWBA, and Helen P. McCormick, the first female assistant district attorney in the nation.
“When Amy Wren was one of the founding mothers of this association 100 years ago, it was a time when even if women graduated law school many states wouldn’t let them take the bar exam. Thankfully, New York wasn’t like that. What they couldn’t do, though, was get jobs at established law firms unless they wanted to be a secretary or file clerk.”
Richter said that receiving the award ticked off three boxes for her — she received an award at her alma matter, from the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association, and was honored alongside DiFiore.
“I’m the ninth woman president of over 100 in the Brooklyn Bar Association’s history, and the first woman vice president from Brooklyn to stand on the executive board of the NYS Bar Association,” Richter said. “We have come a long way.
“The BWBA and Amy Wren paved the way for the women in this room just like we must for the next generation of women,” Richter concluded.
Afterward, panelists Hon. Dora Irizarry, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York; Hon. Shira A. Scheindlin, retired judge of the Southern District of New York; Edna Wells Handy, NYCHA chief compliance officer; and Stacy J. Kanter, partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, LLP spent an hour discussing their experiences and took questions from the audience.
“My mother told me that if you have an education and a job, then you don’t need a man,” Irizarry said.
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