Nowadays we can see how most countries worldwide recognize the importance of living in societies where gender discrimination is not an issue. Many countries have established laws and regulations to promote gender equality, allowing women to have access to health services, educational, and economic rights that once were not even an option. Despite the global efforts, Kenny Slaught knows that we can still see how women are discriminated in some countries and how sometimes they have fewer opportunities than men.
Related: Why Is Gender Equality Important?
Statistically speaking, even in the most advanced countries, women earn 27 percent less than men do and have to deal with less favorable work conditions. Reducing this gap and others that also affect women is a way for countries to energize their economies. A good way to do this is through education of both men and women about the place women should occupy in our contemporary societies. This education should advocate for the rights of women in the workplace and as a crucial part of the workforce.
In Santa Barbara, California, there is a nonprofit organization that works hard to promote the different interest of women in America and worldwide. This organization is called Santa Barbara Women Lawyers (SBWL) and it focuses on women lawyers and the rights given to women by law in America. As it is an institution supported by women lawyers, SBWL works for gender equality by examining the most common issues related to internal and external factors that prevent women from being treated in an equal way to men.
Promoting Women’s Interests
Santa Barbara Women Lawyers has the mission of promoting women’s interests through mentoring and educational strategies. It serves the entire community and works closely with other women’s organizations. It aims to have a positive impact on new attorneys and law students who give special attention to gender issues.
SBWL uses different strategies to promote its mission and strengthen women lawyers labor in America. Some of these strategies include publishing a newsletter for members and keeping a positive working relationship with other associations in the Santa Barbara County and future lawyers.
The entire nonprofit is funded by donors and members who pay for a membership online. These funds are used to promote the institution on different media and increase the number of memberships. Also, the collected money is used to develop strategies for promoting women lawyers work and help increase the number of women judges in the state of California. Some of the developed programs are established during bimonthly meetings held by active members of the organization who are also in charge of assisting mentoring programs and career development activities for new attorneys and law students.
Besides all the programs and meetings, donations are used to finance law students. The organization gives scholarships to those students who have outstanding academic references and are committed to gender equality.
During meetings and through the newsletter SBWL tries to keep members informed about legislation and important information regarding the organization’s mission. The organization is undoubtedly dedicated to serving the Santa Barbara community as a whole encouraging people to propose solutions to the most common issues related to gender equality.
Almost 30 Years Working on Women’s Issues
Santa Barbara Women Lawyers was founded in 1988 by Hannah-Beth Jackson. Until that year, Santa Barbara was one of the few counties in California that didn’t have a women’s bar organization. Prior founding the organization Hannah-Beth Jackson was working serving the board of directors of the Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles. Her experience in Los Angeles and a call from Deborah Talmage asking her for the support were keys to encouraging her to start the Santa Barbara Women Lawyers.
Since day one the organization was a great success. More than 90 members were committed to the case within the first months of the creation of the organization. The institution was dedicated to serving women’s interests and developed programs related to gender issues such as discrimination and the huge gap related to the labor force in America. A year after the organization was created Hannah-Beth was named Woman of the Year by the Santa Barbara Commission for Women.
Hanna-Beth has been key to the existence and development of the organization throughout the years. It is due to her experience, career, and vision that SBWL is such a successful nonprofit. Her experience as a lawyer working since the mid 70’s in cases related to women abuse and sexual assaults helped her to understand how big the gap in terms of gender equality was. It made no sense for her that the law allowed the defense attorney to inquire into the victim’s sexual history after she was denouncing a sexual assault case. Women victims were put in a position where it became vital form them to have a lawyer who could put some humanity into its job and the victim’s situation.
This is how the organization decided to focus on having a fair legislation that would treat men and women equally. Also, Hanna- Beth became an advocate for a change in the law encouraging authorities to respect women victims. The institution served those women who were victims of sexual assault or domestic violence, providing emotional support and a professional approach to their cases.
For over 30 years SBWL has served its community and great advances have been made to reduce the gender equality gap. However, there are many things left to do and that is why education plays such an important role. Men and women should be educated equally, eliminating cultural prejudices and offering equal opportunities to everyone, regardless the gender.
* Featured Image courtesy of UN Women/Jennifer S. Altman at Flickr.com